For the eighth time in its long and distinguished history, Carnoustie Golf Links, in Angus, Scotland, hosts The Open Championship. Revered as perhaps the most difficult layout in The Open rotation, Carnoustie has a way of stirring up drama, and for much of its history accommodating some of the game’s biggest names.
Tommy Armour, Sir Henry Cotton, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tom Watson won the Claret Jug in the first five editions played at Carnoustie. That’s quite a lineup. Hogan won in his only appearance and in the process completed the career grand slam. Watson, a two-time winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, triumphed in his first appearance in the championship, defeating Jack Newton in a playoff.
The championship didn’t return to Carnoustie until 1999, and Paul Lawrie won a three-man playoff against Justin Leonard and Jean Van de Velde. Of course, few remember that event for anything other than Van de Velde’s 72nd hole meltdown when he suffered a triple bogey that eventually cost him the title. In 2007, the overtime theme continued as Padraig Harrington bested Sergio Garcia in The Open’s four-hole aggregate playoff.
Sir Michael Bonallack, a past Memorial Tournament Honoree, explained why Carnoustie, long, narrow and heavily bunkered, is such a demanding test. “When the wind is blowing, it is the toughest golf course in Britain,” he said. “And when it’s not blowing, it’s probably still the toughest.”
There is a significant contingent of winners of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide competing at Carnoustie, including five-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods, who has won The Open Championship three times. He is competing in the championship for the first time since 2015 after battling a back injury for two years.
“I love playing over [in Scotland] because it allows you to be creative,” Woods said after he finished tied for 12th at Carnoustie in 2007. “I love to maneuver the ball. Over here you can create shots. You get to use the ground as an ally. You just don’t get that opportunity in the United States.”
Other Memorial winners in the field include past Open champions Ernie Els and Tom Lehman, plus Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Dufner and 2018 winner Bryson DeChambeau.
Jordan Spieth is the defending champion after out-dueling Kuchar at Royal Birkdale last year. The talented Texan won by three strokes in a wire-to-wire victory, shooting a final-round 69 for a 12-under 268 total.
Spieth joined Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament Founder and Host, as the only players to win three different majors at age 23. "Is Jordan Spieth something else?" Nicklaus wrote on Twitter as Spieth wrapped up the wild victory.
A three-time winner of The Open Championship, Nicklaus named Muirfield Village Golf Club after Muirfield, in Scotland, the site of his first Open victory in 1966. As another nod to the victory, which secured for Nicklaus the career grand slam, he paid homage to the Claret Jug by including it in the crest of Muirfield Village Golf Club, which is the center piece of the Memorial Tournament’s logo.
South African Branden Grace also made news at Royal Birkdale last year. He broke the record for lowest score in a major championship when he posted a third-round 62. That isn’t likely to happen again at Carnoustie.