The oldest of the four golf majors, the Open Championship is to be played in July at the Dunluce Links course of Royal Portrush, County Antrim. Steeped in history as well as tradition, 156 golfers will participate with the aim of winning the Claret Jug, as well as the title ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ and a tidy sum of winnings. Betfair currently predicts Brooks Koepka (7/1) to be victorious this year, but there are a number of Northern Irishmen looking to impress in front of a home crowd, including Rory McIlroy and Portrush-born Graeme McDowell. In advance of the 148th Open, let’s take a look back at some of the notable records and statistics surrounding the most prestigious of golf’s majors.
The records for the youngest and oldest players date back to the 1800’s and earlier editions of the major tournament.
The youngest winner, Tom Morris Jr won the 1868 Open Championship at the age of 17 years 156 days. He also holds the record for the most consecutive victories with four wins between his first in 1968 and fourth in 1872 (there was no championship in 1871 as no trophy was available). Morris Jr also holds the record for being the youngest ever competitor in the Open, making his debut at the 1865 tournament at the tender age of 14.
His father Tom Morris Sr holds the record for being the oldest winner of the Open, having won in 1867, the year before his son, at the age of 46 years 99 days. Morris Sr also won four Open Championships, between the years of 1861 and 1867 and holds the record of being the oldest ever competitor in the Open. He was a few days short of his 75th birthday when he competed in 1896.
The holder of the lowest winning score and the lowest winning score in relation to par belongs to Henrik Stenson of Sweden. He won the 2016 Open at Royal Troon with a score of 264, a massive 20 strokes under par. His nearest rival was Phil Mickelson, who finished three strokes behind in second place.
The lowest 18-hole score belongs to Branden Grace. The South African recorded a score of 62 in the third round of the tournament held at Royal Birkdale in 2017. In managing this feat, he ended a long-standing record of 63, which had been matched on numerous occasions – from Mark Hayes in 1977 to Stenson in 2016.
The largest margin of victory belongs to a man who needs no introduction (and one we’ve already mentioned) – Morris Sr. In 1862, he won his second golf major and Open Championship, and did so at a margin of 13 strokes. With a score of 163, his nearest competitor was fellow Scot Willie Park Sr, who completed the course with a score of 176. It must be noted that the 1862 championship (like previous editions) was held over three rounds of the 12-hole links course.
Hosting and course-related records
A total of 14 courses have hosted the Open, with 10 still currently active. Of those 10, five courses are based in Scotland, four in England and just one (Royal Portrush) in Northern Ireland.
Scotland leads the way when it comes to hosting the tournament and since its inauguration in 1860, has hosted 96 Open Championships. In comparison, England has hosted 50 and Northern Ireland just two (including this year’s Open).
St Andrews is the most played course, having hosted the tournament 29 times between the years of 1873 and 2015. The Old Course at St Andrews is considered ‘The Cathedral of Golf’ and is set to be the course for the 2021 Open. Prestwick is still the second-highest played course, although it hasn’t been used since overcrowding issues in 1925. The course which was the Open’s original venue, having hosted the first 12 tournaments, was replaced by Carnoustie in 1931.
Looking ahead to future venues, next year’s tournament will be held at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Kent – the 15th time that course will have been used for the Open. The 150th edition in 2021 will see the prestigious tournament return to St Andrews, while in 2022, the Royal Liverpool Golf Club will be the course of choice.