Bobby Jones amateur Open Championship

Amateur Performances That Stunned The Open Championship

Over the years, the Open Championship has seen a number of amateurs perform at their best, with a few of those showing a glimpse of what their future might bring…


Every year at The Open Championship, the Claret Jug and the title of ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ is awarded to the victor. There is also a second competition within the competition, as the amateurs in the field battle it out for the Silver Medal, and to be named the ‘Low Amateur’ for that year’s edition of The Open Championship.

There are always plenty of amateurs in the field each year at The Open Championship, but only one can be named the ‘Low Amateur’, and every now and then, the winner of that title goes on to have a pretty good career!

Below, we have taken a look at some of the best performances from amateurs at The Open Championship…

The Best Amateur Performances At The Open

Roger Wethered

Following the 1897 Open Championship, no British amateurs had gone close to winning the title, with no-one able to follow in the footsteps of Harold Hilton.

Wethered, aged just 23 at the time, aimed to end that run in 1921 on the Old Course at St Andrews. He started badly, shot a first round 78 to sit six shots off the pace, but fought back strongly, and a third round 72 put him into a tie for 6th after 54 holes.

The Englishman, who had been called up to serve in the Royal Artillery in World War I just three years previously, fired in a final round 71 would have seen him win the event. However, Jock Hutchison shot a 70, which was then the lowest ever round on the Old Course.

The pair went into a play-off, and after Wethered had been persuaded not to be play in a cricket match on the Saturday, he took on Hutchison over 36 holes. Unfortunately for the Englishman, he would not go on to win the play-off, but it remains one of the best amateur performances at The Open Championship in its long and storied history.

Wethered went on to win the Amateur Championship in 1923, as he beat Scotland’s Robert Harris 7&6 at Royal Cinque Ports. He would also play for England several times in international matches against Scotland, and in the Walker Cup against the United States.

Bobby Jones

When talking about the best amateur performances of all time at The Open, you simply cannot look past the late, great Bobby Jones. The American is the most successful amateur golfer of all time, and he lifted the Claret Jug on three occasions, doing so in 1926, 1927 and 1930.

The Open

Prior to the 1926 event at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Jones was already a major champion, having won the US Open three years earlier. At Lytham, he found himself two shots behind after the third round, and he remained behind Al Watrous with five holes to play.

However, at the 71st hole of the championship, Jones pulled off a miraculous shot from 175 yards out. He hit the green despite having a blind shot behind a dune, and that flipped the tournament on its head. Watrous three-putted on the same hole following that shot, and Jones went on to win his first Open Championship by two shots.

A year later, Jones retained the Claret Jug, with a dominant wire-to-wire victory at St Andrews. A first round 68 saw him lead by four after the opening day, and it was a lead that he never looked like relinquishing, as he went on to win the Open for a second time, his fourth major title.

In 1930, Jones secured a third Open Championship, winning at this year’s venue, Royal Liverpool. He came to the tournament having won the Amateur Championship at St Andrews a month earlier, and the Open would be the second part of his incredible Grand Slam. A delicate bunker shot on the 70th hole of the tournament helped the American to victory, and he would then go on to win the US Open at Interlachen, before completing the Grand Slam with a victory at the US Amateur at Merion.

Jones then retired from golf after winning the Grand Slam in 1930 but was influential in the inception of the Masters Tournament, having co-designed Augusta National alongside Alister MacKenzie. He truly is the greatest amateur golfer the world has ever seen.

Frank Stranahan

American Frank Stranahan had a great run at the Open from 1947 to 1953, finishing as the ‘Low Amateur’ on five occasions. The American was an all-round sportsman, as a world class powerlifter, before going on to become one of the world’s best amateurs, and to then run more than 100 marathons in his later life.

After receiving coaching from Byron Nelson in the early 1940s, Stranahan went on to feature at the Open for the first time in 1947. The American finished in a tie for 2nd on debut at Royal Liverpool, missing out on lifting the Claret Jug by just a single shot, as his approach to the last in the final round finished just inches from the hole, for what would have been an eagle to send the tournament to a play-off.

Stranahan finished as the ‘Low Amateur in 1949, 1950 and 1951, before then finishing runner-up for a second time in 1953. Carnoustie played host that year, and Stranahan would have been involved in a play-off with three other golfers, had it not been for the brilliance of Ben Hogan, in what was his only appearance at the Open. Stranahan finished four shots behind the great Hogan, but he was awarded the Silver Medal for the 5th time in seven years.

During that same period, the American was also the low amateur at the Masters Tournament four times, including finishing T2 in 1947, runner-up at the US Amateur, and a two-time winner of the Amateur Championship. He beat Charlie Stowe 5&4 in 1948, before downing fellow American Dick Chapman 8&6 two years later.

Tiger Woods

At the age of 20, Tiger Woods was the only amateur to make the cut at the 1996 Open Championship, winning the Silver Medal in what would be his final major championship appearance before turning professional.

Tiger Woods Open Championship

Woods had already had an incredible collegiate career and had become the first man to win three consecutive US Amateur titles, having beaten Steve Scott in 38 holes to secure a third victory in the competition.

In the 126th Open Championship, held at Royal Lytham and St Annes, he finished T22 to win the Silver Medal as the ‘Low Amateur’, thanks to a record-equalling second round 66. That mark equalled Frank Stranahan’s record for an amateur, and Woods would go on to turn professional six weeks later.

