73 Fun and Fascinating Firsts at the British Open

Harry Vardon and James Braid each established British Open firsts
Since the British Open was the first pro golf tournament and is the oldest extant golf tournament and oldest major, it's had more than 150 years of accumulating firsts. The first sub-70 round, for example, or the first golfer to win it four times. That's what we're talking about here: All those fascinating firsts in the history of the Open Championship that advanced the tournament, and continue to do so.

First Open champion: Willie Park Sr., who beat a field of eight to win the 1860 Open.

First 2-time winner: Old Tom Morris won the second and third Opens, in 1861 and 1862, which also makes him the first back-to-back winner.

First 3-time winner: Old Tom Morris again. His third happened in 1864.

First 4-time winner: Take a guess. Yep, Old Tom Morris. Tom Sr.'s fourth Open championship win was in 1867.

First 5-time winner: James Braid. This member of the "Great Triumvirate" won the Opens in 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908 and 1910.

First 6-time winner: Harry Vardon, and still the only one. This "Great Triumvirate" member won the Opens of 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914.

First Open to offer prize money: 1863 (total purse: £10)

First father-and-son winners: The Morrises, when Young Tom Morris joined the winner's list by beating his old man by three strokes in the 1868 British Open.

First back-to-back-to-back winner: The first golfer to win three British Opens consecutively was Young Tom Morris, from 1868-70. The tournament wasn't played in 1871, then Tommy Jr. won again in 1872, making him the first (and only) to win four consecutive.

First hole-in-one: Young Tom Morris, first round, Hole 8, 1869

First Open played on The Old Course at St. Andrews: 1873

First time the Claret Jug was awarded: After the 1873 British Open, to winner Tom Kidd. The original trophy was a championship belt. The Claret Jug was commissioned in 1872, but not ready until the 1873 Open.

First brothers to win: The Parks, which happened when Mungo Park won the 1874 British Open, joining his brother Willie Park Sr. (who had already won four times and would later add a fourth) as a champ.

First playoff winner: Bob Martin in the 1876 Open Championship. But his opponent, Davie Strath, refused to take part, so there wasn't actually a playoff played.

First playoff that was actually played: 1883 British Open, in which Willie Fernie defeated Bob Ferguson, 158 to 159, in a 36-hole playoff.

First winner who wasn't a Scotsman: The first 29 times the tournament took place, a golfer from Scotland won it. Englishman John Ball finally broke that streak by winning the 1890 British Open. And since Ball was an amateur, he also became the first amateur winner.

First Open played at Muirfield: 1892

First 72-hole Open: 1892 (Opens prior to this year were 36 holes)

First Open played at Royal St. George's: 1894, and since every golf course played prior to this was in Scotland, this is also the first Open played outside Scotland.

First Open played at Royal Liverpool: 1897

First time a cut was used: 1898

First to break 70 in an 18-hole Open round: James Braid carded a 69 in the third round of the 1904 British Open, the first 18-hole, sub-70 round in tournament history.

First winner to finish under 300: Jack White, 1904. White was the first golfer to break 300 in a 72-hole Open; he finished at 296.

First to lower his score each successive round: Jack White, 1904, who opened with an 80, then shot 75, 72 and 69.

First to shoot 68 in an 18-hole round: J.H. Taylor, final round, 1904.

First Open played over three days: 1904. Previous Opens were played in one day or two days.

First Continental European winner: Arnaud Massy from France won the 1907 British Open, also becoming the first non-British winner.

First to win the Open in three different decades: Harry Vardon, after winning in 1911.

First to win the Open twice via playoff: Harry Vardon, 1896 and 1911

First 72-hole wire-to-wire winner (no ties): Ted Ray, 1912

First to finish second six times: J.H. Taylor after a runner-up showing in 1914. His previous seconds were in 1896, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907. And yes, that 1904-07 stretch also makes him the first to finish second four consecutive years.

First U.S. citizen to win: Jock Hutchison, born in Scotland, was an American citizen when he won the 1921 British Open.

First winner born in the United States: Walter Hagen, born in Rochester, New York, won the 1922 British Open.

First Open played at Royal Troon: 1923

First Open played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes: 1926

First to win with a score under 290: Bobby Jones, who won on 285 at the 1927 British Open.

First to score 67 in a round: Walter Hagen, second round, 1929

First Open played at Carnoustie: 1931

First to win with the same score in all four rounds: Denny Shute in 1933 (four 73s)

First to score 65 in a round: Henry Cotton, second round, 1934. Cotton lowered the previous 18-hole record by two strokes from Hagen's 67.

First to win with a score under 280: Bobby Locke (279), 1950

First Open played outside of Great Britain: 1951, at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland

First Open played at Royal Birkdale: 1954

First television broadcast of the Open: 1955, by the BBC

First Open played on a 7,000-yard course: 1962 at Troon (7,045 yards)

First left-handed winner: Bob Charles at the 1963 British Open (read more)

First to score 29 over nine holes: Tom Haliburton, front nine, first round, 1963

First Open played over four days, one round per day: 1966. In the preceding years, the Open was three days with 36 holes on the final day; and going back farther, played over two days or even (in the earliest years) one day.

First Open telecast live in the United States: 1966

First winner from South America: Roberto de Vicenzo, 1967

First broadcast on television in color: 1969 on the BBC

First use of 18-hole playoff format: 1970, Jack Nicklaus def. Doug Sanders, 72 to 73. Playoffs prior to this were 36 holes.

First defending champ who failed to make the cut: Tom Watson in 1976. He made the first cut but missed the second cut. The first defending champ to miss a single cut was Mark Calcavecchia in 1990.

First Open played at Turnberry: 1977

First to win with a score under 270: Tom Watson (268), 1977

First to score 63 in a round: Mark Hayes, second round, 1977. Hayes lowered the previous record of 65 by two strokes.

First time attendance topped 100,000: 1978

First to finish second seven times: Jack Nicklaus, after finishing runner-up in 1979. He previously was second in 1964, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1977.

First Open with a scheduled Sunday finish: 1980. For years prior to this, the British Open ended on a Saturday (although there had been occasions when a playoff pushed the finish to a Sunday).

First to score 28 over nine holes: Denis Durnian, front nine, second round, 1983

First use of 4-hole, aggregate-score playoff: 1989, Mark Calcavecchia (13) def. Wayne Grady (16) and Greg Norman (n/s).

First time attendance topped 200,000: 1990

First to play the first three rounds in under 200: Nick Faldo, 1990 (67-65-67—199)

First to play the final three rounds in under 200: Nick Price, 1994 (66-67-66—199)

First to win with four sub-70 rounds: Greg Norman, 1993 (66-68-69-64)

First to card four sub-70 rounds and not win: Ernie Els, 1993

First to score 62 in a round: Branden Grace, third round, 2017

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