The U.S. Open is widely considered to be one of the toughest tests in golf. Since 1895, the best golfers in the world have annually gathered at some of the greatest golf courses on Earth with the dream of being called America’s national champion. But the USGA certainly doesn’t make achieving that dream an easy thing. Thick rough, slick greens, and tough bunkers are U.S. Open staples and, as opposed to the other three majors on the golf calendar, a winning score over par isn’t out of the ordinary.
To put into perspective just how tough it is to break par at a U.S. Open, one only has to look at the round history of four-time champion Jack Nicklaus, who many consider the greatest golfer in history. The Golden Bear teed it up at the U.S. Open on 44 occasions and made the cut 35 times. So you take those 140 rounds and add in the 18 rounds from the years he missed the weekend and you’ve got 158 total rounds, right? Do you know how many times the great Jack Nicklaus broke par? 37. That’s only 23.4% of the time. And the 37 sub-par rounds is actually a U.S. Open record. Yeah, it’s a tough tournament.
So that’s why it’s so special when a player goes really low. So what is the lowest single round in U.S. Open history?
Johnny Miller was the first to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open
The lowest single round in U.S. Open history is 63, the number that stood for years as the low round in any major championship before Branden Grace’s 62 at The Open Championship in 2017 at Royal Birkdale.
The first round of 63 at a U.S. Open is considered by most to be the most famous 63 in major championship history (it was also the first 63 ever shot in a major). Entering the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Johnny Miller was in a four-way tie for 13th at 3-over, six strokes back of four players tied at the top of the leaderboard at 3-under. Miller got off to a hot start with four straight birdies but then gave a shot back at the eighth.
He then reeled off four birdies in the next five holes and found himself tied for the lead after making par on the 14th. Miller then birdied the 15th and finished with three consecutive pars to shoot 63, which would have been a 62 had his birdie putt at the last not lipped out. He then had to wait more than an hour for the final groups to finish but nobody was able to match his 5-under total for the week, giving him his first and only U.S. Open title. He captured a second major three years later at The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
His 63 at the 1973 U.S. Open is easily one of the most clutch performances in golf history.
Five players have matched Miller’s 63
It took seven years for someone to match Johnny Miller’s 63 and two players actually did it on the very same day. At the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, both Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf shot 63 in the first round. But the pair went in different directions from that point on. Nicklaus went on to win the tournament, shooting a total of 1-under over the next 54 holes, while Weiskopf never shot better than 75 the rest of the way and finished tied for 37th.
The next record round came 23 years later at the 2003 U.S. Open. In the second round at Olympia Fields, Vijay Singh tied the nine-hole U.S. Open record of 29 on the way to his 63, which tied him for the lead at the midway point. But rounds of 72 and 75 on the weekend left him well back of winner Jim Furyk.
In 2017, Justin Thomas shot 63 at Erin Hills (more on that historic round in a minute), and the latest to go that low was Tommy Fleetwood at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Following a third-round 78, Fleetwood was six shots off the lead heading into the final round but was 15 shots better on Sunday and only lost by a single stroke. Brooks Koepka was the winner that week, his second straight U.S. Open victory, at 1-over.
Justin Thomas’ 63 at the 2017 U.S. Open was the lowest score in relation to par
What separates Justin Thomas‘ 63 from the others is the fact that his was the lowest relative to par. As mentioned, his came at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, which played as a par-72, meaning he shot 9-under for his round. Miller’s came on a par-71 and the four others were shot on par-70 courses.
All stats courtesy of USOpen.com