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The Open News

Royal St George's


Previous Opens at Sandwich

Darren Clarke Sunday

As the first course outside of Scotland to host The Open, Royal St George’s will forever possess a special place in the history of golf’s oldest and most prestigious major.

Located on the Kent coastline, where it was founded in 1887 by Dr William Laidlaw Purves as a rival to St Andrew’s, it has provided the battleground for the Claret Jug on 14 occasions.

John Henry Taylor was the first to be crowned Champion Golfer when the Sandwich links made its debut in 1894, becoming the first English professional to win the title in the process.

Other courses outside of Scotland have since gone on to stage The Open – but Royal St George’s still remains out on its own as the most frequently visited of them all.

And with The 149th Open bringing an end to the venue’s nine-year hiatus from the rota, we’ve had a look back at the previous Championships that have graced the famous course.

St George’s breaks new ground

The much-anticipated Open debut for Royal St George’s arrived after the R&A decided to expand the rota, with reduced rail fares negotiated to encourage Scotland’s best to make the journey.

Old Tom Morris was among those to make the journey – although he withdrew after scoring 100 in the third round – but it was J.H. Taylor who was the star of the show at The 34th Open.

Having been 10th on his debut a year before, he became the first English professional to win the Claret Jug following victories for amateurs John Ball in 1890 and Harold Hilton in 1892.

His victory proved to be the start of the Great Triumvirate dominating The Open, with Taylor, Harry Vardon and James Braid sharing the Claret Jug 16 times between them over two decades.

Vardon claimed two of his record six Open titles in Sandwich in 1899 and 1911 but between his successes was a remarkable victory for Sunningdale professional Jack White in 1904.

It was White’s only major title and saw him defy the odds to finish one shot ahead of former Champion Golfers Braid and Taylor following a record-breaking final day of scoring.

Hagen rules the roost

Four-time Champion Golfer Walter Hagen began writing his story into Open folklore at Royal St George’s, winning his first and third titles at the course in 1922 and 1928.

Hagen’s first Claret Jug success saw him become the Open’s first American-born winner while two members of the Great Triumvirate – Taylor and Vardon – finished in the top-10 for the final time.

Like Taylor, White and Hagen before them, seven of the next eight Open winners at Royal St George’s were crowned Champion Golfer of the Year for the first time in Sandwich.

Henry Cotton, a three-time holder of the Claret Jug, was another who claimed the famous trophy for the first time in Kent when he led wire-to-wire en route to a five-stroke victory in 1934.

Reg Whitcombe followed in Cotton’s footsteps four years later when The Open returned again to Royal St George’s, prevailing by two shots over Jimmy Adams for his only major title.

A much longer 11-year wait followed before The Open returned in 1949 as Bobby Locke clinched the first of his four titles to become the first South African to lift the Claret Jug.

Best view in the house for the crowds at the 6th hole

New generation tackle Sandwich

Bill Rogers became the latest first-time Champion Golfer when St George’s next hosted The Open in 1981 as a new generation of golfers took on the Sandwich links for the first time.

History was then made again with Sandy Lyle’s victory in 1985 – making him the first British winner since Tony Jacklin in 1969, and the first Scottish major winner since Tommy Armour in 1931.

And it wasn’t until Greg Norman’s sensational performance at The 122nd Open that the run of five consecutive first-time winners was broken as he won the Claret Jug for a second time.

After delivering a vintage Open in 1993, Sandwich followed it up with one of the great shocks in the major’s history as unknown American Ben Curtis – ranked 396th – emerged triumphant.

But you would be hard-pushed to find a more popular Champion Golfer at St George’s than Darren Clarke, who prevailed on his 20th Open appearance in the Claret Jug’s last visit to Kent.

The 42-year-old became the first winner from the UK since Paul Lawrie in 1999 in the process – and only the second Northern Irishman to win the Open after Fred Daly in 1947.