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History of The Open

Best Open Debuts


Top finishers since 2011

Hideki Matsuyama mid-back swing at The Open

Ten years ago, amateur Tom Lewis made a sparkling start to his debut in The Open at Royal St George’s, shooting a stunning 65 to lead after the first day of the Championship.

Lewis went on to win the Silver Medal and record an admirable placing of tied-30th, yet there have been several higher finishes from debutants at golf's original major in the last decade.

Here, we take a look at the four highest placed first-timers since The Open last visited Royal St George’s in 2011.

2013: Hideki Matsuyama – T6

Arriving at The 142nd Open Championship, Hideki Matsuyama may have been a rookie, but he certainly was not lacking pedigree. Already a top-50 player in the world, a three-time winner on the Japanese Tour and a top-10 finisher in the previous month's U.S. Open, the 21-year-old was quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Matsuyama provided further evidence of his rich talent with another top-10 at Muirfield, as a final round of 70 secured a share of sixth.

However, while Matsuyama won five PGA Tour events in the four years that followed, and has registered 19 top-25s in majors to date, his tie for sixth in East Lothian is still his best finish in golf’s original major.

2015: Jordan Niebrugge – T6

At The 144th Open, a host of amateurs produced outstanding performances. Paul Dunne, who sensationally began the final round in a tie for the lead, eventually finished in a tie for 30th, but Ashley Chesters and Ollie Schniederjans both placed inside the top 15 and Jordan Niebrugge took home the Silver Medal with the second-highest finish by an amateur in the 2000s.

Niebrugge, who qualified for The Open through Final Qualifying at Hillside, was only three shots off the lead himself heading into the final round. After four birdies and no bogeys on Sunday through 14 holes, he had a chance to post a clubhouse target, but two dropped shots in the last four holes meant the 21-year-old had to settle for a final round of 70.

Nevertheless, Niebrugge’s four-round aggregate of 277 was the lowest ever recorded by an amateur, and his hugely impressive sixth-placed finish was enough to earn him an invite for The 145th Open.

2017: Haotong Li – 3rd

The highest-placed finish at The Open by a debutant since 2011 belongs to Haotong Li, who produced a stunning 63 during the final round at Royal Birkdale to vault from four shots outside the top 10 starting the final round into solo possession of third.

While Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar battled for the Claret Jug in the final group, the 21-year-old teed off much earlier and posted a stunning bogey-free round, birdieing his last four holes in the process to finish at -6 for the Championship. For a short period, it looked as if Li's clubhouse score may not be bettered, before Spieth roared home to take the Claret Jug.

The Chinese star’s 63 tied the lowest final round in major history and would also have represented the joint-best score in any major championship round had Branden Grace not carded a ground-breaking 62 the previous day. 

Haotong Li shaking hands with Ernie Els

Haotong Li shaking hands with Ernie Els after his brilliant final round of 63 in 2017

2019: Robert MacIntyre – T6

In the most recent iteration of The Open, young Scotsman Robert MacIntyre had a week to remember.

MacIntyre, who shares a birthday with Li, followed in the footsteps of the standout debutant of 2017 with a final round of 68 to post five under par for the Championship.

Speaking on The Open Conversation in Season 1 of The Open Podcasts, MacIntyre revealed how, after finishing his round earlier in the day, he enjoyed watching some nasty weather roll into Royal Portrush… Jump to 33:00 in the player below to hear his thoughts!

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