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The Top 10 Open Champions

A pub argument in the making, here's a list with as many great champions overlooked as there are chosen.

Posted Jul 15, 2009 by Iestyn George

Young Tom Morris 1868 1869 1870 1872
Not only the youngest player to have competed in The Open Championship in 1865, aged 14, but the youngest winner in 1868, aged 17 years. He won the first hat-trick of victories, which meant he got to keep the Championship Belt and the creation of The Claret Jug was eventually commissioned. His rise to golfing eminence was cut tragically short by his death aged 24.

JH Taylor 1894 1895 1900 1909 1913
As many professionals of his era, he was from a poor background, earned his corn at Royal North Devon as a caddy and eventually became a  five-time winner of The Open and a co-founder of The PGA, ding much to shape the future of the game in the process.

Harry Vardon 1896 1898 1899 1903 1911 1914
Winner of six Open Championships, a champion over three decades (along with JH Taylor and Gary Player) and one of the select band of professionals who took golf to the shores of America. Just think: if it hadn't been for Harry, Tiger wouldn't hold the golf club the way he does.

Walter Hagen 1922 1924 1928 1929
One of the most flamboyant golfers of all time, he hit balls off the top of The Savoy, lived a millionaire's life whether his wallet was full or empty and became the first American to win The Open in 1922. His record is up there with the very best golfers of all time, with 11 Majors to his name.

Bobby Jones 1926 1927 and 1930
Three-time winner of The Open and the last amateur to win the championship, Robert Tyre Jones was the ultimate gentleman golfer and will be remembered as one of the most naturally gifted and determined men to ever swing a club, who called a halt to his career in his prime, aged 28.

Arnold Palmer 1961 1962
There are those that might raise an eyebrow at Palmer's inclusion in a list of The Greatest Open champions, if only for the fact that his back-to-back victories are eclipsed by the likes of Peter Thomson and Bobby Locke. But having failed to attract the top US pros to The Open, his win at Birkdale in 1961 and the golfing Beatlemania of 1962 at Troon, where fans poured onto the course from the adjoining beach, put the Open right back it where it belonged - at the forefront of championship golf.

Jack Nicklaus 1966 1970 1978
Coming from behind to win all three Open Championships, nobody could ever doubt the true grit that characterised Jack Nicklaus' play. The huge admiration that generations of British golf fans displayed at the 18th at St Andrews in 2005 when Jack gave his final wave from the Swilcan Bridge was as significant as any of his Major victories. He will remain the greatest in our eyes.

Tom Watson 1975 1977 1980 1982 1983
A magnificent champion, who deserves all the attention he gets for his winning role in the unforgettable Duel In The Sun at Turnberry in 1977. If anything, that momentous victory causes the mind to neglect the simple fact that Watson won five Open championships in all. His cameo in 2005, when the gallery's salute to the departing Jack Nicklaus prompted him to break down in tears, made us love him that little bit more.

Severiano Ballesteros 1974 1984 1988
If the oft-stated claim that Seve was singlehandedly responsible for the resurgence in European golf reads like a cliche, then you weren't there. Charisma alone doesn't win Major championships, but like Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, Seve had an everyman appeal that attracted a much broader audience to the game. His exploits as the Car Park Champion of 1974 at Royal Lytham gave The Open some of the most memorable images of its illustrious history.

Tiger Woods 2000 2005 2006
A three-time winner of The Open, twice at St Andrews. His first win cemented his reputation as the greatest golfer of his age, his second demonstrated his dominance - nobody came close to matching him after he took the lead on the 9th hole of his first round. The determined control he displayed to win at Hoyake amidst scenes of raw emotion after the death of his father Earl will rank among the finest of his many Majors.

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