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The Open Winners, and the History of the Oldest Golf Championships

Tuesday 16th October 2018 / Sporting News / Golf / Compare Hospitality

The Open Winners and History

The 148th Open is set to be a great event, at a great venue - Royal Portrush Golf Club.  The last time Portrush hosted the Open, the winner was Max Faulkner.  It's a great feat to win the Open at Royal Portrush because the course is on the North coast of Northern Ireland which means dramatic weather affects each shot unexpectedly.  Who will win in 2019 is anyone's guess!

The Open Winners

Each year The Open winner is given the title Champion Golfer of the Year.

The highly coveted title has been held by many greats of the sport over the years. In the early days of The Open, there was no prize money for the victor.  When a cash prize was introduced, it was less than £10 for several years, but steadily climbed.

Between 1976 and 1987, prize money increased ten-fold.  In 1975 it was £7,500, but eleven years later the winner’s share of The Open’s prize fund was £75,000.  Thirty years later it grew by another nineteen times over, reaching £1.42 Million.

Along with each Champion Golfer winning huge sums, even runner-up players receive a large cheque.  In 2018, the second place Justin Rose took home £824,000 in prize money.  To put the money in perspective, here is The Open winner's share of the prize fund since 2000.

Each Champion Golfer of the Year (The Open Winner), since 2000:


The Open Winner


 Winner's prize


Francesco Molinari   (Italy)


 £       1,440,000


Jordan Spieth   (United States)

Royal Birkdale

 £       1,420,000


Henrik Stenson   (Sweden)

Royal Troon

 £       1,175,000


Zach Johnson   (United States)

St Andrews

 £       1,150,000


Rory McIlroy   (Northern Ireland)

Royal Liverpool

 £          975,000


Phil Mickelson   (United States)


 £          945,000


Ernie Els   (2nd)   (South Africa)

Royal Lytham & St Annes

 £          900,000


Darren Clarke   (Northern Ireland)

Royal St George's

 £          900,000


Louis Oosthuizen   (South Africa)

St Andrews

 £          850,000


Stewart Cink   (United States)


 £          750,000


Pádraig Harrington   (2nd)   (Ireland)

Royal Birkdale

 £          750,000


Pádraig Harrington (Ireland)


 £          750,000


Tiger Woods   (3rd)   (United States)

Royal Liverpool

 £          720,000


Tiger Woods   (2nd)   (United States)

St Andrews

 £          720,000


Todd Hamilton   (United States)

Royal Troon

 £          720,000


Ben Curtis   (United States)

Royal St George's

 £          700,000


Ernie Els   (South Africa)


 £          700,000


David Duval   (United States)

Royal Lytham & St Annes

 £          600,000


Tiger Woods   (United States)

St Andrews

 £          500,000


Tiger Woods’ year 2000 win came with an eight-stroke lead – the largest in the modern game.  The last time someone won by such a margin was JH Taylor in 1913 – back when the playing field was less full-to-the-brim with talent.

Henrik Stenson’s 2016 victory is notable for two similar records – lowest winning score in history, and lowest winning score relative to par.  Francesco Molinari won the 2018 Open at Carnoustie, so is one of the favourites to win 2019.  But the field is going to be tough, so, like anyone else, Molinari has no easy routes to success at The Open at Royal Portrush.

The Open History

The Open has a long and storied history – after all, being the oldest tournament in golf, you’d expect something interesting in that time.

First held in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club, on the coast about fifty miles (eighty km) southwest Glasgow, The Open was originally a professionals-only competition.  In the first year, eight players took to the course for three rounds of the course over a single day.

For the second annual event, the tournament had been opened out to allow amateur golfers.

The present day trophy, presented by The Open, the Claret Jug (officially The Golf Champion Trophy) was introduced in 1873, after Young Tom Morris was given the previous trophy, the Challenge Belt, in 1870.  He’d won the event three years on the trot, so the organisers gave him the Belt to keep.  The Open wasn’t held in 1871 due to a lack of trophy, and in 1872 a medal was given to the winner – again, it was Young Tom Morris.

