The Open is one of the most famous events in the sporting world, let alone in golf. It makes up one of the four majors and with it is the only one to be hosted outside of the US, taking place in the United Kingdom.
It’s also the oldest major, first held over 150 years ago, and often the one that offers the toughest challenge to the field, mainly because of the extreme weather conditions that often occur throughout the week. It takes place in mid-July and is played at one of 10 courses which work in a rotation system that decides who hosts.
Some of golf greatest players have lifted the Claret Jug as Open Champions, with winners including Harry Vardon, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
|St Andrews||Fife, Scotland||7,305 yards||$11,500,000|
The Open Championship Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin||Course|
|2021||Collin Morikawa||-15||2 Strokes||Royal St George's|
|2019||Shane Lowry||-15||6 Strokes||Royal Portrush|
|2018||Francesco Molinari||-8||2 Strokes||Carnoustie|
|2017||Jordan Spieth||-12||3 Strokes||Royal Birkdale|
|2016||Henrik Stenson||-20||3 Strokes||Royal Troon|
|2015||Zach Johnson||-15||Playoff||St Andrews|
|2014||Rory McIlroy||-17||2 Strokes||Royal Liverpool|
|2013||Phil Mickelson||-3||3 Strokes||Muirfield|
|2012||Ernie Els||-7||1 Stroke||Royal Lytham & St Annes|
|2011||Darren Clarke||-5||3 Strokes||Royal St George's|
|2010||Louis Oosthuizen||-16||7 Strokes||St Andrews|
|2008||Padraig Harrington||+3||4 Strokes||Royal Birkdale|
|2006||Tiger Woods||-18||2 Strokes||Royal Liverpool|
|2005||Tiger Woods||-14||5 Strokes||St Andrews|
|2004||Todd Hamilton||-10||Playoff||Royal Troon|
|2003||Ben Curtis||-1||1 Stroke||Royal St George's|
The completion take place over 4 days, staring on a Thursday and running through until the Sunday. The field often starts with around 156 players in total, which makes it one of the biggest golfing events of the year. Due to the time of year that the event is played means that the days are long, but it still requires players to start from both the first and tenth tee for the opening two days at least.
The tournament is a stroke play event, meaning that 72 holes will be played in total, broken down into 18 for each day. After 36 holes the cut will be enforced and players who aren’t within the top 70 and ties or within 10 shots of the lead are removed from the tournament. The remaining players then play out 36 more holes over the Saturday and Sunday before crowing the winner. The winner will be the players with the lowest gross score after 72 holes.
In the event that one or more players are tied at the end of 72 holes, a play-off will take place. This will be four holes after which, if there is stil a tie, they will continue playing until they have a winner via sudden death.
The 2021 Open (deferred from 2020) will be held at Royal St George’s in Kent, England. The decision making process behind the courses within the rota allows for several different courses to host the event. The courses all have to be links based courses, which basically mean they are near the sea and have a more natural feel to how the course was created. Some state that it’s ‘as God intended golf to be played’.
The courses are mainly based throughout Scotland and England, with just one being based in Northern Ireland. The rota includes just 10 courses at any one time, but courses can be dropped should the committee feel that they are no longer up to scratch. In fact, in 2016 Muirfield was dropped from the Open rota for their refusal to allow Women to become members within their club. Following another vote in 2017, the decision to allow female members was overturned and in turn, the course was reinstated back on the Open rota.
Open Championship Host Courses
|Course||Location||Opens Held||Last Hosted||Next Hosting|
|Royal St George’s||England||14||2021||TBC|
|Royal Portrush||Northern Ireland||2||2019||TBC|
|Royal Lytham & St Annes||England||11||2012||TBC|
There are a further 4 golf course which have held the Open Championship but that are not currently on the host rota. None of these have been used since the early 20th century and include Prestwick Golf Club which held the first twelve tournaments.
Open Host Courses No Longer Used
|Course||Location||Opens Held||First Hosted||Last Hosted|
|Prince’s GC||Sandwich, England||1||1932||1932|
|Prestwick GC||Prestwick, Scotland||24||1860||1925|
|Royal Cinque Ports GC||Deal, England||2||1909||1920|
|Musselburgh Links||Musselburgh, Scotland||6||1874||1889|
As mentioned above, all of the Open courses are what’s known as links courses. This often provides a stern test of golf for the golfer as not only do they have to do battle against a very tough golf course, but also the elements.
With a lot of the courses within the Open rota, to look at them purely by numbers in terms of distance and layout, by modern day standards most are quite short and don’t actually pose that much of a threat. But, with high winds, no shelter from any trees (because there aren’t any!) and courses perfectly set up to catch unforgiving shots, makes links golf about as tough as you will find.
