In just a few hours the first tee shot will be struck at St. Andrews and the 150th Anniversary Open Championship will be underway. We’ll have to wait and see who will hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday (I personally think Tiger will repeat his 2000 and 2005 victories at St. Andrews), but now is a good time to look back at the four Nike Golf athletes who have hoisted the Claret Jug a total of six times in the past:
1997: Justin Leonard at Royal Troon
Justin won his Claret Jug at Royal Troon, carding a final round 65 to rally from three shots back of Jesper Parnevik and eventually win by three shots over Parnevik and Darrren Clark. Known as a good wind player with a hot putter, Justin made key par putts at 11 and 15, and two clutch birdie putts at 16 and 17 to secure his Open Championship victory.
2000: Tiger Woods at St. Andrews
Tiger won his first Open Championship and fourth major at St. Andrews, becoming the youngest golfer in history to complete the career grand slam. He won by 8 strokes over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els, and his score of 19 under par is a record for lowest 72-hole score in relation to par in any major championship.
2001 David Duval at Royal Lytham and St. Annes
After finishing T2 at The Masters earlier in the year, David delivered a solid Sunday performance to win in his seventh Open Championship appearance by three shots over Niclas Fasth. David hasn’t won on Tour since his major championship win, but I firmly believe he’s due for another victory in the near future, perhaps at a major, maybe even this week.
2005: Tiger Woods at St. Andrews
Tiger’s victory over Colin Montgomery was his second Open Championship title (and second at St. Andrews) and his 10th career major championship. His 5-shot win was the second largest margin of victory since his 8-shot win at St. Andrews in 2000. A solid Sunday performance where he pulled away from the field on the back nine had him finishing at -14 and walking away with his second Claret Jug in hand.
2006: Tiger Woods at Royal Liverpool
Only a few months after his father Earl’s passing, Tiger claimed his third Open Championship at a heat-baked Royal Liverpool (also referred to as Hoylake). His 18 under par score was the second lowest in major championship history, and Tiger’s performance was remarkable because of the controlled game he brought to the course, hitting driver only once in 72 holes. Perhaps most memorable was his emotional hug with his caddie Steve Williams on the 18th green after he holed his last putt for the victory.
2009: Stewart Cink at Turnberry
Last year’s Open Championship was one for the ages, when Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a playoff to take home his first major. Stewart holed a 15-footer for birdie on the final hole of regulation, then waited to see if his score of 69 would be good enough to get him into a playoff. When Watson’s approach shot went over the green at 18, and his par putt went short and right of the hole, it was on to extra holes. Although many in the golf world were rooting for Watson to win his sixth Open title, it was Stewart who was victorious in the four-hole playoff, ending up with his arms around the Claret Jug.
It remains to be seen who will win the 2010 Open Championship — will it be Tiger winning his fourth Open and third at St. Andrews? Can Stewart Cink repeat as Champion Golfer of the Year? Can David Duval find the old magic and come away with another major? Will Justin Leonard’s expertise in the wind and on the greens get him another Claret Jug? We’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.