Under Par: Men's Golf Records in the Majors

Most Strokes Below Par in Major Championships

Jason Day teeing off the 18th hole during the final round of the 2015 PGA Championship
Jason Day, at the 2015 PGA Championship, was the first golfer to finish at 20-under in a major. David Cannon/Getty Image

What are the lowest scores in relation to par (most strokes under par at the end of the tournament) in a men's major championship? As of 2017, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson still hold the record for the lowest score at the end of a professional golf championship, both coming in at 20-under par. 

Jason Day set the record originally in 2015 at the PGA Championship Tournament, becoming the first golfer to finish one of the majors at 20-under par, carding rounds at 68, 67, 66, and 67 and winning the tournament by just three strokes; a year later, Henrik Stenson joined Day at the top of the professional circuit with a 20-under par finish at the 2016 British Open, and he coincidentally also won by just three strokes as well.

Many other golfers have also scored close to these record low 20-under par scores, with the likes of Tiger Woods, Bob May, Steve Elkington, and Phil Mickelson among the ranks of those who finished with a score better than 16-under par. 

The Current Record: 20-Under Par

Two golfers — Jason Day and Henrik Stenson — currently share the record for lowest winning score in relation to par in one of the four major championships in men's professional golf: 20-under par. Both of these astounding newcomers gave stellar performances across the board in their respective tournaments.

Jason Day was the first to accomplish this feat, winning the 2015 PGA Championship with his impressive score on the  par-72 Whistling Straits golf course. During each of the rounds, Day came well under par, with his worst (and first) round at an impressive 68; then, in the following rounds, Day putted 67, 66 and 67, finishing at the record-breaking 20-under par with 268 strokes.

Henrik Stenson echoed Day's score a year later at the 2016 British Open, winning by three strokes over Phil Mickelson (who also ranks as one of the top-scoring golfers in the majors. Playing on the par-71 Royal Troon links, Stenson closed out the tournament with a whopping 63 (8-under par) day on the difficult course.

Best Scores in Relation to Par in a Major

Up until 2015, the record for best score in relation to par in a major tournament was held by Tiger Woods for his 2000 British Open score of 19-under par — who is still the only professional golfer to achieve this score.

At 18-under par, though, several others join Woods among the ranks of the greatest scoring golfers. Nick Faldo initially held this record for his 18-under par score at the 1990 British Open, until Tiger Woods joined him with the same score at the 1997 Masters, the 2000 PGA Championship, the 2006 British Open, then again at the 2006 PGA Championship; Bob May also scored 18-under par at the 2000 PGA Championship, tying with Woods for the title.

Before the 1990 British Open, the record was set at 17-under par by Jack Nicklaus at the 1965 Masters, then matched by Raymond Floyd at the 1976 Masters, Steve Elkington and Colin Montgomerie at the 1995 PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth at the 2015 PGA Championship, and Phil Mickelson at the 2016 British Open. 

It's important to note that May, Montgomerie, Spieth, and Mickelson still rank among the greatest scoring golfers despite not winning their tournaments — due to even more astounding scores by their rivals that year!

Most Strokes Under Par at Each of the Four Majors

Above is the overall list for score-in-relation-to-par at all majors. Let's break out the four golfers who hold the tournament records at the individual majors:

  • The Masters: 18-under, Tiger Woods, 1997
  • U.S. Open: The U.S. Open is the only major missing from the overall list above, which makes sense given its reputation for difficulty. The U.S. Open record for score in relation to par is 16-under, set by Rory McIlroy in 2011 and tied by Brooks Koekpa in 2017.
  • British Open: 20-under, Henrik Stenson, 2016
  • PGA Championship: 20-under, Jason Day, 2015

Ultimately, the goal of golf is to get the best score, but as the U.S. Open's history indicates, it's not always the record-setting scores that win tournaments — the scores largely depend on the expertise of the golfer and indeed the friendly rivalry some might have with others competing against them in the majors.