Open ChampionshipThe Open Championship, also known as The British Open is the original and therefore oldest of all four Majors in golf. Since the 1979 edition it has been held on the third Friday in July and takes its spot as the third of the four Majors in the calendar year. Unlike the US Masters for example, which resides solely at Augusta, nine different links-style courses across the British Isles gets the honour of hosting the biggest tournament held on its shores.

 

The Open Championship Courses

The tournament, since its inception, has simply been known as The Open, no matter where it has been played. It was first held at the Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland, which hosted the first dozen editions. But other famous courses have become synonymous with the British Open, some of the most recognisable being Scottish courses St Andrews (which first hosted the tournament in 1873), Royal Troon and Muirfield. In England, St George’s Golf Club has been a regular host since the last 1800’s. All the clubs have the familiar links format, being played along the coastal shorelines. Only once has the event been held in Northern Ireland.

 

Qualification

As with the other Majors, there are exemptions for players taking a spot at The Open Champion. The top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking automatically get their spots at the event, ensuring that the Major gets the highest quality of field possible. Alongside those 50, anyone inside the top 30 on the European Tour Race To Dubai also book an automatic qualification spot, although the higher listed players on the European Order of Merit generally reside inside the top fifty anyway. Previous winners of The Open Championship, under the age of sixty, can take their spots well, along with any winner of any of the other three Majors within the last five years. As a great reward for a strong performance at the British Open, the top ten from the previous year’s edition also get an invite to return again. In total there are 32 exemption categories to make up the field of 156 to start the tournament.

 

Past champions

The early years of The Open Championship were dominated by Scottish winners. The winner of the very first edition, which had just eight professional players in the field, was won by Willie Park, Sr., back in 1860. That set a strong trend of Scottish winners who took every title up until the run was broken by Englishman John Ball in 1890 at Prestwick. Inaugural winner Willie Park Sr., won the title four times (and his son also won four times as well incidentally), but the most successful ever player at the Open Championship remains Jersey’s Harry Vardon who took the title six times between 1896 and 1914 inclusive.

 

The 1960’s saw some of golf’s most famous names get their hands on the title, with Arnold Palmer winning in 1961 and successfully defending his title in 1962. Jack Nicklaus earned what would be the first of his three British Open titles in 1966, while in the 1968 edition at Carnoustie in Scotland, the great Gary Player won the first of only two British Open titles (1966 and 1974), actually winning despite finishing the tournament one over par. Onto the seventies and a new era was about to be dawned by Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino (1971, 1972) and a young Tom Watson (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982,1983) who claimed the first of five Open Championship titles in 1975.

 

The 1980’s finally saw a home grown winner again after a long drought. Not since Henry Cotton in 1948 had a British player delighted the home crowds in winning The Open Championship. But England’s Nick Faldo changed all of that in 1987 when he carded a 5-under par tournament to take the win by a single stroke. Faldo, one of the most successful English players of the modern era, would go on to follow up on that success by winning the 1990 and 1992 editions as well. It was Faldo who started off the 1990’s with a bang, recording a massive 18-under par to win at Royal Troon in 1990.

 

A decade later, Tiger Woods would be in the winners circle for the first time. In that famous 2000 British Open, Tiger Woods crushed the field at St Andrews, one of the most famous courses in the world. He carded a 19-under par to finish eight strokes clear of Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els. Woods would go on to dominate again in 2005 and 2006, regarded as many as being the peak of Woods’ career. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington became a highly popular back to back winner in 2007 and 2008, with South African Ernie Els winning in 2012, a decade after his first ever British Open title.