The Open - Bunker Mentality: 63, the glass floor of Major golf

Eurosport - Thu, 15 Jul 21:59:00 2010

The golfing fraternity - players and commentators alike - continue to fondly engage with talk about a course "baring its teeth" during the four days of a tournament.

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The term seems to rear its head with some regularity during the Open Championship, when the elements of the British summer - wind, rain and whatever else it has been known to muster - can conspire to make a links course bite back at an unsuspecting player.

Upon first inspection on Thursday morning, it appeared that St Andrews was suffering from severe gum disease as McIlroy, 21, managed to extract the Old Course's molars with some delightful play.

The wind eventually did give the course some gusto in the afternoon, but South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen shot a 65 before the sturdy Lee Westwood joined Tiger Woods on five under with a 67 in the worst of the afternoon that allowed the Old Course to nibble - if not quite bite back - at the field.

The day already belonged to young master McIlroy, the boy from Holywood in Northern Ireland who was given Hollywood billing in equalling the lowest score at any Major.

His astonishing 63 was undoubtedly a fantastic round, and the Northern Irishman will be entered into the record books as the official course record holder at the Old Course - even though both Curtis Strange and Brian Davis have had 62s at the venue, in the 1987 Dunhill Cup and 2003 Dunhill Links respectively.

Those old records were cancelled in 2005 when the course was lengthened for the last Open at St Andrews.

But if McIlroy had made his birdie putt on the 17th he'd have been the first man ever to shoot 62 at a Major.

It remains one of the great mental blocks in golf, the sport's four-minute mile.

Many have come close, but 63 is still the line that's never been broken. Greg Norman could easily have pulled it off in the first round of the 1996 Masters: he shot 63, but had three putts that either burned the hole or teetered on the lip.

Oddly enough the closest to doing it was the man whose Augusta record he shares: Nick Price. The Zimbabwean shot 63 in his third round of the 1986 Masters, but had a birdie putt on the 18th that was bang in the middle - only to defy physics and horseshoe out for a par.

Still, 63 is a hell of a feat.

It has been done 24 times in Majors, with Johnny Miller's effort in the 1973 US Open the first and Tiger Woods's at the 2007 US PGA the most recent before McIlroy.

But does McIlroy's round suggest he'll go on to win the tournament? Let's just say the omens don't look great: only five of the 63s were shot by the eventual champion, and only two of those golfers who made the score in the opening round went on to win.

63s in Major championship history (eventual winners in bold):

The Open Championship

Mark Hayes, 1977 (Turnberry), second round (-7)

Isao Aoki, 1980 (Muirfield), third round (-8)

Greg Norman, 1986 (Turnberry), second round (-7)

Paul Broadhurst, 1990 (St Andrews), third round (-9)

Jodie Mudd, 1991 (Royal Birkdale), final round (-7)

Nick Faldo, 1993 (Royal St George's), second round (-7)

Payne Stewart, 1993 (Royal St George's), final round (-7)

Rory McIlroy, 2010 (St Andrews), first round (-9)

The Masters

Nick Price, 1986, third round (-9)

Greg Norman, 1996, first round (-9)

US Open

Johnny Miller, 1973 (Oakmont), final round (-8)

Jack Nicklaus, 1980 (Baltusrol), first round (-7)

Tom Weiskopf, 1980 (Baltusrol), first round (-7)

Vijay Singh, 2003 (Olympia Fields), second round (-7)

US PGA Championship

Bruce Crampton, 1975 (Firestone), second round (-7)

Raymond Floyd, 1982 (Southern Hills), first round (-7)

Gary Player, 1984 (Shoal Creek), second round (-9)

Vijay Singh, 1993 (Inverness), second round (-8)

Michael Bradley, 1995 (Riviera), first round (-8)

Brad Faxon, 1995 (Riviera), final round (-8)

Jose Maria Olazabal, 2000 (Valhalla), third round (-9)

Mark O'Meara, 2001 (Atlanta AC), second round (-7)

Thomas Bjorn, 2005 (Baltusrol), third round (-7)

Tiger Woods, 2007 (Southern Hills), second round (-7)

Shot of the day: If Rory McIlroy's round of 63 was turned into a full-length highlights show, his approach to the 17th hole would be the clip they'd use for the opening credits.

After a perfect drive down the fairway, the Ulsterman fired straight at the pin - utter madness, considering it was perched on the narrowest part of the green, tucked behind the infamous Road bunker and with the road itself not far beyond. Yet so perfect was his shot the ball landed a few yards short of the pin, then rolled round to three feet. Sadly, and perhaps with his mind already on that historic 62 rather than the job in hand, he missed the putt.

Dress sense of the day: Tough one to call this. Ian Poulter always goes well at the Open Championship if one remembers those Union Jack trousers he donned a few years ago, but he seemed to be overshadowed in the colour stakes by the Americans John Daly and Rickie Fowler, who was wearing a hot pink top and some check trousers. Bunker mentality recalls with great fondness big John's win around St Andrews in 1995 so we are giving it to the former Open winner, whose slacks looked like he had been painting the Old Course club house before he went out.

Veteran of the day: We've had Greg Norman and Tom Watson hitting form at the past two Opens and yesterday was a day for Mark O'Meara, the 1998 champion, to impress with an opening round of 69 that left him at three under. O'Meara, 53, gets the nod because he is slightly older than the laddish fortysomethings John Daly (66) and Vijay Singh (68). Wouldn't it be wonderful if all three could get themselves involved in the higher reaches of the leaderboard over the weekend?


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