The Open 2023: History of Royal Liverpool’s champions
For the longest time, the Scots had a lock on the Claret Jug. Not only were the first 33 Open Championships competed on Scottish soil (for the most part at Prestwick, Prestwick, and Prestwick, again and again and again), the first 29 champion golfers of the year were Jocks, a nickname the English long ago gave the Scots, who, in this case at least, were almost certainly jocks in the guy-hits- a-ball-with-a-stick sense, too.
In fact, in 1890, a man named Ball — 29-year-old amateur John Ball — became the very first Englishman to win the Open, a victory followed by nine more in the next 11 years for a virtual murderer’s row of English golfers.
By that time, the Open had expanded its playing fields to England too. Royal Liverpool, the host of this year’s Open, got its first shot in 1897, three years after Royal St. George’s officially loosened Scotland’s grip on the championship.
In 2023, Royal Liverpool will host the tournament for the 13th time, the second most of any English course, behind St. George’s. Maybe that’s fitting for the second oldest seaside links in the country. Forty years lapsed between Hoylake’s 1967 and 2006 championships, but its place in the rota can, in a way, be measured by its string of stirring champions over the past 126 years.
Here are six of Royal Liverpool’s 12 winners.
1913: John Henry “J.H.” Taylor
Taylor survived brutal gale-force winds over the final 36 holes to win the last of his five Open Championships, by eight strokes over Ted Ray. His win was the 15th for the Great Triumvirate of British Golfers, which included Taylor, Harry Vardon and James Braid, each with five Open victories. Vardon would claim a record sixth Claret Jug the following year at Prestwick.
1924: Walter Hagen
A hundred years ago, every player still had to qualify for the Open, and Hagen nearly missed out in ’24, having posted a first-round 83 at Liverpool. He rebounded with a 73 to get him into the Championship, where he was tied for the 54-hole lead. Hagen opened the final round with a 42 on the front nine but came home with 35 to win by a stroke. It was a second Open title for the first American-born player to win it.
1930: Bobby Jones
After winning the Amateur Championship for the first (and only) time in his career three weeks earlier at St. Andrews, Jones completed the second leg of his 1930 Grand Slam at Hoylake. To this day he’s still the last amateur to have won the Open. Jones’ memorable and iconic ticker-tape parade through New York City occurred not after wrapping up the Slam that September, but a week after his Open triumph.
1967: Roberto de Vicenzo
A 44-year-old de Vicenzo held off Jack Nicklaus, in the early prime of his career, at the ’67 Open. Thanks to a spectacular 3-wood over the practice area on the 16th hole (now the 18th) in the final round, De Vicenzo captured a Claret Jug after finishing in the top 6 eight times. Nine months after winning his lone major, the Argentinian infamously signed an incorrect scorecard at the Masters, knocking him out of a playoff.
2006: Tiger Woods
Royal Liverpool’s long-awaited return to the Open Championship rota after 39 years was met with perhaps Tiger Woods‘ most surgical and emotional major title. Woods hit driver only once that week as he picked the course apart with his long irons, including in the second round, holing a 4-iron from 209 yards on the par-4 14th. After he won the championship by two strokes, Woods collapsed into caddie Steve Williams’ arms and sobbed. It was his first major victory in the wake of his father Earl’s passing.
2014: Rory McIlroy
Few people doubted that 25-year-old Rory McIlroy would triumph at the 2014 Open, and his father Gerry was definitely not one of them. After McIlroy went wire-to-wire for his third major and first Open win, Gerry McIlroy and three friends reportedly collected $342,000 from a bet he’d made 10 years earlier that his son would win the Open Championship before age 26.