The 146th Open Championship starting at Royal Birkdale on Thursday will provide an opportunity for one of 156 players to etch their name in history and stand alongside some of the greats of the game.
Whoever gets to hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon will have earned the right to be called Champion Golfer of The Year.
There have been many great players who have already become part of Open folklore, but who are the best of the best to have played the game’s oldest and most prestigious championship?
To determine the 10 Greatest Open Championship Players of All-Time, we looked at the performances of 30 of the best to have won the coveted title. We didn’t just look at the wins, we also looked at the runner-up finishes, as well as the top-5 and top-10 finishes.
Here are the 10 greatest players with their name on the Claret Jug.
10. JAMIE ANDERSON (Scotland)
Opens played: 13.
Open Champion: 1877, 1878, 1879
Runner-up: 1873, 1881.
Anderson was the second player to win the Open in three consecutive years. He would have been favourite for the 1880 title but the date for the tournament was set so late that he missed putting his entry in on time.
9. SIR NICK FALDO (England)
Opens played: 37.
Open Champion: 1987, 1990, 1992.
Both of Faldo’s victories at Muirfield (1987 and 1992) were dour par-is-your-best-friend grinds, which many say reflected the type of golfer Faldo was. But his dominating five-stroke victory at the Home of Golf in 1990 was arguably his greatest Open performance and realised a childhood dream to win at St Andrews.
Faldo made his debut at The Open in 1976 and, incredibly, missed his first cut in the Championship in 1999.
8. TOM WATSON (US)
Opens played: 38.
Open Champion: 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983.
Runner-up: 1984, 2009.
For all his achievements in The Open, few will ever forget his run at the title in 2009. The then 59-year-old had turned back the clock with rounds of 65-70-71-72, but a bogey on the 72nd hole left him tied at the top of the leaderboard with American Stewart Cink. Watson later admitted he had nothing left in the tank during the four hole play-off and a fairytale ending for the already five-time Open winner was never going to play out.
7. WILLIE PARK SNR (Scotland)
Opens played: 20.
Open Champion: 1860, 1863, 1866
Runner-up: 1861, 1862, 1865, 1867.
The Park and Morris families dominated the formative years of The Open Championship, with Willie Park Snr and Jnr often squaring off against Old Tom Morris and Tom Morris Jnr.
Park Snr, the inaugural Open Champion, as clearly the man to beat during the first eight Opens. Not only did he win three titles in that time, but he finished runner-up four times. His worst showing between 1860 and 1867 was a fourth placing in 1864.
6. PETER THOMSON (Australia)
Opens played: 30.
Open Champion: 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965.
Runner-up: 1952, 1953, 1957.
Thomson is obviously best known for winning the Claret jug five times but he clearly dominated the Open Championship throughout the 1950s. Between 1952 and 1958, he won four times and finished no worse than second every other year.
He added his fifth title in 1965 and finished in the top-10 eight times during the 60s – a phenomenal record by any standard. His last top-10 finish was in 1971, 20 years after playing in his first Open. Incredibly, he only missed the cut four times in 30 Open starts.
5. OLD TOM MORRIS (Scotland)
Opens played: 31.
Open Champion: 1861, 1862, 1864, 1867.
Runner-up: 1860, 1863, 1868.
Old Tom was influential in establishing The Open Championship and would be its victor four times.
Morris was 40-years-old when he won his first Open in 1861 and he continued to play in the tournament for another 34 years. His last top-10 finish was in 1883 aged 62.
4. JACK NICKLAUS (US)
Opens played: 38.
Open Champion: 1966, 1970, 1978.
Runner-up: 1964, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1979.
The best golfer of the 20th century was a dominant figure at The Open for the best part of two decades, yet only accrued three victories.
The fact that he put himself in contention almost every year between 1963 and 1980 speaks volumes for Nicklaus’ ability. During that long stretch he finished outside the top-10 only once and was in the top-3 and amazing 13 times.
3. JAMES BRAID (Scotland)
Opens played: 28.
Open Champion: 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1910.
Runner-up: 1897, 1902, 1904, 1909.
A member of the great triumvirate alongside J.H Taylor and Harry Vardon, Braid was almost unstoppable at the Open between 1905 and 1910. Four of his five wins came in that time and he was rarely bothered by his opposition.
RIGHT: James Braid playing in his later years. PHOTO: Getty Images.
In all of his Open wins, he won by three or more shots, with his greatest win coming in 1908 by eight strokes.
2. HARRY VARDON (Jersey)
Opens played: 30.
Open Champion: 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914.
Runner-up: 1900, 1901, 1902, 1912.
Harry Vardon is the only man in Open history to win the title six times, which ranks as one of the longest standing win records in world sport.
Vardon, who popularised the overlapping grip, was 44-years-old when he won his last Open Championship in 1914 and came after a long fight to overcome a bout of tuberculosis.
He was one of the original group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, while his six Open Championship medals can be seen in a display at the Jersey Museum.
1. JOHN HENRY ‘J.H’ TAYLOR (England)
Opens played: 31.
Open Champion: 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909, 1913
Runner-up: 1896, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1914.
The great rivalry between J.H Taylor and Harry Vardon ultimately saw the two finish first-second in many Open Championships.
Taylor won the Open four times and finished second six times, including in four consecutive years from 1904. Incredibly, nearly two decades separated Taylor’s last Open victory from his first. Incredibly, Taylor finished outside the top-10 only twice in his first 22 appearances in the Open.
With the outbreak of World War I, Taylor, Vardon and Braid may have added more wins to their totals.
HOW THE LIST WAS CALCULATED
The performances of all players were analysed and points given for finish in each Open.
Victories received 50 points, second or T2 were allocated 35 points. A third to fifth place finish received 20 points and all other top-10s yielded five points each.