When Did an Englishman Last Win the Open Championship?

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy (Credit: Ed Balaun / Flickr)

With the conclusion of the 2023 Open Championship the year’s majors were completed. Rory McIlroy finished tied sixth, whilst local aces, Matthew Jordan and Tommy Fleetwood, were joint 10th. That means that Rory’s long major drought continues and that the even longer wait for an Englishman to win the Open Championship also stretches on.

But just who was the last English golfer to taste glory at their home major? Have any Englishmen won any majors at all since then? And who has gone closest to winning the British Open during this barren spell for golfers competing under the Cross of St George?

Last English Winner of British Open

Nick Faldo
Nick Faldo (Credit: Steve Newton / Flickr)

The last English player to get their hands on the Claret Jug was Nick Faldo, now Sir Nick. The former world number one won the Open in 1992 at Muirfield to claim his third Open and second at that particular course. This success also gave him his fifth of the six majors he would go on to win.

Faldo was scintillating for the first three rounds, shooting 66, 64 and 69 on a tough course. A closing round of 73 was enough for him to claim the title by one shot from American John Cook. Faldo was 12 under, Cook 11 under, and Jose Maria Olazabal took third with a 10-under total of 274.

Going back further in time, Faldo also won the Open in 1990, tasting glory at St Andrews to earn his second win in the event. His scoring was even better than at Muirfield but followed a similar pattern, with rounds of 67-65-67-71 leaving him on minus 18 and five shots clear of the chasing pack.

The English great also won at Muirfield in 1987, with a more modest tally of 279 (five under par) enough to seal his first major. He famously hit 18 straight pars on the Sunday in tough conditions to turn a one-shot deficit with Paul Azinger into a one-shot victory. The American only managed a one-over 73 and despite leading until after the 70th hole, it was Faldo who got his hands on the famous trophy.

English Record Poor

Whilst the Open is played in Scotland most of the time, it remains the home major for English golfers. Despite this, and the limited travel, and familiarity with conditions, their record overall is poor. If we take Faldo’s trio of wins out of the equation, the last success by an Englishman was way back in 1969, some 54 years ago! Tony Jacklin won then, at Lytham St Annes in England, with the previous English success being in 1951.

Overall, England lies third in terms of total Open Championship wins (22) and also with regards to different winners (13). However, since the end of the First World War, the Open has been won by an English golfer on just 14 occasions. With six of those coming in consecutive years between 1934 and 1939, England’s record really is very poor overall.

Have UK/Irish Golfers Won the Open Since Faldo?

Since Faldo’s last Open win there have been a number of wins by players from the British Isles, as below:

  • 1999 – Paul Lawrie (Scotland)
  • 2007 – Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
  • 2008 – Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
  • 2011 – Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland)
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
  • 2019 – Shane Lowry (Ireland)

Have any Englishmen Won a Major Since Then?

Whilst English players have struggled very badly on the links courses of their home major, they have at least enjoyed success in the other three big ones. Of course, there are three other majors held outside of the UK, all in the USA, so they do have three times as many chances. Even so, since Faldo lifted the Claret Jug back in 1992, the following English players have all tasted success in a major championship:

Year Player Major Player’s Total Majors After Win
1996 Nick Faldo US Masters 6
2013 Justin Rose US Open 1
2016 Danny Willett US Masters 1
2022 Matt Fitzpatrick US Open 1

As we can see, it is not the case that English players have been tearing it apart at the other majors. So, whilst the long wait for an English victor at the Open may seem odd, it is really a reflection of the wider state of the sport in the country.

Best English Efforts at the Open Since 1992

Justin Rose
Justin Rose (Credit: Jhansen23 / Wikipedia)

Whilst no player has matched Faldo’s feats since, several English golfers have at least come close. As recently as 2022, Tommy Fleetwood was fourth, albeit six shots adrift of victor Cameron Smith. The staunch Evertonian was even closer back in 2019 when finished in sole-second, though once again he was six behind the winner, Shane Lowry.

In 2018, Justin Rose was tied second place in a strong year for Europeans, with Francesco Molinari winning and Eddie Pepperell finishing tied sixth. Two English players, Tyrell Hatton and Andrew Johnston, also made the top eight in 2016, whilst a year earlier Rose and Danny Willett both ended in a ti for sixth. In 2013 two Ryder Cup greats/LIV villains did even better, as friends Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter shared third place with Aussie Adam Scott. Indeed, that year, Westwood led by two shots with just 12 holes to play.

In 2009, Westwood went incredibly close again. He finished tied third with another Englishman, Chris Wood (Luke Donald was T5 as well) but it could have been so much better. He mistakenly believed he needed to birdie the last to have any chance and steamed a birdie putt past the hole. He missed the return when a par would have seen him in a play-off. Poulter also had a near miss in 2008, sharing the lead after his 16th hole on Sunday before Padraig Harrington came on strong to beat him.

There have been other close finishes since Faldo’s glorious last victory over the years, including Gary Evans in 2002 and little-known Steven Bottomley at St Andrews in 1995. However, for now at least, it remains a case of close but no cigar for Englishmen at the Open. Here’s to 2024!