The 43rd Open | 1903 Prestwick

Vardon goes wire-to-wire again

By the turn of the 20th century, The Open Championship was established as the most revered event in golf. But in tandem with that growth, it was becoming apparent that golf's original major was starting to outgrow its original home of Prestwick.

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The South Ayrshire venue, which had birthed The Open, hosting 20 Championships since 1860, would only host four Opens in the 1900s. Still, that did not stop Prestwick's 21st hosting from setting an important milestone in golfing history. 

Never had more than 100 players entered The Open before. That was until 1903, when the field was set at 124 players after entries had been confirmed. The field size had become a point of discussion and contention among golfing journalists, but in staying true to its roots, The Open allowed any golfer that was good enough to compete. Suddenly, the event would need an earlier start time. 

Most Championships prior had begun around 10am, with every day necessitating two rounds, even when The Open was played over 72 holes for the first time in 1892.

In 1903, however, the start time of 8:30am on the 10th June was considered tremendously early, to accommodate for such a large field. 

The links at Prestwick were in notably wonderful condition, with fairways like greens and greens as true as they came at the time. It set the bar high for two days of superb golf, and the bar was certainly matched. 

The man first out on Wednesday was three-time Champion Harry Vardon, playing with Ben Campbell of Musselburgh. As The Manchester Courier observed prior to play beginning, "curiously enough these two have been drawn to start as the first couple. Vardon's name appearing first on the list, a position which probably he will still occupy when the meeting is concluded." 

This prophecy proved true, as Vardon led from the start of the Championship until the very last putt, sharing the lead after round one and possessing first place alone after rounds two, three and four. The 33-year-old Jersey native posted exceptional scores of 73, 77, 72 and 78 to win his fourth Open, and his second at Prestwick, in fine style.

He broke the 72-hole scoring record at The Open by five strokes with a total of 300, and beat the field by six. His brother, Tom Vardon, was the player who took second place, but only eight players finished within 15 shots of The Stylist, and Prestwick's conditioning helped one of the world's finest dominate in South Ayrshire. 

In dominating, Vardon went wire-to-wire in the Championship over 72 holes again, after completing the feat four years earlier, and to this day remains the only golfer to win two Championships going wire-to-wire.

Prestwick would host just three more Opens, with its final Championship in 1925. But The Open in 1903 proved still what a marvellous course it was, in fine condition, and paved the way for greater field sizes and days of wonderful golf from start to finish.

In 2022, 119 years later, play will begin at 6:30am on the 14th July, with 156 players set to compete for the Claret Jug.