Tuesday, July 27, 2010

out in 30 back in 33, what a very special round for me

It seems a little churlish to criticise Louis Oosthuizen for making most of the last round of the Open Championship a bit of a triumphal procession, and therefore devoid of as much cut-and-thrust, excitement and tension as the non-partisan observer might have been wanting, especially since it was Oosthuizen’s own unexpected excellence and resilience that made it so (with a bit of help from his pursuers, Paul Casey in particular, who were unable to mount a serious charge). But it’s nonetheless true that it would have been more exciting had it been a bit closer, so I was obliged to muse on other golfing matters instead.

One of the things I was thinking about, after watching curly-topped 7-year-old Northern Irish golfing prodigy Rory McIlroy fight his way back up the leaderboard to finish in a tie for third, was how often people who’d shot 63 in a golfing major (as McIlroy did in the first round at St. Andrew’s) went on to win the tournament. And having done a bit of research I can now tell you: not as often as you might think. There have been 24 such rounds in major championship history – here’s a chronological summary:

Johnny MillerUS Open1973finalWONJohnny Miller
Bruce CramptonUSPGA1975second2ndJack Nicklaus
Mark HayesOpen1977secondtied 9thTom Watson
Jack NicklausUS Open1980firstWONJack Nicklaus
Tom WeiskopfUS Open1980first37thJack Nicklaus
Isao AokiOpen1980thirdtied 12thTom Watson
Raymond FloydUSPGA1982firstWONRaymond Floyd
Gary PlayerUSPGA1984secondtied 2ndLee Trevino
Nick PriceMasters1986third5thJack Nicklaus
Greg NormanOpen1986secondWONGreg Norman
Paul BroadhurstOpen1990thirdtied 12thNick Faldo
Jodie MuddOpen1991finaltied 5thIan Baker-Finch
Nick FaldoOpen1993final2ndGreg Norman
Payne StewartOpen1993final12thGreg Norman
Vijay SinghUSPGA1993second4thPaul Azinger
Michael BradleyUSPGA1995firsttied 54thSteve Elkington
Brad FaxonUSPGA1995final5thSteve Elkington
Greg NormanMasters1996first2ndNick Faldo
Jose Maria OlazabalUSPGA2000thirdtied 4thTiger Woods
Mark O’MearaUSPGA2001secondtied 22ndDavid Toms
Vijay SinghUS Open2003secondtied 20thJim Furyk
Thomas BjornUSPGA2005thirdtied 2ndPhil Mickelson
Tiger WoodsUSPGA2007secondWONTiger Woods
Rory McIlroyOpen2010firsttied 3rdLouis Oosthuizen

So there have been five winners out of 24, for a total of 20.8%; of the rest a further eleven finished inside the top ten, with the remaining eight trailing in lower down the field, with the lowest finisher being Michael Bradley in the 1995 USPGA, who followed his opening 63 with 73-73-74 to finish sixteen shots behind the winner in a tie for 54th place.

That’s the meat, now here’s a few bits of statistical garnish: the only people to appear twice on this list are Vijay Singh and Greg Norman, the course with the most 63s is Baltusrol with three (Nicklaus and Weiskopf in 1980 and Bjorn in 2005), the second round is the most popular time to shoot 63 with eight entries on the list, and Nicklaus and Weiskopf in 1980 and Faldo and Stewart in 1993 shot theirs on the same day. Also, the only man to shoot a 63 in the final round to come through and win the tournament was Johnny Miller at Oakmont in 1973, the very first entry on the list.

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