Winning The Open Championship is an ambition of all golfers from around the world. To do so once is hard enough, but going back-to-back in golf’s oldest Major is achieved by few and far between with defending champion Collin Morikawa the latest to try and join an exclusive club.
Morikawa made history last year at Royal St George’s as he became the first player in the history of the game to win two different Major Championships on their debut, following his victory at the US PGA Championship in 2020.
The American carded a brilliant bogey-free 66 in last year’s final round at The Open to win the Claret Jug with a record aggregate of 265 for the Sandwich venue.
Morikawa, last year’s winner of the season-long rankings on the DP World Tour, will make his first appearance at St Andrews as the Home of Golf stages the landmark 150th Open this week.
Seven players have previously done the double at the oldest golf tournament in the world in post-war times, with Pádraig Harrington the last man to do so with his triumphs in 2007 and 2008.
Eight years on from Paul Lawrie’s success at Carnoustie, Harrington ended Europe’s wait for a Major Champion as he beat Spain’s Sergio Garcia in a four-hole aggregate play-off to win The 136th Open at the same links venue in 2007.
The Irishman, who began the final round six strokes behind Garcia, found the Barry Burn on two occasions en route to a double-bogey six to leave the Spaniard, playing in the final group, with the opportunity to claim victory with a par. But, after finding a greenside bunker with his approach shot, Garcia missed the crucial putt.
Harrington seized the initiative in the play-off with a birdie at the par-four first as Garcia made a bogey, before both players parred the 16th and 17th. Holding a two-shot advantage, Harrington sealed victory with a bogey as Garcia saw his birdie putt burn the left edge of the hole.
A year later, Harrington overcame pre-tournament doubts over a wrist injury to shoot a closing 69 to end the week at three over and claim a four-shot victory over Ian Poulter at Royal Birkdale. He became the first European to successfully defend the Open since James Braid in 1906.
Preceding those two Open triumphs, Tiger Woods also won back-to-back Claret Jugs in 2005 and 2006.
Woods led from start to finish to win by five shots from Colin Montgomerie in 2005 as he clinched his second Open title at the scene of his first – St Andrews.
The American defended his title at Royal Liverpool as he held off the challenge of countryman Chris DiMarco to win by two in an emotional victory, following the death of his father Earl two months earlier.
"I just miss my dad so much. I wish he could have been here to witness this,” Woods said at the time.
"He enjoyed watching me grind out Major wins and this would have brought a smile to his face."
You would need go back two decades further to find the next player to retain their Champion Golfer of the Year crown. Already a three-time Open champion, Tom Watson won two further Claret Jugs in 1982 and 1983.
Watson was seven shots adrift of halfway leader Bobby Clampett in 1982 at Royal Troon but a closing 70 saw him claim his fourth Open title on Scottish shores as he finished one shot clear of Peter Oosterhuis and Nick Price, who had held a three-shot lead on the 13th tee.
He made it three victories at The Open in four years at Royal Birkdale as he shot consecutive rounds of 70 to again claim a one-shot victory over nearest rivals Andy Bean and Hale Irwin.
It was at the same links on the northwest coast at Southport where Lee Trevino won the landmark 100th Open in 1971, with a one-shot margin victory over Lu Liang-Huan of Taiwan. Affectionately remembered as Mister Lu, the Taiwanese trailblazer passed away earlier this year aged 85.
Trevino's successful defence a year later at Muirfield ended Jack Nicklaus' bid for the Grand Slam and saw him become the first to successfully defend the title since Arnold Palmer a decade earlier.
Palmer held off Welshman Dai Rees at Royal Birkdale in 1961, with inclement weather resulting in the final two rounds both being played on the same day.
The American backed it up a year later at Royal Troon, where he won by six shots over Australia’s Kel Nagle as he became only the second player after Ben Hogan to win the Masters and The Open in the same year.
After World War II, South African Bobby Locke became the first ever player to win The Open in consecutive years as he won at Royal St George’s in 1949 and at Troon in 1950. His aggregate score of 279 over the four rounds at the latter replaced the previous low winning total of 283 posted by Gene Sarazen 18 years earlier.
Peter Thomson became the first Australian winner of the Claret Jug, with his maiden success achieved at Royal Birkdale in 1954, before he defended his title at St Andrews the following year and completed the hat-trick at Royal Liverpool in 1956.
The five-time Champion Golfer often vied for the title with Locke, who won his third and fourth Opens in 1952 and 1957.