It’s safe to say the game of golf has come a long way since ten pros and a lone amateur arrived in Newport, Rhode Island all the way back in 1895 for the inaugural edition of the tournament known as the U.S. Open.
That event (and the two that followed) was limited to three rounds, but in 1898, the U.S. Open expanded to 72 holes and has stuck with the format ever since.
As is the case with all of golf’s four majors, the U.S. Open is designed to be a fairly grueling test that tasks players who compete with bringing their A-game to some incredibly difficult courses while going head-to-head with some of the best golfers on the planet.
As a result, it’s not rare to see plenty of unenviably large numbers on the scorecard courtesy of guys who failed to rise to the occasion, and there have been dozens of cases where the overall winner finished over par for the tournament (none of which come close to match the +17 Walter Hagen posted en route to securing the victory in 1919).
Plenty of people thought that was going to be the case when the 123rd U.S. Open kicked off at Los Angeles Country Club in 2023.
There were some implosions, but both Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele were able to overcome the many trappings you can fall victim to at the exclusive tract where they both finish with an 8-under 62 in the first round, which was good enough to break the 18-hole record of 63 Johnny Miller initially set on a Sunday to win the U.S. Open in 1963.
Only time will tell if those guys will be able to keep the momentum going, but if they’re able to maintain that pace, they’re well on their way to shattering the record for the best score ever posted at the U.S. Open over the course of 72 holes.
What’s the lowest overall score recorded in U.S. Open history?
It’s impossible to ignore the impact the development of club and ball technology has had on the sport of golf, and it’s a bit unfair to compare the 63 Miller posted with wooden clubs to the 62 Fowler and Schauffele put up in 2023.
With that said, the golf record books don’t account for that evolution, and you probably won’t be shocked to discover the lowest scores ever posted over 72 holes at the U.S. Open came fairly recently.
In 2000, Tiger Woods became the first person to ever eclipse the double-digit mark at the U.S. Open when he won the tournament with the -12 he tallied at Pebble Beach to secure the trophy (an achievement that’s even more impressive when you consider second-place finishers Ernie Els and Miguel Ángel Jiménez walked off the final hole at +3—a 15-stroke difference).
That number remained the mark to beat until Rory McIlroy surged ahead of the rest of the pack at Congressional Country Club in 2011 to beat Jason Day by eight strokes with the -16 that remains the lowest overall score ever recorded at the U.S. Open.
However, the Northern Irishman would eventually get some company at the top of the list in the form of Brooks Koepka, who was also -16 over 72 holes at Erin Hills in 2017 (although he was “only” able to top runners-up Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman by four strokes).
As things currently stand, McIlroy and Koepka remain unchallenged—although that could end up changing in the very near future.