Skip to main content
History of The Open

Longest intervals between wins


The Open

JH Taylor, the five-time Open Champion

The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent certainly rings true when it comes to The Open.

Longevity is a key part of becoming an all-time great and golf’s original Championship has witnessed plenty of familiar faces contending to win year after year.

But which players top the list for the longest intervals between victories at The Open? Read on to find out.

Henry Cotton at The Open in 1927

Three-time Champion Golfer Henry Cotton

No winner of the Claret Jug has had to wait longer to get his hands back on the trophy than the great Sir Henry Cotton.

Cotton won The Open twice in the space of four years in the 1930s, triumphing at Royal St George’s in 1934 and Carnoustie in 1937.

However, it took a further 11 years before he could regain his crown at Muirfield in 1948, due in no small part to the fact the Championship was not played from 1940 to 1945 as a result of World War II.

Cotton may hold the record for the longest time period between wins, but Ernie Els follows close behind.

The South African had been knocking on the door at The Open for several years by the time he broke through at Muirfield in 2002 following a dramatic four-man play-off.

Els also made a play-off at Royal Troon two years later, but on that occasion he was denied by Todd Hamilton.

It was not until 2012 – a decade on from his win at Muirfield – that he reclaimed the Claret Jug as a brilliant back nine at Royal Lytham & St Annes saw him capitalise on Adam Scott’s struggles down the stretch.

Ernie Els with the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012

Ernie Els celebrates regaining the Claret Jug in 2012

Cotton has the biggest gap between individual wins, but four players have tasted Open success across a longer period of time overall.

J.H. Taylor’s first and last Open victories came 19 years apart - a record that has still to be topped.

The Devonian won the Claret Jug for the first time in 1894 and triumphed for the fifth time in 1913.

Part of the Great Triumvirate with Harry Vardon and James Braid, Taylor also won The Open in 1895, 1900 and 1909.

Only Vardon can top his tally of five victories and The Open’s most prolific Champion comes next on this list, having achieved his first and sixth victories 18 years apart in 1896 and 1914.

No one can be surprised by the identity of the only man since Taylor and Vardon to win The Open in three different decades.

Gary Player’s longevity is legendary and his first and last Open wins came 15 years apart, at Muirfield in 1959 and Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1974.

The South African also lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 1968 and holds the record for the most appearances at The Open, having featured in a remarkable 46 consecutive Championships from 1956 to 2001.

Willie Park Snr is the other player to have claimed victories over a 15-year period. The very first Champion Golfer in 1860, Park won again in 1863 and 1866 before securing his fourth title in 1875.

More from The Open