In 148 instalments of The Open Championship there have been 86 different winners. Here we look at 5 lesser-known Open champions.
5 Lesser Known Open Champions
First contested in 1860, The Open Championship is golf’s oldest and most prestigious competition.
In 148 instalments of the event, up to 2019, there have been 86 winners from 15 different countries.
But there are others who have lofted the Claret Jug whose names are less familiar to all but the most avid golf fans.
Here we look at 5 of those lesser-known Open champions.
The first 46 Open Championships were won by players hailing from the British Isles.
But in 1907, Frenchman Arnaud Massy upset the home contingent by triumphing at Royal Liverpool.
A former Biarritz caddy, Massy won the French Open of 1906 and defended his title in the 1907 event.
In that latter victory, Massy had beaten a number of the top British players, so he was a recognised threat when he travelled to Hoylake for the 1907 Open.
Massy led after two rounds at Royal Liverpool but was overtaken by the great J.H. Taylor in round three.
Taylor, already three times an Open winner, had finished second in the three previous championships.
The smart money was on the Englishman to take the title.
But he struggled on the front nine after stumbling to a seven on the third hole.
Massy played steadily and carded a closing 77 to win by two.
Renowned as a long hitter, Massy had six further top-10 finishes in The Open and he won a total of 17 professional tournaments.
Massy married a Scot called Janet Henderson, who hailed from North Berwick, and he spent a number of years living in Edinburgh.
Until Seve won the 1979 Open Championship, Massy remained the only continental European to win a men’s Major championship.
Henry Cotton had won the 1934 Open and, after taking the lead in the 1935 championship at Muirfield with an opening round of 68, a successful defence looked very much on the cards.
But Cotton was to fade with disappointing second and third rounds.
In the end it was little-known Alf Perry who emerged from the pack to take the title.
Perry had won a couple of PGA Assistants championships but had no further notable victories coming into the 1935 Open.
He had played in the championship six times before but had never finished better than a tie for 16th.
Perry won four further professional tournaments and recorded a tie for third in the 1939 Open.
He played in three Ryder Cups but only managed one half from the four matches he played in.
Perry was professional at Leatherhead Golf Club until his retirement in 1972.
It’s a little unfair to describe Nagle as lesser known as he won 94 professional tournaments over a career spanning four decades, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.
But heading into the 1960 Open Championship, the Australian was not among the favourites.
At 39-years-old he was something of a veteran and he had only played in two previous Major championships, with tied 19th place finishes in both the 1951 and 1955 Opens.
Arnold Palmer had won both The Masters and U.S. Opens of 1960 and was looking to match Ben Hogan’s 1953 feat by also claiming The Open title in the same year.
Palmer started solidly at St Andrews with an opening 70, one off Kel Nagle’s 69 and three behind Argentina’s Roberto De Vicenzo.
Nagle and De Vicenzo both carded second round 67s to pull clear of the pack and the Australian moved in front after round three.
Although Palmer made a run in the final round, closing with a 68, he came up one shy as Nagle took the title with a four-round total of 10-under-par.
Nagle had six further top-10 finishes in The Open Championship, including a second place in 1962.
He also lost out to Gary Player in an 18-hole playoff for the 1965 U.S. Open.
The field for the 1981 Open championship at Royal St George’s was packed with star names.
Tom Watson was defending champion, Seve and Jack Nicklaus were looking to add to their Open tallies, as were the likes of Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino and Tony Jacklin.
Bill Rogers had played in The Open only once before, finishing tied for 16th in 1980.
But he wasn’t a total unknown.
He’d won the 1979 Suntory World Match Play, beating Isao Aoki in the final and he’d also won the Sea Pines Heritage on the PGA Tour earlier in 1981.
Having said that, few expected Rogers to be the man to cruise away from the field as he did at Royal St George’s.
He followed an opening 72 with superb rounds of 66 and 67 to take a five-stroke lead into the final round.
A closing 71 saw him finish four clear of a young Bernhard Langer.
Not one of the past champions in the field finished inside the top-10.
Rogers won three more times on the PGA Tour, but his career fizzled out and he left the circuit in 1988 at the age of just 36.
Hamilton had been a professional for 17 years by the time of the 2004 Open Championship at Royal Troon.
His early career was largely spent in Japan where he enjoyed significant success, earning some $6 million in total prize money and winning 11 times.
But he was barely known in the USA and Europe and it was something of a surprise when, having earned his card at the 2003 PGA Tour Q-school, he won the 2004 Honda Classic.
It was even more of a surprise when he beat Ernie Els in a playoff to claim The Open Championship of the same year at Troon.
Even Hamilton was shocked by the win
“I hit a lot of cuts and low slice shots off the tee to keep the ball in play. It didn’t look pretty…” he said after the round.
Not pretty – but pretty effective!
In 187 starts on the PGA Tour following his Open triumph, Hamilton missed the cut 111 times and finished in the top-10 on only three occasions.
He has missed the cut in The Open 11 times since 2004.