Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele etch their names in U.S. Open history with record-setting rounds of 62
Rickie Fowler found himself on the verge of completing an extraordinary round at the U.S. Open, with just two holes remaining on Thursday. However, a slight misjudgment caused his tee shot on the par-5 eighth hole to veer to the right and land in one of the sandy barrancas at Los Angeles Country Club. Yet, in a remarkable turn of events, Fowler discovered a narrow opening between a tree and a bridge.
Preferring not to overanalyze the situation, he confidently chose a pitching wedge and executed a flawless shot, skillfully navigating past every potential obstacle. The subsequent approach left him with a challenging 13-foot putt for a highly unlikely birdie, which, astonishingly, marked his tenth birdie of the day. With unwavering focus, Fowler sunk the putt, etching his name in the U.S. Open record books with a phenomenal score of 62.
However, Fowler’s moment of glory was short-lived. In a whirlwind of skill and precision, Xander Schauffele took to the course less than half an hour later, mirroring Fowler’s impressive feat by carding his own flawless 8-under 62. Schauffele’s round was a masterpiece devoid of any bogeys, adorned instead with eight birdies.
Reflecting on the unexpected turn of events, Schauffele remarked, “It’s not the kind of performance you typically anticipate at a U.S. Open.” He further added, “I was simply trying to keep pace with Rickie on the leaderboard.”
Prior to this remarkable day, the exclusive club of players who had achieved a 62 at a major tournament consisted solely of Branden Grace, who accomplished the feat during the third round of the 2017 Open Championship.
Notably, the U.S. Open history books had previously recorded only two instances of an 8-under round. Justin Thomas set the precedent in 2017 at Erin Hills with a scintillating 9-under 63 during the third round, while Johnny Miller left an indelible mark at Oakmont in 1973 with his own 8-under 63 during the final round.
Amidst the presence of two bogeys, Rickie Fowler embarked on an exhilarating journey as he commenced his round on the back nine. The first nine holes witnessed his prowess, as he orchestrated five sublime birdies. A remarkable streak ensued between the 18th hole and the third, wherein Fowler consecutively notched four birdies. By the time he arrived at the eighth hole, his putter had already delivered four successful putts beyond the 10-foot mark.
When asked about his putter, Fowler expressed his reliance and trust in it, stating, “I just had to trust it.” His faith in the club was well-founded, as he triumphed in the first round by leading the field in strokes gained putting, amassing an impressive advantage of 4.81 strokes over his competitors. The last time Fowler had topped this category in a PGA Tour event was during his victory at the 2019 Waste Management Open, where he gained an astounding 9.54 strokes on the field.
Fowler’s path to reclaiming prominence has been arduous. He failed to qualify for the U.S. Open in the past two years and missed out on participating in this year’s Masters. Nevertheless, he demonstrated resilience and resilience, accumulating six top-10 finishes on the Tour in 2023. The renaissance in his game can be attributed, in large part, to the scorching-hot putter that has become his trusted companion. Interestingly, Fowler acquired this putter only a few months ago.
Fowler’s caddie, Rickie Romano, shed light on the unique connection between Fowler and the putter. Romano revealed that Fowler’s long Odyssey Versa Jailbird putter is an exact replica of his own, which Fowler developed an affinity for before the American Express tournament in Palm Springs. During a friendly nine-hole game at the nearby Madison Club, Fowler observed Romano’s putting prowess and requested to test his putter. Subsequently, on each green, Fowler reached for the putter, gradually entrusting it with his game. By the fourth green, Fowler acknowledged the putter’s enchanting influence, proclaiming it to be akin to cheating. The newfound ally liberated Fowler, allowing him to perform with unparalleled freedom.
At Los Angeles Country Club, Fowler epitomized that liberation. He exuded a sense of freedom that harked back to his glory days in 2014, a year that witnessed his exceptional performances and top-five finishes in all major tournaments. Reflecting on his recent form, Fowler acknowledged his consistency but also highlighted his ability to extract success from weeks that did not witness his finest play. Instead of succumbing to missed cuts and early departures, he transformed those challenging periods into top-20 or top-10 finishes, demonstrating his unwavering determination and resolve.
As Fowler eloquently described, “I’ve been playing fairly consistently, but a significant aspect for me lies in what I can salvage from off weeks when my performance is subpar.” Through sheer perseverance and adaptability, he has managed to extract remarkable results from adversity, marking a significant shift from previous years’ disappointments.
“Everything just clicked today,” remarked Romano, acknowledging Fowler’s remarkable performance. Over the years, Fowler emerged as one of golf’s brightest young talents after turning professional in 2009. His prowess extended beyond the fairways, establishing him as a prominent brand in the sport. However, his signature victory at The Players Championship dates back over eight years to 2015. While Fowler has come tantalizingly close to capturing major titles, a coveted spot on his résumé remains vacant.
Xander Schauffele, too, knows the sting of near misses in the four major tournaments each year. With six top-five finishes in his career, he is yet to taste victory. The California native displayed his affinity for the course in the first round, capitalizing on his familiarity. Schauffele’s ballstriking bordered on perfection, resulting in an impressive 16 greens in regulation and an average of just over 1.5 putts per hole.
Downplaying his own achievement of shooting a remarkable 62, Schauffele attributed part of his success to the weather conditions. The cloudy skies and mist during the morning made the greens and fairways softer, favorably influencing scoring opportunities. Scottie Scheffler, who concluded the day with a solid 3-under 67, anticipated Thursday to offer the easiest playing conditions of the week.
“I personally didn’t think a 62 was attainable out there,” Scheffler admitted. “But I guess it was possible.”
With warmer weather on the horizon and the USGA likely to adjust the course setup for greater difficulty in the upcoming days, the players anticipate higher scores as the tournament progresses.
“It’s only Thursday,” Schauffele reminded the media. “It’s just the first day of the week.”
Fowler echoed similar sentiments, acknowledging the vast amount of golf still to be played. However, for a player who qualified only for the PGA Championship in the past two years and hasn’t secured a tournament victory since 2019, a record-breaking round undoubtedly carries immense significance.
“It’s been quite a challenging and lengthy journey,” expressed Fowler. “The road back has been longer than anyone would desire. But having experienced that and reaching the point where we are now makes it all the more rewarding.”