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The Open's 12 Days of Christmas


12 pieces of festive Open trivia

Tiger Woods with the Claret Jug after winning The Open at St Andrews in 2005

With the festive period just around the corner, what better way to celebrate than a small dose of Christmas trivia from The Open’s 159-year history?

So, here are your 12 golfing days of Christmas, The Open edition, choosing a selection of iconic Championship memories and features to fit the famous old carol.

1 – Claret Jug

While it unequivocally represents the sport’s most recognisable trophy, the iconic Claret Jug did not actually come into existence until 1872 – 12 years after the first ever Open at Prestwick.

Indeed, it was the Challenge Belt that champion Willie Park Sr was presented with in 1860, with the decision to award a Claret Jug not being reached until over a decade later.

From after 1872, the Claret Jug – or The Golf Champion Trophy, as it is formally known – was presented to 28 different Open winners, now sitting on permanent display at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club - as it has done since 1920 - with the Champions’ replica now being awarded to each victor.

2 – men going memorably toe-to-toe on the final day at The 145th Open

No golf fan will ever forget the exhilarating battle between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon in The 145th Open, tying for the lead with five holes to play before the Swede romped home with a brilliant final round 63.

And his eventual three-shot margin of victory fails to do justice to the nature of the duel, thrilling all those watching around the world on one of those Sundays only The Open can provide.
Henrik Stenson at The 145th Open
3 – foot putt missed by Doug Sanders to miss out on winning The 1970 Open

The American had what looked to be a routine putt to win The 99th Open at St Andrews and lift what would have been his only Claret Jug, somehow missing and teeing up a play-off with the formidable Jack Nicklaus.

And the decorated Nicklaus characteristically triumphed the following day, clinching one of his three Open victories to break a despondent Sanders’ heart.

4 – hole play-off won by Stewart Cink at The 2009 Open

Cink and five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson duked it out on the 5th, 6th, 17th and 18th holes at Turnberry in 2009, with Cink eventually sealing a six-shot victory to win his only major championship.

The champion later revealed that Watson, who was 59 at the time, was such a crowd favourite at the course that even he was rooting for him to win in the play-off after he had surrendered a final hole lead.
Stewart Cink winning The Open in 2009
5 – years between Tiger Woods’ first and second Open wins

The 15-time major winner was on majestic form in 2000 as he stormed to an eight-shot victory over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els, failing to lift the Claret Jug in his next four attempts but further augmenting his trophy cabinet with a fine triumph at St Andrews - once again - in 2005.

6 – Opens won by Harry Vardon

No player in Championship history has won The Open more times than the brilliant Vardon, lifting the Claret Jug in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914 to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

7 – Shots taken by Jean van de Velde on the 18th hole at Carnoustie in 1999

Nobody watching would have not felt some sympathy for the poor Frenchman at The 128th Open, inexplicably surrendering a three-shot lead at the final hole to let home favourite Paul Lawrie lift his only Claret Jug.

Van de Velde went into the Sunday with a remarkable ten-shot lead over of Lawrie, who was able to trigger a three-way play-off with the unfortunate Frenchman and Justin Leonard after Van de Velde endured one of the worst final holes ever seen in golfing history.
After skewing his tee shot wide he soon found himself in the Barry Burn water – at one point removing his shoes in an attempt to play the shot – and eventually accepted the one-shot penalty, completing the hole in seven and then losing the play-off to a stunned, but ecstatic, Lawrie.

8 – The famous ‘Postage Stamp’ at Royal Troon

The 8th hole at the course had the nickname coined by William Park in ‘Golf Illustrated’ magazine, standing at a mere 123 yards and representing the shortest – albeit still notoriously challenging – hole in Championship golf.

9 – Championships taken for Tom Watson to win his five Opens

The evergreen American took just nine attempts to increase his Claret Jug haul to five, clinching the crown in 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983 to place him behind Vardon only in the most-decorated Championship winners.

10 – players to have won at least four Open Championships

Just ten players since 1860 have held the famous Claret Jug aloft four times or more, proudly sitting as golfing immortals and indelibly writing their name into Championship folklore.

And six of those men are Tom Morris Sr, Tom Morris Jr, Willie Park Sr, James Braid, John Henry Taylor and Vardon, all achieving the feat during the first 49 editions of The Open.
Tom Watson 1983
The next four were Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson and Watson, joining the elite group whose achievement has not been emulated since Watson’s fourth crowning glory in 1982.

11 – stroke victory by Tom Morris Jr at Prestwick in 1869

The four-time champion triumphed by the third-highest margin ever at The 10th Open Championship – the highest was by his father seven years before – holding off Bob Kirk thanks to a brilliant final round of 52 across the 12 holes.

12 – Open Championships to take place at Royal Liverpool

The Merseyside course has hosted the fifth highest number of Championships behind St Andrews, Prestwick, Muirfield and Royal St George’s, also set to host its 13th when the 151st edition of the competition comes around in 2022.