As we prepare for the 149th Open Championship, Pro Golf Weekly looks at some of the most historic moments and feats with 10 British Open Records You Should Know.
The stage is set for the best golfers in the world to compete for the Claret Jug and the title of Champion Golfer of the Year at the 149th (British) Open Championship at Royal St George’s. So as we prepare for the oldest of the four major golf championships to get underway, here are 10 British Open Championship records to peruse as a starter.
10 Open Championship Records
1. Most British Open Wins
England’s Harry Vardon, a six-time winner, has the most wins at the British Open Championship. Vardon claimed victory in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914.
Although Vardon wasn’t the one who originally came up with the overlapping grip, he did popularize it and now it’s commonly known as the “Vardon Grip.”
2. Youngest Open Champion
Four-time British Open Champion, Tom Morris Jr., was just 17 years, 5 months and 8 days old when he captured the belt in 1868, the first of his four victories. He beat his father, Tom Morris Sr. by three strokes for that maiden win.
Tom Jr. is also the youngest competitor in British Open history when he first competed at the 6th Open Championship at the age of just 14 years, 4 months and 25 days in September of 1865.
3. Oldest Open Champion
Tom Morris Sr. won his fourth British Open at the age of 46 years, 3 months and 9 days in 1867. This was his fourth victory in a span of seven years, which remains a record to date.
Old Tom is also the oldest competitor in British Open history when he competed in the 1896 British Open at the age of 74 years, 11 months and 24 days. He also holds the record for the largest margin of victory at the British Open, having won in 1862 with a margin of 13 strokes.
4. Most Runner-Up Finishes at The Open
Jack Nicklaus owns an incredible seven runner-up finishes to go along with his three victories at the British Open Championship. His runner-up finishes came in 1964, ’67, ’68, ’72, ’76 and ’77 editions of the Open.
Jack Nicklaus’ British Open Wins
- 1966 – Muirfield Golf Club (-2, 1 Stroke Win)
- 1970 – St. Andrews (-5, Playoff Win)
- 1978 – St. Andrews (-7, 2 Stroke Win)
Jack Nicklaus’ British Open Runner
- 1964 – St Andrews (Tony Lema)
- 1967 – Royal Liverpool (Roberto De Vicenzo)
- 1968 – Carnoustie (Gary Player)
- 1972 – Muirfield (Lee Trevino)
- 1976 – Royal Birkdale (Johnny Miller)
- 1977 – Turnberry (Tom Watson)
5. Most Open Winners By Country
The United States has produced the most British Open Champions – 29 Claret Jug winners with 47 victories in total. Jock Hutchison was the first American to win the Open – claiming victory at the 1921 edition at St. Andrews, while Jordan Spieth (2017) is the most recent American Champion Golfer of the Year.
Seven players – Tom Watson (5), Walter Hagen (4), Tiger Woods (3), Jack Nicklaus (3) Bobby Jones (3), Lee Trevino (2), and Arnold Palmer (2) – own 22 of those titles, while the other 22 winners are one-timers.
Scotland is second on the list with 22 champions and 41 wins – although a vast majority of those wins occurred before the turn of the century when it was essentially a local British tournament. George Duncan (1920), Sandy Lyle (1985), and Paul Lawrie (1999) are the only Scots to have won in the last 100 years.
6. Most British Open Appearances
South African Gary Player owns the record for most appearances at the British Open with 42. Player is a three-time winner of this championship, having claimed victory in 1959, 1968 and 1974.
Gary Players’ British Open Wins
- 1959 – Muirfield Golf Club (E, 2 Stroke Win)
- 1968 – Carnousite (+1, 2 Stroke Win)
- 1974 – Royal Lytham & St Annes (-2, 4 Stroke Win)
Apart from a trio of Claret Jugs, Player has an additional nine Top-10 finishes.
7. Lowest 18-Hole Score at The Open
There were ten players who’d shot 63 at the Open Championship with both Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson recording that record mark in 2016 at Royal Troon. This was a record until Branden Grace carded a 62 at Royal Birkdale in the third round of the 2017 edition.
- 62 – Branden Grace, (Rd 3), Royal Birkdale, 2017
- 63 – Mark Hayes, (Rd 2), Turnberry, 1977
- 63 – Isao Aoki, (Rd 3), Muirfield, 1980
- 63 – Greg Norman, (Rd 2), Turnberry, 1986
- 63 – Paul Broadhurst, (Rd 3), St. Andrews, 1990
- 63 – Jodie Mudd, (Rd 4), Royal Birkdale, 1991
- 63 – Nick Faldo, (Rd 2), Royal St. George’s, 1993
- 63 – Payne Stewart, (Rd 4), Royal St George’s, 1993
- 63 – Rory McIlroy, (Rd 1), St. Andrews, 2010
- 63 – Phil Mickelson, (Rd 2), Royal Troon, 2016
- 63 – Henrik Stenson, (Rd 4), Royal Troon, 2016
8. Lowest Final Round at The Open
At the 2016 Open Championship, at Royal Troon, Henrik Stenson finished his final five holes: birdie-par-birdie-birdie-birdie to a post an 8-under 63 and capture the Claret Jug in an epic battle against Phil Mickelson.
Stenson’s final-day score topped the old record of 6-under 64 set by Greg Norman at the 1993 British Open at Royal St George’s.
9. Lowest Winning Under-Par Score at The Open
Stenson’s 20-under par 264 finish at Royal Troon also set the total under-par record, edging the 19-under 269 posted by Tiger Woods during his 2000 British Open win at St Andrews.
The 264 stroke score broke the previous Open Championship record by three shots, formerly 267, set by Greg Norman in 1993. It also set a new major championship record, beating David Toms’ 265 in the PGA Championship in 2001.
10. Biggest Comeback To Win the Claret Jug
At the 1999 Open Championship, Paul Lawrie completed the biggest final round comeback in major championship history by making up 10 strokes before edging Jean van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff.
Van de Velde held a five-shot lead after 54 holes, and entered the 72nd hole with a three-stroke advantage. But then history happened, and seven strokes later signed for a triple bogey-7 to fall into overtime with Lawrie and Leonard at 6-over par.
To his credit, Lawrie shot a final-round 4-under 67, one of only two sub-70 rounds on Sunday (the other being Davis Love III with a 69).
This post was originally published in a lead-up to the 145th British Open at Royal Troon. It has been updated to reflect records set in 2016 and 2017.