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The 149th Open Royal St George's

Champion Golfers on Open debut


Morikawa joins illustrious list

Collin Morikawa poses with the Claret Jug and the Gold Medal

Collin Morikawa’s magnificent victory at Royal St George’s makes him only the fifth player since World War II to secure the Claret Jug on his debut appearance in The Open.

The 24-year-old American carded a sensational bogey-free 66 on Sunday to triumph with a record Sandwich aggregate of 265.

Morikawa, who also won last year’s PGA Championship on his maiden appearance in that event, is the first man to win on debut at The Open since Ben Curtis, who was also victorious at Royal St George’s in 2003.

We take a look at all four previous debut Champions in post-war times.

Ben Hogan – Carnoustie, 1953

The great Ben Hogan boasts a perfect record in golf’s original Championship. Played one, won one.

In a fitting climax to his glorious career, Hogan – who had been critically injured in a car crash four years earlier – drew huge galleries at Carnoustie after opting to make the trip to Scotland.

Those who followed his fortunes were left delighted as Hogan charged to victory with a final-round 68, beating Frank Stranahan and Antonio Cerda by four.

His third major title of 1953 and the ninth of his career would prove to be his last.

Ben Hogan

Tony Lema – St Andrews, 1964

It is safe to say Tony Lema was an unexpected winner of The 93rd Open at St Andrews.

The man known as ‘Champagne Tony’ had never before visited Britain or played links golf. He arrived only 36 hours prior to the Championship and was able to play just nine holes of the Old Course in practice.

However, Lema had an ace up his sleeve in the form of Tip Anderson, the man who had previously helped Arnold Palmer to Open glory.

A young Jack Nicklaus finished second with an aggregate of 284, but Lema was in a class of his own as he posted 279 to secure the Claret Jug.

Tragically, Lema would play in The Open only two more times before he was killed in a plane crash in 1966, aged 32.

Tom Watson – Carnoustie, 1975

One of the all-time Open greats, Tom Watson has recorded five wins in the Championship, the first of those coming on his maiden appearance at Carnoustie 46 years ago.

It may seem amazing now given all he went on to achieve, but there were doubts over Watson’s capacity to win big events at the start of the week, after he had come close but failed to win the previous two U.S. Opens.

Watson emphatically dispelled any doubts over his major credentials, first converting a lengthy putt on the 72nd hole to earn his place in an 18-hole play-off with Australia’s Jack Newton.

It was Watson who then prevailed by a solitary stroke the following day. He would win four of the next eight Opens, as well as recording runner-up finishes in 1984 and, most remarkably, at the age of 59 in 2009.

Ben Curtis – Royal St George’s, 2003

If the victories of Lema and Watson were unexpected, it is fair to say Ben Curtis’ win in Sandwich 18 years ago represented one of the biggest shocks in golfing history.

An unheralded American ranked 396th in the world on his arrival at Royal St George’s, Curtis was in his rookie season on the PGA Tour and had yet to record a professional win.

Yet he exceeded all expectations by securing the most prestigious prize of all, his -1 total ultimately proving enough as Thomas Bjorn suffered a painful collapse in the closing holes.