The fourth and final major golf tournament of the year is almost underway, we are of course talking about the Open Championship. While players are still qualifying to secure their place in golf’s oldest and most prestigious tournament, the majority of the pack have already earned their place.
One of the many exemptions from needing to qualify includes all previous Open champions under the age of 65. So, who are the recent winners of the Claret Jug and can they go on to be victorious again this year at Royal Portrush? Let’s take a look back at some of the previous winners and weigh-up their chances.
2018 (Carnoustie): Francesco Molinari
Last year, Francesco Molinari made history when he became the first Italian to win any of golf’s major tournaments and he will be looking to defend the Claret Jug this year. Priced at 18/1, he would make a great outsider’s choice to manage the feat.
Since that victory, Molinari has won on the PGA tour, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March; however, his best finish in the majors this year was a T5 place at the Masters. A good performance in the Open would put him in good stead for a return to his homeland for the Italian Open later this year. He caused a shock at Carnoustie, so don’t rule Molinari out again.
2017 (Royal Birkdale): Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth is one of a handful of golfers in the current era to sit on three major championships – just one short of a career Grand Slam. His victory at the 2017 Open was the most recent of his major wins, having previously won both the Masters and US Open in 2015.
The American has tempting odds of 16/1 but has struggled of late, even recently calling-out his caddie during his performance at the US Open. At 25 years of age, Spieth has certainly achieved a lot in his golf career so far, but he will really need to bring his A-Game if he wishes to succeed at Royal Portrush and retain the Claret Jug.
2016 (Royal Troon): Henrik Stenson
Henrik Stenson’s victory in 2016 will live long in the memory after his pulsating battle with Phil Mickelson, eventually winning a head-to-head duel on the final day. The Swede also broke a number of records including the lowest winning score (264) and the lowest winning score in relation to par (-20).
The win was his first – and only – major win to date; and his only other PGA tour win came in 2017, when he beat Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke in the Wyndham Championship. Understandably, he’s priced at 25/1 so don’t expect him to threaten the leading pack.
2015 (St Andrews): Zach Johnson
Priced at even longer odds of 80/1, the bookies believe Zach Johnson doesn’t stand a chance – and it’s hard to disagree with them. The American won the Open in 2015 and since then, has failed to record a top 10 finish in any of the four major competitions.
On the PGA tour, in the three years following his success at St Andrews, he’s only managed one second-place finish and 11 top 10s, from over 70 tournaments. Like we say, don’t expect him to challenge this year.
2014 (Royal Liverpool): Rory McIlroy
If you’re planning to bet on open championship 2019 winner on Betfair, you’ll be pleased to know that the 2014 winner and Northern Irish Rory McIlroy is one of the favourites, priced at 8/1. McIlroy is yet to win a golf major since that success five years ago, but no doubt will be looking to impress a strong home following next month. This year alone, he’s had success on the PGA tour with wins at The Players Championship and more recently, the Canadian Open; however, his form in majors (excluding last year’s Open Championship, where he came T2) leaves little to be desired.
Our pick? Rory McIlroy. Despite the pressures of being on home soil and one major win away from a Grand Slam (will he ever win the Masters?), he’s our best bet of the most recent winners to retain the Claret Jug. If you do fancy a punt, three-time winner Tiger Woods is priced at a favourable 9/1.