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History of The Open

The Open


How the last 10 Champion Golfers fared in defence

Shane Lowry kissing the Claret Jug

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and nowhere more so than at The Open. 

After the glory of claiming golf’s biggest prize comes the challenge of living up to the mantle of Champion Golfer of the Year. 

To toast Champion Golfer Shane Lowry’s 33rd birthday, we take a look back at how the last 10 winners have fared in defence of the Claret Jug. 

2019 - Francesco Molinari 

It’s a testament to Molinari’s appeal that his final-day 66 didn’t go unnoticed as home favourite Lowry soared to success at Royal Portrush.

It was the best fourth-round effort of the entire field, featuring three birdies and an eagle, representing an impressive return to The Open as he finished -3 for the week and in a tie for 11th.

2018 - Jordan Spieth

Spieth was widely tipped to become the first since Young Tom Morris to retain The Open before reaching the age of 25.

Starting the final day on -9 and in a share of the lead, level par would have been enough for the Texan sensation to win.


But a disappointing 76 in roaring winds saw him slip out of contention and finish in a tie for ninth at Carnoustie. 

2017 - Henrik Stenson

It would have taken quite something for Stenson to match the record-breaking 264 at Royal Troon that broke Greg Norman’s 24-year Open record and delivered him the Claret Jug in 2016.

The Swede showed typical steel to make 65 on Saturday to shape well, but an error-strewn front nine in the final round derailed his challenge and he finished tied for 11th. 

2016 - Zach Johnson

Johnson came to Royal Troon as one of the game’s most renowned tacticians, especially around a tight and twisty links.

He contended again and was placed fifth at the half-way stage but a 75 on Saturday put paid to his hopes of back-to-back victories. 

2015 - Rory McIlroy

An ankle injury prevented McIlroy from appearing at The Open in 2015. 

2014 - Phil Mickelson

After a listless opening round 74 at Royal Liverpool, it looked like Mickelson’s week would go the same way as that of former Champion Golfers.

Phil Mickelson

But a 70 on Friday steadied the ship and his class came through with 68 on Sunday to finish -5 and tied for 23rd. 

2013 - Ernie Els

Ernie mounted a spirited defence of his second Claret Jug - as he did with his first, finishing 16th at The Open in 2003 after winning at Muirfield. 

Followed by a 400-strong gallery, the popular South African's fine back nine helped him card 70 on Saturday to give him an outside shot of a third title. He finished +8, tied for 26th. 

2012 - Darren Clarke

If Clarke’s maiden triumph in his 20th Open appearance was a fairytale, his return to The Open was not quite as sweet.

The Northern Irishman said he was “disgusted with himself” after 76 in the first round and carding 147 saw him miss the cut at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

2011 - Louis Oosthuizen

Like Stewart Cink, few would have picked the South African to win before he romped to victory by seven strokes at St Andrews in 2010.

Conditions were in his favour at the start of his title defence at Royal St George’s but Oosthuizen failed to capitalise and carding 77 on Sunday summed up a deflating week. 

2010 - Stewart Cink

The gentle giant from Georgia would never recapture the form that saw him outlast a 59-year-old Tom Watson in a tumultuous playoff at Turnberry in 2009, his first and only major win.

A first-round 70 at St Andrews helped him make the cut, finishing on +1 for the week and tied for 48th with 1995 Champion Golfer of the Year John Daly.