America: here’s why you SHOULDN’T call this week’s golf major The British Open!

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Dear Americans, your counterparts across the Atlantic would like to inform you that this week’s major is The Open or The Open Championship – there’s nothing ‘British’ about it. 

It turns out that golf has a not-so-special relationship when it comes to its American and British fans. 

American fans’ behavior was rated a 2.2 out of 10 by their British cousins with the referral to the final major of the year as ‘The British Open’ a particular source of annoyance, according to a recent survey by Pickwise. 

Why? Quite simply because it has never been called that. 

Neither the owners of the Claret Jug, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, or the organizers of the tournament, the R&A, have ever referred to it as the ‘British’ anything. And, as this year’s major rolls around at Royal Liverpool this week, it is time for another reminder. 

The Open Championship rolls around at Royal Liverpool, the site of Rory McIlroy's 2014 win

The Open Championship rolls around at Royal Liverpool, the site of Rory McIlroy’s 2014 win 

Americans' referral to the tournament as The British Open appears to annoy British fans

Americans’ referral to the tournament as The British Open appears to annoy British fans

The tournament’s souvenir programs have displayed various titles on their front covers over the years. 

In 1926, the official program named the event the ‘Open Golf Championship.’ No ‘British’ there. 

By 1933, it had gone through a little rebrand, dropping the ‘Golf’ and going by ”The Open Championship.’ Still no ‘British.’

That title stuck around for many years, with the exception of a 1946 post-championship booklet, which went with a simple ‘Open Reflections.’ Quite the shakeup, but still not a ‘British’ mention in sight. 

 From ‘The Open Golf Championship’ to ‘The Open Championship,’ the R&A moved on again to land on ‘The Open’ in 2003. And guess what? Yes, there’s still no ‘British’.

So yes, the Open has been through its fair share of makeovers but not once has the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews or the R&A officially wedged the adjective ‘British’ in front of the title. And as the organizers, you’d think they’d know. 

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It doesn’t stop at the programs either. The winner of the Open receives the Claret Jug, which is engraved with the words: ‘The Golf Champion Trophy.’

It’s where the title of ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ comes from, and to no great shock they’re not British either – just ask reigning champion Cam Smith. 

And that’s key. The R&A doesn’t want its tournament to be thought of as solely ‘British’ and it is always quick to clarify that, while it is annually held in the United Kingdom, it is a global event. 

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Open Championship programs throughout the years, which do not use 'British' in the title

Open Championship programs throughout the years, which do not use ‘British’ in the title

Last year's Champion Golfer of the Year at St Andrews was Australian Cameron Smith

Last year’s Champion Golfer of the Year at St Andrews was Australian Cameron Smith 

This year’s qualifying for the 151st edition of the tournament at Royal Liverpool took place at 15 events in 10 different countries. 

The Open became more international in the post-Second World War era, especially with the Arnold Palmer-led American invasion in the 1960s, and there will be 29 different nationalities competing at Hoylake this year. 

The R&A rightfully doesn’t want it thought of as ‘British’ tournament when anyone from across the world can play and win – just take the last two winners, Australia’s Smith and America’s Collin Morikawa. 

The R&A really tried to drive home the message when it played hardball with the American media in 2016. 

To win the rights to broadcast the event back in 2016, NBC had to agree as part of its contract to only refer to the tournament as either The Open or The Open Championship. The network instructed its announcers to refrain from using ‘The British Open’ on air. 

But the R&A’s pleas to the rest of the US media fell on deaf ears with many still stuck in their ways. 

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However, it’s not just a matter of its organizers never using the adjective ‘British’ that’s the issue, it’s the fact that the moniker wasn’t needed when it originated – and that’s something the R&A are proud of. 

The R&A are the organizers of the tournament (pictured left: Chief Executive Martin Slumbers)

The R&A are the organizers of the tournament (pictured left: Chief Executive Martin Slumbers)

The Open became more international, especially thanks to the Arnold Palmer-led US invasion

The Open became more international, especially thanks to the Arnold Palmer-led US invasion

Each player that qualifies for the major receives a card in the post which reads, ‘Welcome to The Open,’ with ‘The One. The Open,’ at the bottom. Very subtle.

The Open Championship originated back in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland with the competition for the original ‘challenge belt.’

That was 35 years before the first playing of the US Open, 56 years before the first PGA Championship and 74 years before the first Masters Tournament. 

It came before the term ‘major’ was even a twinkle in the golfing world’s eye. It came at a time when the highest level was a competition between private clubs rather than individuals. 

It wasn’t just the first Open Championship, it was the birth of modern golf tournaments as we know them. 

As the only championship around, it was very aptly known as ‘The Championship,’ before tournament organizers declared it should be ‘open to the whole world,’ finally developing into the Open Championship in 1872 when the Claret Jug replaced the challenge belt that was given to Young Tom Morris following his three straight wins. 

Yes, there’s been many different ‘open’ tournaments across the world since, from the Canadian to the Shriner’s and the Phoenix, and many more, but this was the first and it has never had – nor needed – an adjective to distinguish it. It was the US Open that followed 35 years later that needed the clarification. 

The Open Championship originated back in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland

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The Open Championship originated back in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland

A Clipping referring to the Open's prize as the 'first golf Championship Medal'

A Clipping referring to the Open’s prize as the ‘first golf Championship Medal’

Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris won the Open four times each in the 1800s

Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris won the Open four times each in the 1800s

Not only is the British Open not historically correct, it’s also not politically or geographically correct. 

The term British simply means relating to Great Britain, the name for the island comprising of England, Scotland and Wales. 

But the Open isn’t restricted to those three countries as Shane Lowry would surely be quick to point out, lest he be stripped of his 2019 win. 

The championship has been held on the County Antrim coast in Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush in 1951 and 2019 and will be returning in 2025. 

But Northern Ireland isn’t part of Great Britain, it’s the United Kingdom. So, to be technical, the Open isn’t even British.  

Shane Lowry won the Claret Jug in 2019 at Royal Portrush in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Shane Lowry won the Claret Jug in 2019 at Royal Portrush in County Antrim, Northern Ireland 

A true golf fan would shudder at referring to the ‘US Masters’, just because a British Masters exists. Or, even saying the ‘American Open’ or the’ American PGA Championship,’ instead of just sticking to the names that already exist. 

Dear America, if the rest of the world can get the names of your three majors correct, why can’t you manage just the one? After all, it was Scotland that gifted the world golf, it’s the least you can do. 

And, yes, even the professionals slip up sometimes. Two-time champion Ernie Els was booed when he said ‘we all fall into that trap’ back in 2017 , and both Smith and Morikawa have incorrectly named the tournament they have just won. 

But, really, it’s not that hard. 

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