Around this time, the organisers at Prestwick Golf Club aligned with The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.  In 1873, the competition was first held outside of Prestwick, heading to St Andrews, then to Musselburgh Links (outside of Edinburgh) the following year.

The last time it was held at Prestwick was 1925.  Muirfield and St Andrews are still in the rota of courses and host clubs today – each last holding The Open in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

The Open rotated through these venues until 1892, when it was held at Muirfield.  This was the first event to be played over 72 holes, and two days.  Muirfield was the new home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who had moved from Musselburgh.

1894 saw The Open make its first trip to England, playing at Royal St George’s course in Kent.  The course was founded by Scottish enthusiast Dr Laidlaw Purves, in 1887, who wished to play in near his home in England on a links-type course similar to the ones he’d grown up around.  Despite concerns that holding The Open in England would see numbers of entrants tumble, there was 94 golfers on the course-  a record turnout of competition at The Open.

Between 1896 and 1914, Harry Vardon became The Open Champion Golfer six times – setting a record still unbeaten.  Contemporaries of his, James Braid and JH Taylor won The Open five times each – Braid winning his five over a just a nine-year period.

They collectively formed the famed Great Triumvirate (also known as the Immortal Trio) – and between them won The Open 16 years out of 21 between 1894 and 1914.  The five years that none of them won, at least one of them was a close second-place (in three years the losing margin was just 1 stroke).

The only modern player to even come close to these impressive records is Tiger Woods, but even he only won The Open three times and is towards the twilight of his professional career.  There is the point that modern day golf has many times more players than one hundred years ago – meaning Tiger Woods succeeded to three victories against a larger field of competitors.  Some will argue both ways as to whether or not Woods is the best to have competed at The Open, but he is certainly in the top handful however you view it.

JH Taylor takes the record for most second-place finishes, with six.  This falls just behind Jack Nicklaus, who came second seven times (he won three times).  This seven second-places is a record across all of the Majors.

The Open changed format quite often during its early days.  Changes to the number of players in the tournament, how many would make it through the mid-point cut, and the exact length of play – both the number of holes played and the days The Open was set over.

Since 1996 the format has remained unchanged, with the last changes affecting the cuts made (1986) – and the ’10-shot rule’ (1996).  The rule was removed as competition became tighter over the years – it stipulated that anyone with 10-shots of the leader would make it through the cutting processes, but this was allowing more people through than ideal, so was dropped.

Over the years numerous playoffs have been needed to name the Champion Golfer.  It is often the case that competition is incredibly tight, and additional rounds are needed.  When this occurs, the first additional round is a 4-hole round to attempt to find the winner.  This is played over holes 15-18.

If there is still no decision made as to the Champion, just the 18th hole is played on repeat until a victor emerges.  Anyone who gets as far as playoffs and doesn’t win is considered tied for second place – regardless of how well they do in the additional play.  Prior to 1986, the playoff round was eighteen-holes, not the current four, and prior to 1964 it was thirty-six.

The Open Trophies and Awards

By far the most famous trophy at The Open, is the Claret Jug.  Awarded alongside the Gold Medal, the Jug is given to the Open winner – the Champion Golfer of the Year.

There are also Bronze and Silver Medals to be won each year.  The Silver is awarded to the best amateur golfer at The Open, and the Bronze is awarded to any other amateurs who make it through to the final round.

Tiger Woods claimed Silver in 1996, Justin Rose claimed it in 1998, and Rory McIlroy did so in 2007.  Matt Fitzpatrick took home the Silver in 2013.  It’s always worth keeping an eye on the Silver medallist at The Open each year – it’s very often a sign of great things to come!

The PGA give out three awards at The Open, in recognition of their member players’ achievements.

The first of these is a medal named The Tooting Bec Cup is awarded to the PGA member player at The Open who plays the lowest single round in the Major.

The Ryle Memorial Medal is awarded to any PGA player who becomes an Open Winner – so this isn’t handed out every year.  There is also the Braid-Taylor Memorial Medal, awarded to the PGA member who finishes the highest – regardless of if they also won the tournament or not.


The Open Hospitality Packages

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