HOYLAKE, England – Kelley Rahm waited by scoring to give her man a hug and a kiss after he shot 8-under 63 at Royal Liverpool on Saturday, breaking the competitive course record by two strokes at a British Open venue hosting its 13th men’s major.
She wore a ski hat with a yellow happy face on its front, but it paled in comparison to the wide smile on her husband’s face.
“Today was one of those days where I felt invincible,” Rahm told the media after rocketing up the leaderboard with seven birdies in his final 10 holes.“Yes, that’s the best round I’ve played on a links golf course ever.”
It was a stark contrast from the first two rounds, where Rahm lost focus and became frustrated and dug himself a hole by shooting 3-over 74 on Thursday and stood T-89 in the 151st British Open. He still made too many unforced errors during Friday’s 70 and began the day 12 strokes behind the leader Brian Harman.
The only comeback of 12+ shots after 36 holes to win any men’s major was George Duncan at the 1920 Open Championship (13 back). Rahm was 12 behind Harman to begin today.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 22, 2023
“To be fair, I look frustrated very often,” Rahm said breaking into a self-deprecating smile.
But not on this day at England’s second-oldest seaside links. Not on a day when the wind weakened and the course played softer after overnight rain and morning showers took some of the fire out of the firm ground. Determined to play more aggressively, he shot his lowest round at a major and the 14th round of 63 or lower in Open history.
“The job today was to come out and give myself the best opportunity I could,” Rahm said. “Whenever you get a birdie, just thinking about one more. That’s simply all you can do.”
Rahm was skating along with a birdie at the par-5 fifth and all pars before he caught fire with four straight birdies beginning at the ninth. He showed great patience until he reached the stretch of holes between Nos. 11 and 14, which played downwind.
“The wind conditions is what made the course change a little bit,” he said.
Rahm also trusted his game. He knew it was sharp and that he just had to minimize his mistakes.
“I knew what I was capable of,” he said. “I was frustrated because the shots that — it was basically mistakes that I made. That was it. I gave up the shots at major championships that are very costly, and that’s mainly it. There’s nothing different between the player that was there yesterday and today. Not one difference.”
Well, it didn’t hurt that the putts started to drop. After cashing in an 8-foot birdie at the par-5 15th, he rammed in a 34-foot birdie putt that he said may have gone three feet past the hole if it didn’t hit the bottom of the cup. Then he finally cleaned up at the par-5, 18th, where he had made bogeys in both of the first two rounds. It had left him fuming but this time, he overcame a below-average chip to 11 feet by sinking the birdie putt as if there was never a doubt. Home in 30 and a historic effort on moving day that shot him all the way to second place and three strokes back of the lead when he entered the clubhouse.
Rahm knew that the previous competitive course record had been 65, shot a day earlier by Harman, and he blitzed Hoylake in 63, a score that not even his Spanish hero Seve Ballesteros had ever done during his great championship record. But that’s not the piece of British Open history that Rahm is so desperate to write.
“I’d rather win three times,” he said, referencing Ballesteros’s Claret Jug haul, “and never shoot 63.”