Little-Known British Open Facts
Obscure stories and curiosities from the tournament that started it all
July 08, 2012
Harry Vardon (above), famously known as the inventor of the Vardon or overlapping grip -- the most commonly used in golf today -- holds the record for most British Open wins with six (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914).
Despite the "British" prefix now affiliated with it, the Open was not held outside of Scotland until 1894 -- more than 30 years after the inaugural Open -- at Royal St. George (pictured). J.H. Taylor would go on to win that year and was awarded £30 for his accomplishment.
The first 12 British Opens were played at Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire Scotland (pictured). Prestwick remained in the Open's rotation until 1925 when it was deemed unable to accommodate the growing galleries. Hosting the championship a total of 24 times in all, Prestwick is second only to the Old Course at St. Andrews.
The oldest winner of the British Open is "Old" Tom Morris (left), who was 46 when he won in 1867. The youngest was his son, "Young" Tom Morris (right), who was 17 when he won the following year.
"Old" Tom Morris held the record for the largest margin of victory in a major championship (14 strokes at the 1862 Open Championship) for 138-years, until Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes.
Jack Nicklaus named his course in Ohio, Muirfield, after the course where he won his first British Open in 1966 (left).
When Bob Charles won the 1963 Open, he became the first New Zealander -- and the first left-handed player -- to win one of golf's professional majors.
Gary Player won the British open in 1959, '68, and '74 (above) -- making him the only golfer in the 20th century to win the Open in three different decades (Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor both did it in the 1890s-1910s). Player also holds the record for most Open appearances with 46.
J.H. Taylor won his last British Open in 1913 -- 19 years after winning his first in 1894. That span is the longest between any golfer's first and last Open wins.
In the 1921 Open Championship, British golfer Roger Wethered (pictured) incurred a penalty during his last round for accidentally hitting his ball with his foot. The penalty would drop him into a tie with Jock Hutchison, forcing a 36-hole playoff. Wethered, who almost refused to participate in the playoff due to a cricket match he had scheduled for the following day, would go on to lose to Hutchison by nine strokes. Incidentally, though born in England, Hutchison was a naturalized citizen of the United States, and by winning the 1921 Open became the first American to do so.
Louis Oosthuizen had made only one cut in his eight previous majors before blowing away the competition at St. Andrews in 2010. Oosthuizen led over the final 48 holes, finishing at 16-under 272 for a seven-shot victory over Lee Westwood.
Ben Curtis was a PGA Tour Rookie ranked no. 396 in the world when he won the 2003 British Open.
The winner of the first dozen Opens at Prestwick was presented with a red Morocco belt with silver clasps. Dubbed the "Challenge Belt," it was purchased by the members at a cost of £25. "Young" Tom Morris (pictured wearing the belt) captured four consecutive Opens held there from 1868-1872 (still an an unprecedented feat). Under the original rules of competition, if a player won three times in a row, he was entitled to keep the prize -- meaning there was nothing to play for in 1871, and therefore, no Open was held that year.
The trophy now awarded to the winner of the British Open is officially named the Championship Cup, though it is widely referred to as the "claret jug". Claret is a dry red wine produced in the famous French winemaking region of Bordeaux. The British Open trophy was designed to look like the silver jugs used to serve claret at 19th century gatherings, thus the name.