The Rise Of Americans At The British Open
The oldest of the four Major golf championships goes back to 1860, but it wasn't until after WWI that American golfers would make their mark on the British isles.
In 1921, "Golf Illustrated" magazine helped raise a fund to finance the steamship voyage of 11 professional golfers to try and crack the famed tournament. Upon their arrival and ahead of the actual Open, a friendly match between the Americans and their British hosts turned into what became the forerunner of the Ryder Cup.
The Open itself was won by Jock Hutchison, a Scottish-born American who took the title and a £75 cash prize. The following year, Walter Hagen became the first American-born player to raise the Claret Jug and for the rest of the decade, Hagen and amateur prodigy Bobby Jones would dominate the Scotsmen and Englishmen in their own game and at their own links courses.
Prior to the Americans' arrival, the average winning score at the Open hovered around 300 and Bobby Jones was the first to drop it below 291 when he carded 285 in his 1927 first place finish. The Great Depression in the early 1930's coincided with the end of the American onslaught and the return of the English to their form.
Not withstanding Arnold Palmer's back-to-back wins in 1961 and 1962, the next wave of victories from across the Atlantic came in the 1970's and early 1980's with Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. That period in turn was followed by the mid-1990's to mid-2000's with a parade of American newcomers, including the star-powered Tiger Woods who set a record at St. Andrews in 2000 firing 269 (-19).
By the time Phil Mickelson claimed the event in 2013, the U.S. would surpass Scotland as the winningest nation at the tournament. Americans currently hold 43 British Open titles, ahead of the Scotts who rank second at 41 and the English third at 22.
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