British Open Winners
Early British Open winners were all Scottish professionals, who in those days worked as greenkeepers, clubmakers and caddies to supplement their modest winnings from championships and challenge matches.
The Open Championship has always been dominated by professionals, with a mere six amateur victories, all coming between 1890 and 1930. The last of these was Bobby Jones’s third Open success and part of his celebrated Grand Slam.
Jones was one of four Americans to be crowned as British Open champions between the First and Second World Wars, the first of whom was Walter Hagen in 1922. These Americans and the French winner of 1907, Arnaud Massy, were the only British Open winners from outside Scotland and England up until 1939.
Arnold Palmer’s victory in 1961 is recognised as the turning point in the fortunes of the British Open, giving new life and international impact to the championship.
Recent years have seen a number of wins by previously obscure golfers, including Paul Lawrie’s playoff win after the disastrous 72nd-hole collapse of Frenchman Jean van de Velde in 1999, Ben Curtis in 2003 and Todd Hamilton in 2004.
Although there have been many English and Scottish champions, 1947 winner, Northern Ireland’s Fred Daly, was the only champion from Ireland until the 2007 win of the Republic’s Pádraig Harrington. There has never been a Welsh champion.
Otherwise, the early post-war years were dominated by golfers from the Commonwealth, with South African Bobby Locke and Australian Peter Thomson winning the Claret Jug in nine of the 11 championships from 1948 and 1958 between them.
During this period, the British Open often had a schedule conflict with the match-play PGA Championship, so Ben Hogan, the best American golfer at the time, competed in the Open Championship just once, in 1953 at Carnoustie, and won.
Another South African, Gary Player, won in 1959. This was at the beginning of the “Big Three” era when professional golf was dominated by Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus won three times, finishing in the top five 16 times, which is tied in British Open history with John Henry Taylor and easily the most in the post-war era, including seven second places.
Tom Watson won the British Open five times, more than anyone has since the 1950s.
Tiger Woods has won three Open Championships to date: in 2000, 2005 and 2006.
Click here for a complete list of British Open winners since 1860.
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