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The Open 101: A guide to the year's final major

148th Open Championship: Shane Lowry
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Ireland's Shane Lowry poses with the Claret Jug, the trophy for the Champion golfer of the year after winning the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)  - 

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.


How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.


Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.


Where will it be played this year?

Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England.


Who has won The Open on that course?

This is the 15th time Royal St. George's has host The Open. Here's a look at the past champions at this venue: J.H. Taylor (1894), Harry Vardon (1899, 1911), Jack White (1904), Walter Hagen (1922, '28), Henry Cotton (1934), Reg Whitcombe (1938), Bobby Locke (1949), Bill Rogers (1981), Sandy Lyle (1985), Greg Norman (1993), Ben Curtis (2003), Darren Clarke (2011)


Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Tom Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.


What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.


Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, three wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Paul Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.


Who is this year's defending champion?

Irishman Shane Lowry. He won in 2019 at Royal Portrush, in Northern Ireland, and has held the claret jug for two years after the 2020 edition was canceled because of the global pandemic. Last year's event was to be contested at Royal St. George's, so it did not miss its chance to host.


The 'claret jug' is the name of the trophy?

Informally, yes. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).


Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Arnold Palmer in 1961 and '62; Jean Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Ben Hogan's win in 1953; Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.


When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.


Hey, wait, I almost forgot: Did you say final major of the year?

Yep. With the PGA Championship's move to May and the Masters (April) and U.S. Open (June) keeping their normal spots on the schedule, The Open is now the final of the four big events.