Woods has gone on to win three Open Championships in his career. He won in both 2000 and 2005 on the Old Course at St Andrews, before retaining the Claret Jug with a win in 2006 at Royal Liverpool. Add that to 12 other majors, and you have one hell of a career behind you!

Justin Rose

Englishman Justin Rose burst into the limelight in 1998, with an incredible week at the 128th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He was only 17 at the time, and already had a number of amateur titles to his name.

After an opening +2 round of 72, Rose played brilliantly on Friday, tying the record low round for an amateur. His 66 at Birkdale levelled the mark set by both Frank Stranahan and Tiger Woods, and he was in a tie for 2nd at the halfway stage of the tournament.

perks of winning the us open

He would eventually go on to finish in a tie for 4th with Jim Furyk, Jesper Parnevik and Raymond Russell. That was thanks to holing out a 50-yard pitch shot to birdie the 72nd hole of the competition, to huge cheers from the crowd. His T4 finish was the best for a British amateur for more than 75 years, since Roger Wethered finished 2nd after losing a play-off in 1921.

Rose has gone on to have a stellar career, finishing inside the top three in all four of the majors. His one major victory came at Merion in 2013 as he lifted the US Open trophy, while his best finish at the Open is a T2, which came in 2018 at Carnoustie.

Chris Wood

Ten years on from Justin Rose capturing the nation’s hearts with his T4 finish at Royal Birkdale, Chris Wood followed in his countryman’s footsteps. At the same venue in 2008, Wood performed brilliantly throughout the week, finishing in a tie for 5th.

Wood had made it into the Open Championship after coming through Final Qualifying at Hillside just nine days prior to the tournament starting at Royal Birkdale. This followed on from the Bristolian’s biggest amateur win. He had claimed the Welsh Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship six weeks earlier, winning by six shots.

The Englishman started poorly with an opening round of 75 to sit at +5, but a level par 70 put him back in contention at the halfway stage. He finished 73-72 to finish the week in a tie for 5th at +10, only seven shots off eventual winner Padraig Harrington.

Wood then returned to the Open a year later, his first major tournament as a professional. He would end up finishing even higher than he did as an amateur, and was unlucky not to join Stewart Cink and Tom Watson in the play-off at Turnberry. His approach to the 72nd hole flew over the back of the green, and he was unable to get up and down. In the end, the Englishman finished T3 with Lee Westwood, in what remains to date his best finish in a major championship.

Tom Lewis

Englishman Tom Lewis entered the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s after coming through Final Qualifying at Rye. Just a month earlier, Lewis had lifted the coveted St Andrews Links Trophy, one of the biggest prizes in amateur golf.

The young Englishman set a new record in the opening round, as his first-round 65 was the lowest score by an amateur in the history of the Open Championship, beating the record set by Frank Stranahan, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose. That round also put him into a tie for the lead after the first 18 holes, becoming the first amateur to lead the Open after the opening day since 1968.

He then featured in the Walker Cup later that year before turning professional, with his best result in a major championship coming in the Open in 2019. The Englishman finished in a tie for 11th with Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Jordan Spieth and defending champion Francesco Molinari.

Paul Dunne

Like Lewis and Wood before him, Ireland’s Paul Dunne had to go through Final Qualifying to make it into the field in 2015. He was one of three to qualify at Woburn, alongside Retief Goosen, to make it to the 144th Open Championship, which was held on the Old Course at St Andrews.

The Irishman, who had a stellar collegiate career as one of the best amateurs in the game, then shot to prominence in the Open at St Andrews. A pair of 69s saw him make the cut as the leading amateur at the halfway stage. A third round 66 then put him into a tie for the lead alongside Dustin Johnson at the end of Sunday’s play, following substantial delays due to inclement weather on the east coast of Scotland.

Paul Dunne amateur the Open

Dunne set a tournament record, with the lowest 54-hole score by an amateur in the history of the Open, along with becoming the first amateur to lead the Open Championship after 54 holes since 1927, following in the footsteps of the great Bobby Jones.

Unfortunately for the Irishman, he was unable to continue his good form on what was only the second Monday finish in Open Championship history. He slipped down the leaderboard with a final round 78 to finish in a tie for 30th. Dunne turned professional shortly after his week in St Andrews, and went on to win the Betfred British Masters in 2018, beating a stacked field which included Rory McIlroy, the runner-up that week.

Jordan Niebrugge

Niebrugge was another of those who had to go through Final Qualifying in 2015, with the American being one of three players to make it through at Hillside, along with Scott Arnold and Pelle Edberg. He and Dunne were among nine amateurs in the field for the 144th Open Championship at St Andrews.

Niebrugge started strongly, with the amateur firing in a first round 67 to sit in a tie for 8th at -5, two shots off the lead. Over the course of the next two days, as the second round was elongated due to weather conditions, the American was overtaken by Dunne, with the Irishman going on to break records.

A third round 67 moved the American back into the top ten with 18 holes to play and he followed that with a 2-under-par round of 70 on Monday afternoon. He finished as the ‘Low Amateur’ following Dunne’s demise on the final day, winning the Silver Medal. His final score of 277 for -11 broke the record for the lowest score by an amateur in the history of the Open Championship.

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin

Tom is a lifetime golfer, now over 30 years playing the game. 2023 marks 10 years in golf publishing and he is still holding down a + handicap at Alwoodley in Leeds. He has played over 600 golf courses, and has been a member of at least four including his first love Louth, in Lincolnshire. Tom likes unbranded clothing, natural fibres, and pencil bags. Seacroft in Lincolnshire is where it starts and ends.

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