With Zach Johnson’s recent nail-biting playoff finish at the 2015 Open Champion, we thought we’d discuss a bit of history of this major championship. Of the four major championships, The Open stands out. While on the surface, the claret jug may not be as prestigious as donning that green jacket, there is arguably more heritage behind it. The links-style course reminds us of golf’s origins, and provides different challenges than the courses associated with the other three majors. Links golf can require players to excel at their long iron play, or wedges rather than a driver. Links courses demand masterful precision and distance control, and usually a stroke of luck for the right bounce.
While the Masters is the only major held at the exact same course every year, typically the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship—while rotated to different courses—still play on courses with similar characteristics. (Except, of course, this year at Chambers Bay—but this is the exception and not the rule).
The type of play required at these other courses can feature long, tight tee shots from forest-lined fairways, with thick rough and raised greens that dislike gripping the ball. Watching this type of golf is fun, but nothing comes close to the Open Championship. Even Chambers Bay at its best still lacks what the courses in Scotland, Ireland, and Great Britain have. The history. These were where legends such as Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, and Tom Watson made their mark. This year, the Open Tournament returned to St. Andrews—the home of golf.
The Open’s history (as sourced from www.theopen.com) began in 1860, when eight professional golfers showed up to Prestwick Golf Club for the first-ever Open Championship. The goal was to determine a champion among champions in the sport of golf. The links-style course only had 12 holes, and the tournament was held over three days. Old Tom Morris would be the first crowned Open Champion, and from that point on it was no longer an exclusive tournament—instead it was opened to the world.
The Open Championship has currently been played on 14 different golf courses, including Prestwick, with St Andrews being among the foremost prestigious. As the Championship grew in popularity and contestants each year, discussions about a new trophy surfaced. The original prize was a red leather belt with a silver buckle that the winner kept for the year. In 1873, the trophy we now know as the Claret Jug was created by Mackay Cunningham and Company, and each champion’s name is engraved into the jug—and golf history—for winning The Open.