Wire-to-Wire Winners of the British Open

How many golfers have won The Open Championship by leading after each of the four rounds? The number of wire-to-wire winners who had the solo lead after each round during this major's 72-hole era (1892 and forward) currently stands at just seven.

We'll look at the question posed above a couple different ways, including those 72-hole wire-to-wire champs who led after each round but were tied atop the leaderboard for one or more of those four rounds.

72-Hole Winners With Outright Lead After Each Round

These are the British Open champs who held the solo lead after all four rounds since the 72-hole era began in 1892:
  • Ted Ray, 1912: The first 72-hole, wire-to-wire (no ties) champ was Ted Ray in the 1912 Open. He had a 1-shot lead after opening with a 72, and led by three after 36 holes. His lead was five following the third round, and he won by four over runner-up Harry Vardon.

  • Bobby Jones, 1927: Amateur Jones opened with a 68 and then ran to his second consecutive Open title. His lead after Round 2 was two, and after the third round four. Jones won by six over Aubrey Boomer and Fred Robson.

  • Gene Sarazen, 1932: Sarazen took a 1-stroke lead with a 70 in Round 1. A 69 in the second round stretched that lead to three. He was four ahead after 54 holes and wound up winning by five over second-place Macdonald Smith.

  • Henry Cotton, 1934: Cotton started the tournament 67-65 and held a 9-stroke lead at the midway point. The 67 was a low score for the era, but the 65 set the British Open 18-hole scoring record. The famous "Dunlop 65" golf ball was named in honor of that round, and Cotton's record stood until 1977. Cotton's lead grew to 10 following the third round. He stumbled to a final-round 79 but still won by five over Sid Brews.

  • Tom Weiskopf, 1973: It took almost 40 years for the next wire-to-wire, no-ties British Open champ. Weiskopf led by three after rounds of 68 and 67. With a third-round 71, he led second-place Johnny Miller by one. He wound up winning by three over Miller and Neil Coles.

  • Tiger Woods, 2005: Another 32 years passed before Tiger Woods joined the list. Woods' first three rounds produced scores of 66, 67 and 71, and leads after each of those rounds of one, four and two strokes, respectively. A solid 70 in the final round produced a 5-stroke victory over runner-up Colin Montgomerie.

  • Rory McIlroy, 2014: McIlroy opened with a 66 to lead by one. That lead grew to four with another 66 in Round 2, and six after a third-round 68. With a final-round 71, McIlroy won by two strokes over second-place Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia.

Other Wire-to-Wire Winners in the British Open

The term "wire-to-wire winner" can also encompass golfers who hold or share the lead following each round. This is often referred to as "wire-to-wire winners, ties included." And there are several more golfers who make the list of wire-to-wire Champion Golfers of the Year by falling into that category.

Also note that prior to 1892, The Open Championship was a 36-hole tournament played in just a single day. Those 36-hole wire-to-wire winners are also listed here.

72-Hole Wire-to-Wire Champs, Ties Included

  • Harry Vardon, 1899: Vardon shared the first-round lead but had the outright lead after the other rounds. He won by five.
  • J.H. Taylor, 1900: Taylor was tied for the lead following Round 1. But Taylor had the low score of the round each of the three remaining rounds, and won by eight strokes.
  • Harry Vardon, 1903: Just as in 1899, Vardon was tied after the first around but had the solo lead the rest of the way. He won by six over his brother, Tom Vardon.
  • Lee Trevino, 1971: Tied for the lead following the first and second rounds, Trevino went one in front after the third round, and won by the same margin.
  • Gary Player, 1974: Tied after the first round, Player opened a five-stroke lead in Round 2. He led by three after the third round and won by four.
  • Jordan Spieth, 2017: Spieth shared the first-round lead, but led outright after each successive round. He won by three.

36-Hole Wire-to-Wire Winners, No Ties

36-Hole Wire-to-Wire Winners Including Ties

R&A. The 151st Open Media Guide. 2023.
TheOpen.com. "1899 / Royal St. George's," R&A, https://www.theopen.com/previous-opens/39th-open-royal-st-georges-1899.
TheOpen.com. "1900 / St. Andrews," R&A, https://www.theopen.com/previous-opens/40th-open-st-andrews-1900.
TheOpen.com. "1903 / Prestwick," R&A, https://www.theopen.com/previous-opens/43rd-open-prestwick-1903.

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