Fred Daly Royal Liverpool, 1947
The first Champion Golfer of the Year to come from the Emerald Isle was Fred Daly, who won at Royal Liverpool in 1947 with a staggering score of 21 over par. The par that week was set at 68 for the course, two shots lower than Royal Liverpool's normal par of 72. This caused chaotic scoring to par and remains to this day the highest winning score to par of any Open champion since par scoring records began in 1938.
Daly’s victory was decisive in the Claret Jug being taken to Ireland for the 80th playing of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Daly’s triumph and success in golf’s original major paved the way for Portrush to be added to The Open rota, but it wasn’t for another 60 years that the next Irish Open Champion would arrive.
Padraig Harrington Carnoustie, 2007 & Royal Birkdale, 2008
The first ever Open Champion from the Republic of Ireland, and the first Irish champion since Daly, Padraig Harrington produced phenomenal displays in back-to-back Opens to win at Carnoustie and at Royal Birkdale in 2007 and 2008.
Both wins for Harrington were memorable, and Harrington remains the only Irishman to have won The Open twice, but his first ever Open Championship proved to be the most dramatic.
Starting the day six shots behind leader Sergio Garcia, Harrington eagled the 14th hole to move to six under par for his round and nine under for the tournament, at that point with a one shot lead over the Spaniard who was a hole behind.
On the 18th, still with a slender advantage, Harrington visited the infamous Barry Burn twice and seemed dejected as his chance seemed gone. After Garcia’s eight-foot putt to win slid just by on the 18th however, Harrington seized his second chance in the playoff and won his first ever major championship.
The Irishman then went on to defend his title the year after, conquering both the elements and the field at a breezy Royal Birkdale to become only the seventh player to go back-to-back in The Open Championship since the second world war.
Darren Clarke Royal St Georges, 2011
In 2011, Darren Clarke won an emotional Open at Royal St Georges by three shots over Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. Clarke came into the week as a rank outsider, but produced some stunningly consistent and resilient golf in tough, wet and windy conditions at Royal St Georges to ensure he was the first Northern Irish player to win The Open in 64 years.
A well-timed eagle in the final round gave Clarke a cushion over a charging Mickelson, who slowly faded on the back nine. A shank on the 14th by Dustin Johnson put paid to his chances too, as all the while Clarke stood firm and finally won the major that his career had so often promised.
Rory McIlroy Royal Liverpool, 2014
Despite an early narrative in the world of golf that his ball-flight would make it difficult for him to win an Open, Rory McIlroy proved the doubters wrong with a brilliant victory at Royal Liverpool in 2014.
On a course that has one of the greatest lists of Open Champions around, McIlroy joined that illustrious group with a two-shot victory over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.
McIlroy was only the sixth sole wire-to-wire champion since The Open became a 72 hole event, and he held off strong charges on the Sunday to take home the title, becoming the second Champion Golfer hailing from Northern Ireland in just four years.
The Ulsterman was comfortable enough on the 18th hole to enjoy his victory, in what would prove to be his most recent victory on British soil to date.
Shane Lowry Royal Portrush, 2019
The most recent Champion Golfer of The Year, and the second golfer from the Republic to claim that honour, Shane Lowry proved a fitting homecoming champion in 2019 when he won by six shots at Royal Portrush.
After a 58-year-wait for The Open to return to Irish shores, Lowry produced a stunning third round of 63 to pull away from the field. Lowry never looked back after that and cruised to victory on home soil.
Walking down the 18th, the 32-year-old received one of the greatest ovations in recent memory, as the entire island united to cheer their hero on to victory.