The British Open: The 10 best players from each era

Rory McIlroy, British Open,(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy, British Open,(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images) /
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British Open, St. Andrews, R&A, The Open, 150th Open
Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /

British Open: The first post-war era (1920-29)

Vardon, Taylor, and Braid were all either retired or past their prime by the war’s conclusion, prompting a full-out changing of the power guard. Also central to that change was the emergence of foreign powers, specifically the Americans.

Two, in particular, stood out. Walter Hagen played in eight Opens between 1921 and 1929, winning three times (1924-26-28) and finishing second in 1923.

James Barnes, a native Britisher who had emigrated and was a two-time PGA champion, won in1925, finished second to Hagen in 1922 and earned a top 10 finish annually between 1920 and 1925.

Top 10 Players Of The First Post-War Era.

1.       Walter Hagen, -1.76

2.       Jim Barnes, -1.29

3.       Abe Mitchell, -1.22

4.       George Duncan, -1.02

5.       Ernest Whitcombe, -1.01

6.       Joe Kirkwood, -1.01

7.       Aubrey Boomer, -0.98

8.       Percy Alliss, -0.98

9.       Arthur Havers, -0.97

10.    Len Holland, -0.96

Conspicuous by its absence is the name of a certain American amateur, Bobby Jones. He won the championship three times, in 1926 and 1927 on his way to his 1930 grand slam.

For purposes of this exercise, the problem is that those were Jones’ only three completed appearances in the Open, so his database – while superb – is insufficient to qualify him for consideration.

The name of Percy Alliss, eighth on the decade list, is worth a footnote. A quality player in his own right, he is maybe better known as the father of Peter Alliss, the dominant figure in British golf analysis from the 1980s into the 21st Century.