The Open Championships that rocked the world

No tournament does history and drama quite like The Open, so George Cooper buried himself in the history books to pick out eight of the best

In the storied annals of competitive sports, few events can compare to the sheer scale, drama, and global impact of The Open Championships. It is not simply a chronicle of the world’s finest athletes battling for victory, but a testament to human spirit, perseverance, and the unyielding quest for excellence.

This article, “The Open Championships that Rocked the World,” delves into those extraordinary tournaments and past winners, that did more than just crown a champion—they challenged conventions, shattered records, altered careers, and left an indelible mark on the world of sports.

From the green fields of golf to the thundering applause of tennis courts, from the electrifying air of Olympic arenas to the thrilling climax of cricket pitches, these Open Championships have inspired awe, stoked rivalries, and ignited passions like no other. Strap in for a journey into the heart of these legendary contests, a riveting exploration of the open past winners and when and how they rocked the world to its very core.


Young Tom Morris

The epic encounter between Old and Young Tom Morris, with Junior eventually getting the better of his father at Prestwick at the age of 17 – a record that still stands, and perhaps always will.


The Open

Harry Vardon and JH Taylor headed to Prestwick tied with five Open victories each. Taylor led by two shots going into the final round, but a 44-year-old Vardon had other plans, overcoming his rival by three to capture a sixth Claret Jug, a record which still stands to this day.


The Open

Bobby Jones’ record at The Open reads WD-1-1-1, the last of those victories coming at Royal Liverpool as part of his unprecedented single-season Grand Slam. Jones overturned a one-shot deficit in the final round after Archie Compston slumped to an 82. Jones was the third and most recent amateur to lift the Claret Jug. 


The Open

The infamous ‘The Duel in the Sun’ between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry. The pair went shot for shot for the first three rounds before Watson birdied four of the final six holes on Sunday to seal a dramatic victory.


The Open

Nothing could separate Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros at St Andrews, then the American failed to save par at the Road Hole before his rival holed that iconic birdie putt on 18 to secure his second Claret Jug. Cue an even more iconic celebration.


The Open

A prime Nick Faldo going for his fifth major in six years set a 36-hole record, beat his own 54-hole record, and came into the final round leading by four at Muirfield. A miserable stretch from 11 to 14 allowed John Cook to overtake him, before Faldo birdied two of the last four and to clinch it by the smallest of margins.


The Open

The ‘Millennium Open’, at St Andrews, in front of 239,000 spectators on the ground and millions watching around the world, saw Tiger Woods post a record 19-under-par score, beating his nearest opponent by eight shots, and securing the career Grand Slam at just 24 years old. We all know what happened next.


decade in golf

The duel that topped the Duel. Imagine going into the final day of The Open one shot off the lead, shooting 65, and still coming up three short. That’s what happened to Phil Mickelson as Henrik Stenson not only carded a 63 – then a record scoreline in a major – while also setting the 72-hole score at 20-under-par.

In Conclusion

As we reflect on these iconic Open Championships and the open past winners, it is evident that these are more than just sporting events—they are compelling narratives of ambition, resilience, and the ceaseless march of progress. They have rocked the world not only through their spectacle and competitive drama, but also in the way they have expanded our understanding of what is humanly possible. From unexpected underdog victories to record-breaking performances, from extraordinary acts of sportsmanship to game-changing innovations, these Championships have left an enduring imprint on the global sports landscape.

They have transcended the boundaries of the game, inspiring millions across the globe, fostering a sense of unity, and illuminating the limitless potential that resides within the spirit of competition. As we journeyed through these phenomenal tournaments, one truth remains clear—each served as a milestone, not just in sports history, but in human history, touching lives and influencing societies.

These Open Championships have truly rocked the world, echoing far beyond the stadiums and fields where they were held, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire, engage, and amaze. As we continue to bear witness to these epic sporting events, let us remember and celebrate these extraordinary moments that have forever altered the course of the game. These are the Championships that have not only shaped sports, but also, in a profound sense, our shared global narrative.

What was our favourite Open?

So how about The Open from a personal level? The NCG team pick out their favourites for a variety of reasons…

“I fell in love with the game – and Nick Faldo – watching the entirety of the 1990 Open at St Andrews on a tiny TV screen in our family pub, but the 2014 Open at Hoylake holds so many personal memories that will last a lifetime. So I’ll say that one.”

Alex Perry

“It will always be Muirfield in 2002 – my first Open as a journalist. I couldn’t believe I was being paid – not very much but still – to go to the Open. I was there from the Saturday before to the Monday after and didn’t miss a shot all week. Twenty years on, the memories remain vivid.”

Dan Murphy

“I reached Jordan Spieth just as he almost aced the 14th on the final day the 2017 Open at Birkdale. I then had a grandstand view for what will surely always remain the most exhilarating stretch of holes in Open history.”

Steve Carroll

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Open as my parents met at St Andrews in 1990, but I wasn’t there so I’ll go for 2006 at Hoylake. I was 10 and Phil Mickelson gave me his golf ball. I still remember thinking my dad was mates with him because of the way he said, ‘Thanks, Phil.’”

Hannah Holden

“2006 at Hoylake will hold a special place in my heart as my first Open and the first time I saw Tiger Woods, but I’ll go for 2016 at Troon. Arguably the greatest head-to-head showdown in the game’s history, and it was incredible how Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson made the whole field seem irrelevant in their iconic tussle.”

George Cooper

Visit our dedicated Open website for more from golf’s oldest major

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