The Open Championship is the oldest of the four major championships and the only one that is held outside of the United States. The event dates back to 1860 with victory going to Willie Park, Sr at Prestwick in Scotland.
In the early years, the winner was presented with the Challenge Belt and Old Tom Morris was the first player to receive prize money in 1864 with the princely sum of £6. This year the total prize money is £5.25 million with a first prize of £945,000. Young Tom Morris was allowed to keep the Belt in 1870 after completing a hat-trick of victories. The Claret Jug became the prize in 1873.
British Open Stats
The oldest winner was Old Tom Morris at 46 in 1867, although his record looked set to fall when 59-year-old Tom Watson needed only a par on the final hole to clinch victory in 2009. He slipped to a bogey and the famous trophy was awarded to Stewart Cink.
Young Tom Morris was the youngest ever winner at 17 years of ago, going on to win four consecutive titles between 1868 and 1872 (no tournament was held in 1871). The lowest 72-hole score ever recorded was 267 by Greg Norman in 1993. The record for the lowest actual score remains 19 under par set by Tiger Woods in 2000.
Muirfield has twice brought an end to attempts at the grand slam of golf. In 1972, Jack Nicklaus had won the Masters and U.S. Open but was beaten by single stroke in the Open. In 2002, Tiger Woods was seeking his third major of the year when running into gale-force winds and heavy rain in the third round. He struggled to a round of 81 and even a 65 on Sunday still left him six strokes out of the playoff.
The four-hole playoff was eventually won by Ernie Els over Thomas Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.
British Open Tee Times
There are some fascinating groupings for the opening two rounds at Muirfield. US Open Champion Justin Rose will play alongside defending champion Ernie Els and American Brandt Snedeker, teeing off at 0911 BST on Thursday.
Ian Poulter is next up alongside American duo Keegan Bradley and Billy Horschel at 0922. Struggling world number two Rory McIlroy is due out at 0944 alongside Scottish Open winner Phil Mickelson and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.
Favourite Tiger Woods does not tee off until 1445 and plays with 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
The first shot of the 142nd Open Championship will be struck at 0632 by Australian veteran Peter Senior, with Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman and England’s Oliver Fisher making up the first group. The last group does not get under way until 1613.
Other interesting trios are Bubba Watson, Nicolas Colsaerts and Dustin Johnson at 0844 and Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald at 1412.
British Open Betting Tips
It is eleven years since the Open was last staged at Muirfield so it could be argued that course form is not going to be relevant in finding the likely winner. However, supporters of Ernie Els would beg to differ.
The South African won a playoff here in 2002, is the reigning Open champion and finished fourth in his last tournament start in the US Open. At 33-1 he can give us a run for our money.
There are doubts over Tiger Woods (elbow) and Rory McIlroy (still struggling with his new clubs) whilst Phil Mickelson is blowing hot and cold. After playing a shocker at the Masters, “Lefty” has recorded figures of 3rd, MC, 2nd, 2nd, MC, 1st. If you back Phil, you may well have a pretty good idea of your fate after round 1.
For my second selection I am going with Luke Donald. His form figures may not be that inspiring without a Tour win this season but there were positive signs at the US Open. Every year the focus switches to Lee Westwood and his quest for that elusive first major whilst Donald keeps chipping away.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia has been in the news for the wrong reasons since his spat with Woods but he is also in with a squeak of his first major success. Rather like Donald, his game has been missing a spark this year but there is no time like the present.
I’m not entirely convinced by the American challenge this week but I feel that Matt Kuchar is developing into a much more likely candidate for the majors than in previous years. He recorded his second tour win of the season in May and has rested since the US Open to be ready for this.
With some bookmakers offering enhanced place terms down to 8th place for the Open, I’m going to allow myself the luxury of a fifth selection this week. Ian Poulter fits the bill perfectly as a wild card for this event. Last year he finished in the top ten in three of the four majors. As he has shown in the Ryder Cup, he can be world class when he hits top form. At 50-1 or better it is worth a chance that he does so this week.