2023 British Open: The Open 101: A guide to this year’s major at Royal Liverpool
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What’s all this “The Open” stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It’s the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or “rota” – of courses used. Currently there are nine: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George’s, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in. Turnberry, site of Tom Watson’s 1977 “Duel in the Sun” win over Jack Nicklaus and Watson’s loss to Stewart Cink in 2009, is effectively not part of the rota. R&A chief Martin Slumbers said in 2021 that The Open would not return to Turnberry “under current circumstances” (with Donald Trump as its owner).
Where will it be played this year?
Royal Liverpool in Merseyside, England. This is the 13th time that the venue has held The Open, with the most recent being in 2014. Click here for a list of qualifying criteria, exemptions and the field list. The Open has only been scheduled through 2026, with Troon playing host in ’24, Portrush in ’25 and Birkdale in ’26.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Here’s a look at the past champions at Royal Liverpool: Harold Hilton (amateur, 1897); Sandy Herd (1902), Arnaud Massy (1907), J.H. Taylor (1913), Walter Hagen (1924), Bobby Jones (amateur, 1930), Alf Padgham (1936), Fred Daly (1947), Peter Thomson (1956), Roberto De Vicenzo (1967), Tiger Woods (2006), Rory McIlroy (2014).
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Tom Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we’ll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, 11 wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, three wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, Italy and Australia, one win each. The only Scot to win in that period was Paul Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year’s defending champion?
Cam Smith. Prior to his jump to LIV Golf, Smith was the reigning Players champion. He then added a claret jug to his resume on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The Aussie rallied from four strokes back to start the final round to capture the 150th edition of the championship by holding off Rory McIlroy and Cam Young.
The ‘claret jug’ is the name of the trophy?
Informally, yes. It’s official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Arnold Palmer in 1961 and ’62; Jean Van de Velde’s collapse in 1999; Ben Hogan’s win in 1953; Woods’ eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the aforementioned “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in ’77, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus’ 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like “gorse” and “whin” and “burn.” What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.
Hey, wait, I almost forgot: Did you say final major of the year?
Yep. With the PGA Championship’s move to May and the Masters (April) and U.S. Open (June) keeping their normal spots on the schedule, The Open is now the final of the four big events.