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A Preview of the 2022 Open Championship

Introduction to the Open Championship

The Open Championship, also known as The Open or the British Open, is one of the four major golf tournaments that is held each year. It is the oldest golf tournament in the world and arguably the most illustrious. The reason why it is called The Open is because it is open to professional and amateur golfers, though nowadays there is a lengthy qualification process for most amateurs. Held in Britain, the Open has taken place at golf courses across the United Kingdom, and it is organised by the R&A, or the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

The tournament is played between 156 contestants, over 72 holes in the stroke play format. This means that scores are counted from strokes across all holes and not by winners of each hole. The 72 holes are played in four rounds of 18 holes. After the first two rounds are finished, the top 70 make the cut, meaning that they will continue playing for the next two rounds. Each round is played in its entirety in one day, meaning the competition lasts four days. The competition starts on the third Thursday in July, and finishes on the Sunday of that week. Each player has two tee times during the first two days, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and these are played in groups of three. The groups are randomised by the organising body. On the last two days, there are groupings of two, with the lower scoring player starting their tee and the player who has a higher score starting after.

Once the fourth round is finished, the player with the highest score, which comes from having the fewest strokes, wins the Open Championship. If there is a tie between two or more players, they proceed to a three hole aggregate playoff. If there is still a tie, the remaining golfers advance to a sudden death round.

The History of the Open Championship

The Open was created in 1860 and the winner of the tournament was given the Challenge Belt. This was a red leather belt with a silver buckle that was worth £25. It was donated by the Earl of Eglington, who had an interest in mediaeval pageantry and belts were the kind of prize that would be offered in jousts or archery competitions. The first rule of the competition was that:

"The party winning the belt shall always leave the belt with the treasurer of the club until he produces a guarantee to the satisfaction of the above committee that the belt shall be safely kept and laid on the table at the next meeting to compete for it until it becomes the property of the winner by being won three times in succession"

The first tournament was played between eight golfers, and was won by Willie Park Sr, who was then declared the Champion Golfer of the year. In the following year, the Open opened up to amateur players as well as professionals. Old Tom Morris won the competition in the following two years in 1861 and 1862, but Willie Park Sr won in 1863 to end Old Tom Morris's winning streak. Old Tom Morris won two more championships and Willie Park Sr won one more before Young Tom Morris Jr won the competition three times in a row from 1868 to 1870. Young Tom Morris won the competition three times in a row, meaning he was allowed to keep the belt, and so in 1871 there was no competition because there was no prize to give out.

In 1872, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, Prestwick and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers made an agreement to put together enough money to commission a new trophy. This was the silver claret jug, which came to be known as the Golf Champion Trophy. The trophy would be rotated between the three golfing clubs, with winners receiving a medal when they became champions. Young Tom Morris won again in 1872, but unfortunately his career was cut short when he died in 1875 at the age of 24 from a broken heart, four months after his wife miscarried and died in childbirth.

In the following years, the competition was rotated around Prestwick Golf Club, Musselburgh Links and St Andrews in Scotland, and many top Scottish golfers won the championship. Jamie Anderson won three years in a row from 1877 to 1879, and he was followed by Bob Ferguson who won three times in a row from 1880 to 1882. In 1883, the tournament went to a playoff, for the first time in its history. The playoffs were won by Willie Fernie.

In 1890, the tournament saw two firsts. It was won by an English amateur golfer; until that point the tournament had only been won by professional Scottish players. John Ball won the competition that was played in Prestwick Golf Club with a score of 162 strokes.

In the following years, another English amateur player, Harold Hilton, won in 1892 and 1897. 1894 saw the competition being played in England for the first time. It was played at the Royal St George's in Sandwich, England. In 1896, 1898 and 1899 the tournament was won by Harry Vardon, an amatuer golfer from the Bailiwick of Jersey, an island off the northwest coast of France that is an independent country loyal to the English Crown.

Soon the competition was picking up popularity in England as well and more golf clubs in England offered their venues such as the Royal Liverpool in Hoylake and the Royal Cinque ports in Deal.

Harry Vardon won three more competitions in 1903, 1911 and 1914, making him the most successful champion in the open. Scottish and English golfers James Braid and John Henry Tayler also won a fair share of championships, with 5 each. John Henry Taylor won in 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909 and 1913. James Braid won the competition in 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908, and 1910. In 1907 the competition was won by Arnaud Massy, the first French winner of the competition.

During the First World War the competition was not held, and it only resumed in 1920.

In the years between the World Wars, the competition became far more open, 1921 saw the first American champion in Jock Hutchison. In the following years fellow American Walter Hagen won the competition 4 times, in 1922, 1924, 1928 and 1929. Bobby Jones, an American amateur golfer, won the competition in 1926, 1927 and 1930.

The competition was not held during the Second World War, and was resumed in 1946, when it was won by Sam Snead. In 1947, it was won by Northern Irish golfer Fred Daly. In 1949, 1950 and 1952 it was won by Bobby Locke, a South African golfer. In 1954 it was won by Australian golfer Peter Thomson, who replicated his success in 1955, 1956 and 1958.

Many famous golfers such as Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson won the competition in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In the late 80s and early 90s English golfer Nick Faldo won three championships and in the early 2000s Tiger Woods won the competition three times. Padraig Harrington won the competition two times in a row in 2007 and 2008, and was the first Irishman to win the championship.

In recent times, the competition has been won by many well-known golfers such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith, Phil Mickelson and most recently Collin Morikawa. In 2020 the competition was not held due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Winners of the Open Championship

To this day, Harry Vardon has won the competition the most times, with his 6 wins in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914. There are 4 players who have won the competition 5 times, including Vardon's contemporaries James Braid and John Henry Tayler, as well as Australian Peter Thomson and American Tom Watson. There are 5 players who have won the competition 4 times, dating back to the 19th century Scottish golfers Old Tom Morris Sr, Young Tom Morris Jr, Willie Park Sr as well as 20th century golfers Walter Haden and Bobby Locke. The leading golfer with the most wins in the 21st century is Tiger Woods, who won the Open 3 times in 2000, 2005 and 2006.

In terms of which countries have won the Open the most time, the US has the record, with 45 wins by 30 different golfers. These include legends such as Tom Watson, Walter Hagen, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and more. Scotland comes in a close second with 41 wins from 22 different golfers. Although the early years of the competition was dominated by Scottish golfers, in recent times not many have won, with the most recent titles being won in 1985 by Sandy Lyle and in 1999 by Paul Lawrie.

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