The Decade of American Dominance at the British Open: A Fan’s Take

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American golfers have long enjoyed success at the major championships. This includes the oldest major championship in golf, the British Open, or simply the Open Championship. Most golf fans can recall the dominance by American players, led by Tiger Woods, at the turn of the 21st century. Those that are a little more seasoned can remember the American dominance of the 1970s and early 1980s marked by victories from Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. Yet has there ever been a decade of dominance by American golfers at the Open Championship quite like the 1920s?

It was probably not anticipated by anyone. It is worth mentioning that no American player had ever won the British Open before 1921. Granted, there were no private jets, or jets period, to whisk players from one continent to another to compete in a golf tournament. In 1921, Jock Hutchison became the first American citizen to win the Open Championship. Of course, the fact that Hutchison had been born in Scotland and immigrated to the United States was likely not lost on the St. Andrews spectators. However, the following year would herald a new chapter in the history of the British Open.

In 1922 Walter Hagen came to Royal St George's in Sandwich, England looking for his first Open Championship victory. Competing for only the third time, Hagen won the title becoming the first American born golfer to hoist the Claret Jug. The following year Hagen would finish second to England's Arthur Havers. Then in 1924 Hagen again planted an American flag on British soil winning his second Open Championship. Following a victory in 1925 by Englishman Jim Barnes, the American dominance truly took hold.

The 1926 Open Championship was to be contested at Royal Lytham and St Annes. However, Bobby Jones was not going to contest the Claret Jug. Jones instead had his eye on competing in the British Amateur and the Walker Cup. However, after a quarterfinal loss at the Amateur, Jones decided to try to qualify for the Open Championship. Qualify he did as he went on to win his first British Open Championship. In 1927 Bobby Jones traveled to St. Andrews, Scotland to defend his title. His return to the Old Course was a smashing success as Jones captured his second Open title.

Given the world in which we live today it is almost inconceivable that a two-time defending champion at a major championship would not attempt to defend his title. Yet that was exactly the case in 1928 as Bobby Jones did not compete. However, American hopes were ably carried by Walter Hagen. Returning to Royal St George's, the site of his first Open Championship title, Hagen claimed his third Claret Jug.

Hagen backed up his 1928 victory with a fourth and final Open title in 1929 at Muirfield. This set the stage for the capstone of the Americans' decade of dominance. In 1930 Bobby Jones came to Royal Liverpool after winning the British Amateur on The Old Course at St. Andrews. Jones won the second leg of his Grand Slam by beating Macdonald Smith and Leo Diegel by two strokes. This was Jones' third and final British Open title as he retired from golf later that year. It also marked the eighth victory in ten years for Americans in the British Open.

The run of American winners continued for three more years with Tommy Armour, Gene Sarazen and Denny Shute claiming victories. It is worth noting that Armour was born in Scotland and that Shute's father was born in England.

Dwight is an avid golfer. While still relatively new to the game, he plays as often as the weather and his schedule will allow.

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