One of the key traits that a golfer must posses to do well on these types of courses is that of a solid short game. There are going to be times where tee shots and even approach shots go off line and you are going to need to get up and down to save par. Players who are good chippers and solid putters generally do well.
This is backed up with previous winners in recent years including Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Darren Clarke, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington.
The conditions at some point in the event are going to be wet and windy. It’s Britain, in summer time, so it’s almost guaranteed it will rain! This means that players will need to be able to control their ball flight in order to stay under the wind, with many playing more bump and runs in a single round of links then they will likely play all year.
The flip side of that is when you get really dry spells and the courses can, because of the wind, dry out in a matter of hours. Some of the most exciting Opens have come where it’s been rock hard on course and players were having to land the ball 20-30 yards short of the green just to get the ball to stop.
Open Qualification Series
One of the beauties of the Open is that players of all abilities will have the chance to qualify. Well, they need to be off a handicap of 1 or better, but they don’t need to be a pro.
A large number of places are made up through automatic qualifiers, such as top 50 ranked players in the world, top 30 from previous seasons Race to Dubai and top 30 from the Tour Championship. The interesting part comes from the Open Qualifying Series, where players from all over the world can take part in a number of events leading up to the Open to gain their spot. Depending on the profile of each tournament, 1 to 4 spots will be up for grabs at each event.
As a step into these events, there is also a series of regional qualifiers, before entering final qualifying. For professionals, the final two events that can secure your spot in the Open is winning that of the Scottish Open or the John Deere Classic based in America.
Please note that for the 2021 Open, qualifying from the four tournament carried forward from 2019 and 2020. Qualifying from the eight tournaments between May 2020 and July 2020 were cancelled either to the postponement or alteration of those events.
2021 Open Qualifying Series
|December 2019||Australian Open||The Australia Golf Club, Sydney, Australia|
|January 2020||South African Open||Randpark Golf Club, Johannesburg, South Africa|
|January 2020||Singapore Open||Sentosa Golf Club Serapong Course, Singapore|
|March 2020||Arnold Palmer Invitational||Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Florida, USA|
|May 2020*||Irish Open||Mount Juliet Estate, County Kilkenny, Ireland|
|May 2020*||Mizuno Open||The Royal Golf Club, Ibaraki, Japan|
|June 2020*||Trophee Hassan II||Royal Course Dar Es Salam, Rabat, Morocco|
|June 2020*||Canadian Open||St. George’s Golf & Country Club, Toronto, Canada|
|June 2020*||Korea Open||Woo Jeong Hills Country Club, Cheonan, South Korea|
|June 2020*||Travelers Championship||TPC River Highlands, Connecticut, USA|
|July 2020*||Scottish Open||The Renaissance Club, North Berwick, Scotland|
|July 2020*||John Deere Classic||TPC Deere Run, Illinois, USA|
|July 2021||Final Qualifier||Notts Hollinwell Golf Club, Nottinghamshire, England|
|July 2021||Final Qualifier||Prince’s Golf Club, Kent, England|
|July 2021||Final Qualifier||St Annes Old Links, Lancashire, England|
|July 2021||Final Qualifier||West Lancashire, Liverpool, Scotland|
* Denotes that the tournament or qualifying from the tournament was cancelled
The Silver Medal is awarded to the amateur with the lowest score after 72 holes. To qualify for this they must make the cut and if no amateur’s make the cut, then the awarded won’t be presented.
Quite a prestigious range of players have won this in the past, including Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Chris Wood, Peter McEvoy and Hal Sutton.
Silver Medal Winners that have Won a Major
|Rory McIlroy||2007||42nd (Tied)||4|
|Justin Rose||1998||4th (Tied)||1|
|Tiger Woods||1996||22nd (Tied)||15|
|Jose Maria Olazabal||1985||25th (Tied)||2|
|Hal Sutton||1981||47th (Tied)||1|
In recent years, there has been a real mix of players from different nationalities that have done well at the Open. The US went on a great run from 1995 through to 2006 winning all but 2 of the Open Championships, these days, however, things are much more open.
Whilst you would think players from the UK and Ireland would dominate an event like this, given they are playing on what most would have grown up on, they have a pretty bad record in recent years. In fact, the last Englishman to win the Open was that of Nick Faldo back in 1992. The last Northern Irishman was Rory McIlroy in 2014.
The greatest winning margin for the Open came about in 1862 when Old Tom Morris won by 13 shots, a record that stood in all majors until Tiger Wood’s obliterated the field at the US Open in 2000, winning by 15 shots.
