Open Championship - History

The History Of The Open Championship

Few sporting events can boast the history of the Open. The oldest of golf’s major championships, this year the most prestigious event in the game returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.

The Open - no need to add “British” to its title - is truly where the game of golf as we know it began.

The first Open Championship was held in 1860 and provided an origin for competitive golf which threads through the generations who have played, watched and won this most historic of events. The Open predates its US equivalent by 35 years and the Masters by 74.

Only ever played on a links course, everything about the Open is a nod to the event’s heritage. From the giant yellow, hand-operated leaderboards, to the Claret Jug, to the awards ceremony at which the “champion golfer of the year” is announced, the Open Championship is unparalleled as a sporting occasion.

Bet UK’s online betting has golf betting odds for the 2019 Open Championship, as well as odds for all European and PGA Tour events. You can also check out Rob Cobley’s Open Championship betting tips, as well as his golf betting tips for all major events.

The Open’s Humble Origins

Just eight professional golfers showed up at the inaugural Open Championship. The untimely death of Allan Robertson in 1859 at the age of 43 prompted members of the Prestwick Golf Club to host a contest to decide who would succeed him as the greatest golfer of the day. Robertson was considered to be the “champion golfer” of the era and was reputedly never beaten when playing for money.

As captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, James Ogilvie Fairlie issued an invitation to clubs throughout Scotland to send up to three of their best players to compete in the maiden Open Championship and compete for a “challenge belt” - the first prize awarded to the winner of the event.

The victor would be awarded the prize fashioned from red Moroccan leather, though it would remain in the safekeeping of the treasurer of the club. Willie Park, Sr. won the inaugural championship by two shots from Old Tom Morris to become the very first “champion golfer of the year”.

Morris would later get to keep the belt after winning three consecutive titles between 1868 and 1870. The original belt can still be seen on display in the clubhouse at St Andrews.

The Claret Jug

Because the Prestwick club couldn’t afford another prize for the Open winner, no contest was held in 1871. Instead the club proposed to share the expense of commissioning a prize with St Andrews and Musselburgh in return for each sharing the responsibility of hosting the Open. And so the tradition of courses being played on a rota was born.

The trio of clubs agreed to contribute a sum of “not more than £15” towards the cost of a silver jug to be awarded to future winners of the Open. Young Tom Morris won his fourth and final Open Championship when the competition returned in 1872, though the jug wasn’t ready and so he received a gold medal.

In 1920, after assuming sole responsibility for organising the Open, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club opted to put the original Claret Jug on permanent display in its clubhouse and award a replica to the winner who can keep it for a year.

The Open Creates A String Of Legends

As the Open continued to grow, the competition crowned a string of superstars. None more so than Harry Vardon who won his first Open in 1896 and would go on to claim the Claret Jug a record six times.

After the First World War, invitations to play in the Open were sent around the globe and the event quickly became the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.

The Open crowned its first American winner in 1922 when the great Walter Hagen added the first of his four victories. Australian Peter Thompson dominated the event between 1955 and 1965 with five wins and once the Open celebrated its centenary year, legendary names such as Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus had emerged and would have their names etched onto the Claret Jug.

The Open In The Modern Era

By the mid-1980s Tom Watson had sealed his place in Open folklore with five wins, competing with Jack Nicklaus for global golfing supremacy. The Golden Bear won the Open on three occasions and the 1977 Duel in the Sun between the two at Turnberry produced the greatest final round scrap in the event’s history.

When a 21-year-old Severiano Ballesteros won the first of his three Opens in 1979, little did the Spaniard realise his victory would reignite the dominance of European golfers at the championship.

Scotsman Sandy Lyle won his first and only Open in 1985 and was followed by Nick Faldo with three wins between 1987 and 1992. Australian Greg Norman elbowed his way into the European party with two victories in 1986 and 1993.

In the early years of the new millennium, The Open was dominated by Tiger Woods with three wins between 2000 and 2006. Pádraig Harrington claimed back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2008 but since then, The Open has become truly “open” once more with no player going on to win the event more than once.

So, as Portrush prepares to host the 148th Open Championship you can keep up with all the latest odds for golf betting here at Bet UK. The stage is truly set for the likes of recent winners Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith and Francesco Molinari to seal their place in Open folklore with victory on the Dunluce Links course.

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*All odds from Bet UK’s online betting markets correct at the time of writing.

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