First played in 1860, on the humble Prestwick Golf Course, the British Open has been celebrated annually for almost 160 years, making it the world's oldest golfing championship. Over the years, the Claret Jug has been awarded to players of the highest calibre, from Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo, to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy - the likes of whom hopeful golfers heading to Royal Birkdale in the week ahead will be hoping to emulate.[caption id="attachment_11656" align="aligncenter" width="568"] Henrik Stenson - The Open Winner 2016[/caption]
Historically, the British Open may be viewed as a Scottish tradition, as the earliest versions of the tournament were played on Scottish courses, and the first winners all hailed from the home of golf. The ultimate winner of the debut championship in 1860, Willie Park Sr, was an East Lothian native, and the fame and respect garnered from his win would see him named one of the first pioneers of the professional game. In fact, it wasnít until thirty years after the eventís founding that the Open seen its first non-Scottish winner, in John Ball - although at this point the championship had only been contested on Scottish soil. Nowadays, however, the British Open is celebrated across the UK, with 2017 bringing the 146th annual contest to Southport in England.
The British Open has seen the Claret Jug, a symbol of greatness in the game of golf, become synonymous with the tournament itself - despite it not being formally presented until thirteen years after the start of the tournament when it replaced the original Challenge Belt. Today, the trophy is representative of the championship, the game itself and its place as a Scottish legacy, which can be seen in the way it has been twice seen on commemorative banknotes issued by RBS, something which cements the championship as part of Scotlandís history. Currently, however, the trophy itself is in the hands of Henrik Stenson, who became the first Scandinavian to win the British Open in 2016, and who will return to defend his title this year.[caption id="attachment_11654" align="aligncenter" width="540"] The Claret Jug[/caption]
Therefore, it can be seen that today the Open is a celebration of golfers from around the world, from Scandinavia to the USA to Spain and beyond. This yearís favourites include Sergio Garcia, and Jordan Spieth, whoís established presence at the tournament make it clear this is something no longer exclusively British, but who only serve to enrich and better the championship and the game itself.