The lowest round at the Open was recorded in 2017, by South African Branden Grace. He shot 62 at Royal Birkdale, which was not only a course record, an Open record but also the lowest round ever to be scored in any major ever.
Henrik Stenson has the lowest ever 72 hole score of 264 when he won at Royal Troon in what was one of the best final rounds of the Open era, going head to head with Phil Mickleson.
Lowest Open Championship Winning Scores
|Player||Year||Course||Score||To Par||Winning Margin|
|Henrik Stenson||2016||Troon||264||-20||1 shot|
|Collin Morikawa||2021||Royal St George’s||265||-15||2 shots|
|Greg Norman||1993||Royal St George’s||267||-13||2 shots|
|Jordan Spieth||2017||Royal Birkdale||268||-12||3 shots|
|Nick Price||1994||Turnberry||268||-12||1 shot|
|Tom Watson||1977||Turnberry||268||-12||1 shot|
|Tiger Woods||2000||St Andrews||269||-19||8 shots|
|Tiger Woods||2006||Royal Liverpool||270||-18||2 shots|
|Nick Faldo||1990||St Andrews||270||-18||5 shots|
|Rory McIlroy||2014||Royal Liverpool||271||-17||2 shots|
|Tom Lehman||1996||Royal Lytham St Annes||271||-13||2 shots|
|Tom Watson||1980||Muirfield||271||-13||4 shots|
The Open was first played in 1860 and took place at Prestiwck Golf Club. Interestingly, the first tournament was actually held for professional players only, and had a field of just 8 players as a result. Willie Park Sr. won the tournament, beating Old Tom Morris by two storks.
After this event, it was decided that they needed to find the best golfer in the country and as a result set up a challenge belt where players would take part at a series of golf courses throughout England and Scotland.
The winner of this challenge received a red leather ball with a silver buckle. It was decided in 1870 to award Old Tom Morris the belt to keep after he won on 3 separate occasions. The following year they actually failed to host an event as they didn’t have anything to offer the players. As a result of this, the Claret Jug was created and it has been the same trophy presented to winners of the event ever since.
The Claret jug’s official name is actually the Golf Champion Trophy, and the winners of the Open will be formally announced as the Champion Golfer of the year, in respect of the first few outings of the tournament.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews
The Royal and Ancient or the R & A as they are more commonly known are part of the oldest and most prestigious gold clubs in the world, based in St Andrews, Scotland. They’ve been about since 1754 and with it are one of the key companies as a role as an authority within the game of golf. These days they are better known for their work improving the rules of golf, but have been known to host several tournaments in their time, none more prestigious than The Open.
Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris
Old Tom Morris is one of the most iconic names in golf, even though he was born way back in 1821. He’s been able to win the Open on four separate occasions from 1861 to 1867. He’d been playing golf since he was 10 years old and moved to Prestwick as a young boy.
We worked as a caddy in much of his early life for Allan Robertson, who is widely regarded as the world’s first professional golfer. Morris worked with him for four years, walking countless miles around the St Andrews links and essentially learning his trade.
He later went onto become head green keeper of St Andrews in 1865, a role he held up until 1903. Amongst other things, he worked within the R & A and with several other golf courses to help use his skills to bring them up to the standards that he had set at St Andrews.
Young Tom Morris was of course, Old Tom Morris’s son. He also started playing golf from an early age, learning from his father mainly at the home of golf, St Andrews and also at Prestwick Park where his father was head greenkeeper.
As he progressed as a golfer, his first Open win came about in 1868, but in what’s widely regarded as an astonishing feat, his father beat him the following year to win his fourth title in 1867. Between the pair they won 8 Open Championships, with Young Tom Morris being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975 and his father one year alter in 1976.
The pair still hold the record for the youngest (Young Tom Morris, 17) and Oldest (Old Tom Morris, 46) winners of the Open ever.
Tom Watson will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest golfers of all time, let alone in The Open history. Watson won the Open 5 times in just 8 years, from 1975 to 1983. In that time, he went on to beat some of the best there have been, none more special than his 1997 victory over Jack Nicklaus, which will go down as one of the greatest final rounds in golf major history.
He’s been able to win the Open on 5 separate occasions, 2 more than his rival at the time, Nicklaus, and only 1 behind the all-time record of 6, set by Harry Vardon from 1896 to 1914. Tom Watson has won 8 majors in total and was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.
Whilst his 5 wins were remarkable, no doubt, his biggest achievement almost came in 2009 when he rolled back the years to finish runner up. In a tournament that will be remembered more for the fact that Tom Watson, at the age of 59, finished runner up, rather than the ‘unfortunate’ winner that year, Stewart Cink, after a 4-hole playoff.