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Open Championship 101

British Open 2021: Frequently Asked Questions

July 07, 2021

Richard Heathcote/R&A

After a one-year break due to the pandemic, the Open Championship returns in 2021, and it promises to be a special one. For the first time since 2011, it's back at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England, site of Darren Clarke's epic coronation victory a decade ago.

To get you ready for the major, we offer this Open Championship primer, answering some of the frequently asked questions about golf's oldest major championship.

When is the Open Championship played?

With the PGA Tour schedule having been re-arranged in 2019, the Open Championship is now the year’s final men's major. It is still, however, played in mid-July. This year, it will be held July 15-18.

Who conducts the Open Championship?

The R&A conducts the championship.

Is the British Open the same as the Open Championship?

Yes, it is. In the United States and other parts of the world, the tournament is often referred to as the British Open to help distinguish the championship from Opens in other countries. However, the official name of the tournament is The Open Championship.

When and where was the first Open Championship? And who won?

The first Open Championship was played in 1860 at Prestwick in South Ayrshire, Scotland. It was a one-day, 36-hole competition. Willie Park Sr., won by two strokes with a total score of 174.

What is the format of the Open Championship? How many players are in the field?

The Open Championship is a four-round, 72-hole stroke-play competition, with a cut after 36 holes. There are 156 players in the field.

If players are tied after 72 holes, how is the winner determined?

The Open Championship uses a four-hole aggregate playoff if players are tied at the end of four rounds. If players are still tied after four holes, they play sudden death until a winner is determined. It’s not the only major to use the aggregate format in the event of a tie—the PGA Championship uses a three-hole aggregate playoff and the U.S. Open made the switch from an 18-hole playoff to a two-hole aggregate in 2018.

Where is the Open Championship being held in 2021?

The 149th Open Championship will take place at Royal St George's in Sandwich, Kent, England, where it was supposed to be played last year until the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the 15th time the course has hosted the Open Championship history. The last time it was played there was 2011, when Darren Clarke outlasted Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to win his lone major title. St. George's was the first course outside of Scotland to host the Open (back in 1894). Only St. Andrews, Prestwick and Muirfield have hosted more Opens.

An aerial view from the tee of the par-3 sixth hole at Royal St. George's with the par-4 fifth hole to the left.

David Cannon

Who won the 2019 Open Championship?

Shane Lowry won the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland with a 72-hole total of 15-under 269. The Irishman's Saturday 63 was the highlight of the week, affording him the opportunity to play sensible Sunday golf and stroll to his first major championship victory. Tommy Fleetwood finished in solo second, six back of Lowry, while Tony Finau finished in solo third, eight back. Brooks Koepka and Lee Westwood tied for fourth, and Rickie Fowler, Robert MacIntyre, Danny Willett and Tyrrell Hatton tied for sixth.

Who has won the most Open Championships?

Harry Vardon holds the record for most victories at the Open Championship with six. Four golfers have won the Open five times: James Braid, J.H. Taylor, Peter Thomson and Tom Watson.

How can you qualify for the Open Championship?

There are several ways players can qualify for the Open Championship, including through the Open Qualifying Series and Final Qualifying, which you can learn more about here.

For 2021, the R&A expanded the list of exempt categories to guarantee that players who qualified for the canceled 2020 Open would get to play this year. For the current field, click here.

Will Tiger Woods be playing in this year's Open Championship?

No, Tiger Woods will not be in the field at the 2021 Open Championship, as he's still recovering from the single-car accident he suffered in February. We've not seen Woods in an official PGA Tour event since the November Masters, where he tied for 38th. If Woods can make a full recovery by next summer, there's a chance we see him in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he won his first and second of three Opens in 2000 and 2005. His other Open victory came in 2006 at Royal Liverpool.

Tiger Woods holds the claret jug aloft in front of the R&A Clubhouse after securing a five-shot victory at the 2005 Open Championship.

Jamie Squire

What other sites host the Open Championship?

The Open Championship is the only major that uses a rotation or “rota” of courses in the United Kingdom. There are currently 10 courses in the rota. Five of them are in Scotland: Carnoustie, St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield. The other four are in England: Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal St. George’s and Royal Lytham. Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush, where the Open was played in 2019, is the most recent course to join the rota.

Which country has hosted the most Open Championships?

Scotland has hosted the most, with 63 Open Championships.

How many players make the 36-hole cut?

The top 70 players and ties make the cut at the Open Championship.

Who is the oldest winner of the Open Championship?

Old Tom Morris is the oldest, winning the Open Championship in 1867 at Prestwick at age 46.

The youngest?

