The 2012 British Open begins July 15 when players arrive at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's course on Britain's west coast. One of the most respected golf tournaments in the world returns to one of the classic courses where some of the greatest names in golf have competed.
Golf didn't used to be the huge television event it is today, yet some of the greatest golfers in the history of Britain competed before World War II.
Willie Park, Sr.
Willie Park, Sr. was noted as "the Arnold Palmer of his day." Park won the inaugural British Open in 1860 and had four championships between 1860 and 1875. Park also was the runner-up four times within those 16 years.
Tom Morris, Sr.
Tom Morris, Sr. battled with Park for early supremacy of the British Open. Morris won four tournaments from 1861 to 1867. Morris won his titles on the 12-hole course at Prestwick, grounds that he founded and maintained.
Tom Morris, Jr.
Like father like son, Tom Morris, Jr. became the first truly dominating player in the British Open. He won three titles in a row from 1868 to 1870. Young Tom, as he was known, also took the championship in 1872. The youngster may well have been the Tiger Woods of his day--Morris, Jr. won his first Open championship at just 17.
Jamie Anderson became the second player, and one out of only four overall, to win three consecutive British Open tournaments. His three titles from 1877 to 1879 on three different courses proved Anderson was arguably the best golfer of his day.
Bob Ferguson is most famous for winning in 1881, the same year 180 fishermen were lost at sea during terrible storms near Prestwick. Ferguson was included in a group of eight men who finished the tournament that year out of 22 starters. Ferguson won three years in a row starting in 1880.
J.H. Taylor is one of five men to win the British Open five times or more. His titles came from 1894 through 1913 as the next generation of golfers took over from the early winners. Taylor became part of a group known as the Great Triumvirate who dominated the sport at the turn of the century.
Harry Vardon is the only person to win the British Open six times. From 1896 to 1914, Vardon dueled with Taylor for several championships. Vardon's first win was in a 36-hole playoff over Taylor, otherwise his counterpart would be the sole winner of six titles in the record books.
James Braid, along with Taylor and Vardon, completed the Great Triumvirate. Braid took home five titles in 10 years from 1901 to 1910, marking one of the most dominating decades in golf. He was a runner-up three times in that same span.
Walter Hagen was the first American-born player to win the British Open in 1922. (Jock Hutchison was an American citizen when he won in 1921, but was born in St. Andrews in 1884.) His prize was 50 pounds, which he promptly gave to his caddie. Hagen was already an established professional in the United States by the time he made his way across the pond. Although he had a frosty relationship with the British Open, Hagen claimed four trophies from 1922 to 1929.
Bobby Jones joined Hagen as one of the dominating Americans to tame British courses. Jones might have eclipsed Hagen in the fact that his three championships from 1926 to 1930 were all as an amateur. His first British Open was a disaster in 1921--the 19-year-old Jones was so frustrated, he tore up his scorecard and quit. It was the only time Jones failed to complete a competitive round in his life. The next time he competed in the British Open five years later, Jones marked the first of three outstanding victories.
William Browning has covered sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network including golf and local golf courses in southwest Missouri. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.
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