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History of The Open

Wire to wire


The Open Champions who led from start to finish

Tiger Woods with the Claret Jug after winning The Open for a second time in 2005

In sport it’s often not about how you start, but how you finish.

However, some manage to begin their title charge as strongly as they end it – just ask the elite band of players who have led The Open outright from start to finish.

To win a major wire-to-wire is an elusive achievement and seven men have been able to do just that at The Open since the Championship was first played over 72 holes.

The trailblazer in this respect was Ted Ray, who won golf’s original major by four strokes in 1912.

Ray held a one-shot lead after the opening round, though that had grown to five ahead of the final 18 holes, when he held off fellow Jersey golfer Harry Vardon to claim the Claret Jug.

Fifteen years after Ray’s groundbreaking victory, one of the sport’s all-time greats completed the feat, Bobby Jones becoming just the second man to win wire-to-wire in 1927.

Defending the title he had claimed at Royal Lytham & St Annes the previous year, Jones started the week with a sublime 68 at St Andrews and ultimately cantered to victory by six strokes.

Bobby Jones, the Open Champion of 1927

Two further wire-to-wire winners followed in quick succession in the 1930s. The great Gene Sarazen led from start to finish at Prince’s in 1932, before Henry Cotton proved remarkably dominant at neighbouring Royal St George’s two years later.

Cotton held an incredible 10-stroke lead heading into the final round – thanks in no small part to a Championship record 65 on day two - and triumphed by five despite finishing with a 79.

After three wire-to-wire successes in the space of eight Opens, it took another 39 years for someone to repeat the feat. Tom Weiskopf was the man to do so in 1973, scores of 68, 67, 71 and 70 enough to secure a three-shot win at Troon.

It then took a further 32 years before Tiger Woods led from start to finish at St Andrews, holding off a spirited challenge from home favourite Colin Montgomerie en route to his second Open victory.

Royal Liverpool played host to the most recent outright wire-to-wire win in 2014, as Rory McIlroy claimed the third of his four major titles to date.

In addition to the seven players who have held the outright lead after all four rounds of a 72-hole Open, a further five players have held at least a share of the lead after every round.

Harry Vardon, The Open’s most prolific Champion, achieved the feat twice in 1899 and 1903, either side of J.H. Taylor doing likewise in 1900.

Lee Trevino (1971), Gary Player (1974) and Jordan Spieth (2017) have also lifted the Claret Jug having held at least a share of the lead after every round.


Champions who have led outright after every round

72-hole Championships

Ted Ray, 1912

Bobby Jones, 1927

Gene Sarazen, 1932

Henry Cotton, 1934

Henry Cotton with the Claret Jug in 1934

Tom Weiskopf, 1973

Tiger Woods, 2005

Rory McIlroy, 2014


36-hole Championships

Willie Park Snr, 1860 and 1866

Old Tom Morris, 1862 and 1864

Young Tom Morris, 1869 and 1870

Mungo Park, 1874

Jamie Anderson, 1879

Bob Ferguson, 1880, 1881, 1882

Willie Fernie, 1883

Jack Simpson, 1884

Hugh Kirkaldy, 1891


Champions who have led after every round but were tied for the lead after at least one round

72-hole Championships:

Harry Vardon, 1899 and 1903

J.H. Taylor, 1900

Lee Trevino, 1971

Gary Player, 1974

Jordan Spieth, 2017

Jordan Spieth following his Open win in 2017

36 hole Championships:

Tom Kidd, 1873

Bob Martin, 1876

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