Hootie Johnson, the since-retired Masters chairman, was ahead of the curve when he put more bite into Augusta National in 2002 and '06, adding a first cut of rough and pine trees as well as lengthening many holes. It was called "Tiger-proofing," but it was more like preemptive technology-proofing. Championship courses had to keep up with big improvements in golf equipment. Most of Johnson's changes, once viewed as controversial, now seem prescient. (Greg Norman was the last to shoot 63 at Augusta, in 1996.)
"The equipment is better, but the courses are so much tougher too," says Michael Bradley, who shot 63 at the 1995 PGA. "They're majors for a reason. They're not normal events. If you're on a roll, it's not like trying to shoot 59 in a regular Tour event. You're gunning for history."
Millions are spent updating (read: lengthening) major championship sites. This is a new age where 500-yard par-4s aren't unreasonable. On Sunday at the 2007 Open, the par-3 8th at Oakmont measured 300 yards. Tour players barely blink. The setup—narrower fairways, longer rough and firmer and faster greens—has become a course's best defense.
Maybe the psychology of the record has prevented a 62. The four-minute mile was a similar mental obstacle until Roger Bannister finally broke it. Then everyone wondered what all the fuss had been about.
"Every guy on Tour knows about 63s," Miller says. "There is a historical barrier there. The more you think about it, the harder it is to do."
Jeff Sluman's first PGA Tour win came at the 1988 PGA. "You get it going in a major, and you're more aware of it," he says. "The reality that, Hey, I've got a chance to do something nobody else has ever done, has more to do with it than anything."
Lanny Wadkins, the 1977 PGA champion and a World Golf Hall of Famer, agrees. "The anxiety of being way under par in a major can make you go, Whoa!" he says.
Why This Might Be the Week
"The USGA is really worried about Merion," Miller says. "The only thing sort of holding Merion up are those three long par-3s. If a guy gets hot with his wedges and starts making putts, look out. The players have to be precise, though, and the new guys are not quite as precise in their shotmaking. They're more like, bombs away. I could see Tiger doing it. He hits shorter clubs off the tees, picks his spots and thinks his way around."