The Open Championship is taking place at the Royal Birkdale for the 10th time this summer when the world’s top golfers will be welcomed to one of the most famous and challenging venues on the planet.
This year’s event is being held from 16th to 23rd July and will be the latest in a long history of staging the Open at the course, dating back to 1954.
The history of one of golf’s most famous Championships dates back much further than this – in fact, the Open was first held in the mid-19th century, when it was founded by professional golfers.
The first Open took place on 17th October 1860, when eight professional golfers played a tournament at Prestwick’s 12-hole links, competing for the red leather Challenge Belt, worth £25. The winner was Willie Parks Snr, who bear Tom Morris by two shots. In 1861, organisers announced the tournament would be open to golfers from all over the world.
The Claret Jug, one of golf’s most iconic trophies, was first presented in 1873. The Open has gone from strength to strength in the 157 years since its launch and is now one of the top championship events on the world golfing circuit.
The course, on Waterloo Road, Southport, was established in 1889. It was redesigned by Fred Hawtree and JH Taylor in 1922, creating today’s current layout. It’s a challenging course, winding its way around sand dunes, which tower over the fairways.
A new clubhouse was built behind the 18th green in 1935, featuring elegant lounges. It was modern in its day and a fine example of the era’s architecture. On 11th November 1951, His Majesty King George VI commanded that the club be known as The Royal Birkdale.
Since Royal Birkdale first hosted The Open, in 1954, it has been the most regular venue for the Championship, alongside the Royal Lytham, other than St Andrew’s in Scotland.
Previous winners of the Open at Royal Birkdale have included Lee Trevino, who won the 100th Open in 1971, narrowly beating Lu Liang Huan, of Taiwan. American Johnny Miller won the 1976 event, after a tense battle against Seve Ballesteros of Spain.
The last time the Open was held at Royal Birkdale, in 2008, Padraig Harrington successfully defended his title. Away from the Royal Birkdale, Tiger Woods has been a three-times winner, in 2000, 2005 and 2006.
This year’s competitors include bookies’ favourite Dustin Johnson of the US, currently number one in the Official World Golf Ranking. Northern Irish professional golfer Rory McIlroy is also one of the favourites. He was world number one in the rankings for 95 weeks and said in a recent interview he felt his game was “in good shape”.
PGA Tour pro Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia, winner of more than 30 international tournaments, will also be taking part. English golfer Justin Rose is ranked eighth in this year’s championship, according to the betting odds, the only Brit in the top ten.
Tiger Woods will be missing from this year’s event as he continues to recuperate from a long list of injuries and surgeries.
Spectators will be flocking to Southport to witness the return of The Open to Royal Birkdale. It is viewed as one of the greatest spectacles in world sport, with the coastal club providing a memorable atmosphere for golf fans.
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