Skip to main content
History of The Open

From Walker Cup to Open glory


GB&I and USA team members who have lifted the Claret Jug

Jordan Spieth in action at the 2011 Walker Cup

Brian Harman’s victory in The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool continued a trend of sustained success from Walker Cup alumni at golf’s original Championship.

Since the turn of the century, 11 out of 23 Opens have been won by players with experience of the Walker Cup.

Ahead of this year’s match at St Andrews, we look at the Champion Golfers since 2000 who have played in the biennial contest between the best amateurs from Great Britain & Ireland and the United States.

Brian Harman (Champion Golfer – 2023)

Harman was a class apart at Hoylake as he cantered to a six-shot victory in The 151st Open.

Eighteen years prior to that phenomenal performance, the then-18-year-old Harman became the youngest American to be picked for the Walker Cup.

The Georgia native certainly rose to the challenge at Chicago Golf Club, remaining undefeated as he picked up 1½ points in partnership with Anthony Kim before beating Rhys Davies 6&5 in the concluding singles as the USA claimed a slender 12½-11½ victory.

Harman was similarly productive on his second Walker Cup outing at Merion in 2009.

He again contributed 2½ points to an American success, with his only defeat coming against Gavin Dear (3&2) on Sunday.

Collin Morikawa poses with the Claret Jug after winning The Open at Royal St George's in 2021

Collin Morikawa (Champion Golfer – 2021)

Morikawa made a huge impact in the Walker Cup of 2017, picking up a maximum haul of four points to help the USA to victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Less than three years later, Morikawa was a major champion courtesy of his victory at the 2020 PGA Championship.

He then produced a stunning display in his Open debut at Royal St George’s in 2021, overhauling Louis Oosthuizen on the final day to secure the Claret Jug.

Jordan Spieth (Champion Golder – 2017)

Spieth was ranked second in the World Amateur Golf Ranking when he made his sole Walker Cup appearance as part of a star-studded US team in 2011.

The young Texan picked up 2½ points from his three matches at Royal Aberdeen, but was unable to prevent his side from suffering a 14-12 defeat to Great Britain & Ireland.

There was no stopping Spieth at Royal Birkdale six years later as he produced a finish for the ages to overcome Matt Kuchar and win The 146th Open to claim his third major title.

Spieth was also the runner-up to Morikawa in The 149th Open.

Rory McIlroy (Champion Golfer – 2014)

After claiming the Silver Medal for low amateur at The Open in 2007, McIlroy was part of a Great Britain & Ireland team that lost by a single point to the United States at Royal County Down.

McIlroy won his Sunday singles match against Billy Horschel, avenging a defeat to the same player 24 hours earlier, but it was a USA side also featuring the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson that came out on top.

The 2007 Walker Cup has produced four major champions to date with Simpson going on to achieve success in the US Open, Danny Willett triumphing in the Masters, Johnson winning both of those events and McIlroy claiming four titles – including The 143rd Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

Phil Mickelson poses with the Claret Jug after winning The Open at Muirfield in 2013

Phil Mickelson (Champion Golfer – 2013)

Mickelson played a starring role in the victorious 1991 side, having been part of the US team that was beaten at Peachtree Golf Club two years earlier.

An outstanding professional career has followed, highlighted by six major titles.

Mickelson initially struggled at The Open, but a third-placed finish at Royal Troon in 2004 – the year of his first Masters triumph – showed he was more than capable of contending on a links course.

By the 2010s, Mickelson was frequently in the hunt for the Claret Jug. He had to settle for second at Royal St George’s in 2011 and Royal Troon in 2016, but Mickelson prevailed at Muirfield in 2013, courtesy of a near-faultless final-round 66.

Padraig Harrington (Champion Golfer – 2007, 2008)

It was a case of third-time lucky for Harrington in the Walker Cup.

The Irishman was part of teams that suffered defeat in 1991 and 1993, but he contributed three points in 1995 as GB&I beat Tiger Woods and Co by 14 points to 10.

Harrington had to wait much longer than Woods to taste major glory, before enjoying a flurry of success in the late 2000s.

A maiden Open triumph at Carnoustie in 2007 was followed by a majestic defence of the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale 12 months later. Harrington also added the 2008 PGA Championship to cap a glorious 13-month period.

Tiger Woods (Champion Golfer – 2000, 2005, 2006)

A stunningly dominant force at amateur and professional level, Woods featured in the 1995 Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl amid a run of three successive US Amateur triumphs.

Woods romped to victory alongside John Harris in his opening foursomes match, but was then beaten in his next two outings before finishing his week with a win over Gary Wolstenholme – the man who had got the better of him in singles the previous day.

The USA suffered defeat at Porthcawl, but it was clear a very bright future lay ahead for Woods. He has gone on to amass a sensational haul of 15 majors, including victories at The Open in 2000, 2005 and 2006.

His first victory at St Andrews came by a margin of eight strokes, the largest in post-war Opens.

David Duval kisses the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 2001

David Duval (Champion Golfer – 2001)

Ten years separated Duval’s Walker Cup appearance and his Open triumph.

The Floridian won two foursomes matches alongside Mike Sposa at Portmarnock in 1991 as the USA ran out 14-10 winners.

Royal Lytham & St Annes then played host to Duval’s finest hour in 2001. Seven shots behind heading into the weekend, he carded scores of 65 and 67 to triumph by three shots from Niclas Fasth.