Young Tom Morris is the youngest, winning the Open Championship the following year in 1868 at Prestwick at age 17. He also holds the record for most consecutive victories (four), winning the next three in a row after his first.

Old and Young Tom Morris, circa 1860s

Print Collector

What is the lowest round shot in the Open Championship?

Ten players held the record of 63 up until four years ago at Royal Birkdale, when South Africa's Branden Grace set a new record for all major championships, carding a third-round eight-under 62.

What is the lowest round in relation to par in Open Championship history?

Paul Broadhurst and Rory McIlroy hold the record for lowest rounds in relation to par, with Broadhurst carding a nine-under 63 in the third round of the 1990 Open Championship at St. Andrews. McIlroy's nine-under 63 also came at St. Andrews in the first round of the 2010 Open Championship.

What is the 72-hole scoring record? And the record in relation to par?

Henrik Stenson set both records in 2016 at Royal Troon, with 264 strokes and 20 under par.

Henrik Stenson caps off his record-breaking 2016 Open win at Royal Troon.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

What is the largest margin of victory?

The largest margin of victory in an Open Championship came in 1862 at Prestwick, when Old Tom Morris won by 13 strokes while the event was still contested over 36 holes.

The largest margin since World War II is eight strokes by Tiger Woods over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els during the 2000 Open at St. Andrews.

What is the highest winning score in Open Championship history?

The highest winning total came in 1894, when England's J.H. Taylor won with 326 strokes at Royal St. George's.

Has there ever been a wire-to-wire winner of the Open Championship?

There have been seven wire-to-wire winners in Open Championship history. They are: Ted Ray (1912, Muirfield), Bobby Jones (1927, St. Andrews), Gene Sarazen (1932, Prince's), Henry Cotton (1934, Royal St. George's), Tom Weiskopf (1973, Royal Troon), Tiger Woods (2005, St. Andrews) and Rory McIlroy (2014, Royal Liverpool).

Has an amateur ever won the Open Championship?

An amateur has won the Open Championship six times. The list includes: John Ball (1890, Prestwick), Harold Hilton (1892, Muirfield and 1897, Royal Liverpool) and Bobby Jones (1926, Royal Lytham and St. Annes; 1927, St. Andrews; 1930, Royal Liverpool).

American golfer Bobby Jones drives off from the first tee during a practice game on the Old Course at St Andrews.

Topical Press Agency

What is the Silver Medal at the Open Championship?

The Silver Medal is awarded to the leading amateur of the Open Championship, provided he completes all 72 holes. In 2018, Scotland's Sam Locke won the award by completing all four round and finishing in a tie for 75th. In 2019, at Royal Portrush, no amateurs advanced to the weekend, so the Silver Medal was not awarded.

How many times has an American won the Open Championship?

Of the 148 Open Championships that have been contested, an American has won 45 of them, the most any country has produced.

Which country has produced the next most Open Champions?

Scotland has produced the next most with 41 winners, while England has produced 22.

What type of conditions is the Open Championship played in?

The Open Championship is played at classic links golf courses that feature deep bunkers, no trees, large and undulating greens, and high fescue. It's typically played in high winds, colder temperatures and, often, rain.

What does the winner of the Open Championship receive?

In the early days of the Open Championship, the winner received the Challenge Belt, which was returned the next year and awarded to the next winner. If, however, a golfer won the Open three straight years, he would be able to keep the belt permanently. Young Tom Morris accomplished that feat in 1870. With the retirement of the belt, the R&A created a new award—the claret jug, which has become the most widely recognized trophy in golf. The claret jug was first awarded in 1873. Today, winners' names are engraved on the trophy just as they are completing their victory, and appear on the jug when they are handed the trophy at the prize ceremony after the championship. Winners return the claret jug each year (although they also receive a replica that they can keep).

The winner also carries the honorific label of "The Champion Golfer of the Year."

What is the Open Championship's purse?

Earlier this month, the R&A announced that this year's prize money payout will total $11.5 million, a $1 million increase from 2019. The winner's payout, $2.07 million, is the first time the champion's payday will exceed $2 million.

How many World Ranking points does the Open Champion receive?

The winner of the Open Championship receives 100 world ranking points.

How many FedEx Cup points does the Open Champion receive?

The winner of the Open Championship receives 600 points.

What are the confirmed future sites in the Open rota?

Future sites have been confirmed through 2024. They are as follows:

2022: The Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland

2023: Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, England

2024: Royal Troon, Troon, Scotland

Who broadcasts the U.S. Open?

NBC signed a 12-year deal to broadcast the Open Championship, and this year will be its fifth televising the event, along with its cable network, Golf Channel.