Since 1873, when major-championship rounds as we know them started being contested in their current 18-hole format, there have been 25 players who posted a score of 63. And a grand total of zero with 62.
It should serve as a paean to the golf gods that on these 25 separate occasions, the deities have allowed a player to come so close, only to put a wrench to his hopes, forever sealing them out of reach.
Scott was on the verge of defying those deities through his first nine holes of the PGA Championship. He carded five consecutive birdies and played these nine holes in just 30 strokes on the par-70 course, meaning he needed a 3-under 32 on the easier back nine for the record. He was cool, calm, collected and composed – business as usual for one of the game's most unflappable talents. He was grooving his iron shots, rolling his putts. He added a par on the 10th hole, still keeping the mark well within reach.
And then … it rained.
Mother Nature's watery interlude caused a 71-minute delay. There are a few things that can happen upon such an interruption. One is that players who were cold before can take a breather, regroup and come back firing at softer greens. The other is that players who were hot can lose momentum, start contemplating the numbers on the scorecard rather than focusing on what yielded them.
Let’s count Scott in the latter group, a victim of his own circumstance. In the eight holes he had remaining after the weather delay, he posted just one birdie against six pars and a bogey. He wound up three strokes shy of that unattainable record, but there was a silver lining to the dark skies framing Oak Hill. His score of 65 netted him a share of the lead with Jim Furyk.
“I was hot when the rain came,” he later explained of his momentum loss. “To go and do the whole settling down thing again like teeing off at the first. I was scrambling and not quite in the same rhythm as I was in. I was going along nicely, I still felt. It's always tough with a rain delay like that when you're playing really well.”
One year and one month ago, Scott was in a similar situation. In fact, he came even closer to that impassible (if not impossible) number in the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
That day, he needed a birdie on the final hole to shoot the first-ever 62 in major history. He bogeyed instead. Not only did it keep him from the record books, if you’re so inclined to connect the dots it also kept him from winning the title, as three days later he would bogey the final four holes to lose by a single stroke.
On Thursday, he was reminded of that round.
“When you get something going for you in a major, sometimes you have got to be not afraid to get out of your own way and let go, and I did that at Lytham and I did that here for 10 or 11 holes,” he said. “It's a good feeling when you can swing freely like that.”
The heartbreak Scott felt that week was assuaged a bit four months ago, when he burst through the major-championship barrier by claiming the Masters title. Now he’s trying to become just the sixth player since 1990 to win multiple majors in a single year, joining Tiger Woods (four times), Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Mark O’Meara and Padraig Harrington.
But that Masters win was only one in a bevy of strong major results for him recently. Since the beginning of 2011, he’s finished in the top 25 in nine of 11 major starts. That comes on the heels of just 12 top 25s in his previous 39 major appearances since turning pro.
It’s no coincidence, either.
“I think the results are showing that I have got something figured out,” Scott boasted. “I don't know if you ever have it all figured out. I like what I'm doing, so I am just going to keep doing it.”
Asked what he’s figured out, Scott replied, “Just more about peaking for them and treating them a little bit differently and working a practice and playing schedule around peaking for four weeks a year.”
He certainly looks like he’s peaking once again this week. That unattainable 62 remained unattainable for another day, but a large silver trophy three days from now would leave Scott name’s in the record book for other reasons instead.