Which players have won a men’s golf Major on their debut?

Which golfers have won on their men’s Major debuts?

The number to win on their first start is remarkably small when you consider the Majors started 164 years ago.

And if we take the Majors as we know them today – The Masters, US PGA Championship, US Open and The Open – and discount The Amateur Championship and US Amateur, which were originally considered Majors, just eight players have won on their debut. And one of those was by default because it was the first Major – the 1860 Open – so every player was a debutant.

Even then, the first time it happened, which came at the 1860 Open, was by default. That’s because, as it was the first Major, someone had to win on debut. 

Willie Park Snr – The Open (1860)

Scotland’s Willie Park Snr was the winner of the very first Major, way back in 1860 at The Open. Just eight players pegged it up at Prestwick Golf Club for three rounds of 12 holes. Park Snr beat Tom Morris Snr by two shots and went on to win three more Opens.

The event was held to decide the best player in the world following the death of Allen Robertson in 1859.

Tom Kidd – The Open (1873)

In 1873, The Open moved away from Prestwick for the first time, taking place at The Old Course, St Andrews. By that point, the tournament was played over two rounds of 18 holes, and Kidd carded rounds of 91 and 88 to beat Jamie Anderson by a shot for what would be his only Major win.

As well as being the first recipient of the Claret Jug, Kidd also received £11 from the overall purse of £25.

Mungo Park – The Open (1874)

Park won The Open at his local course, Musselburgh Links in Scotland, the first time the tournament was held there. The field had expanded to 32 and they played four rounds of nine holes with £8 prize money on the line. Park, who beat Tom Morris Jnr by two shots, never won the trophy again.

Horace Rawlins – US Open (1895)

Horace Rawlins won the US Open in its inaugural year. The Englishman won the second Major over ten other players at Newport Country Club. It was played over one day and 36 holes, with Rawlins beating Willie Dunn by two shots. He was rewarded with a gold medal and $150.

Fred Herd – US Open (1898)

Fred Herd made his Major debut in the fourth US Open and the first to be played over 72 holes. It took place at Myopia Hunt Club in Massachusetts, which only had nine holes, meaning eight rounds were played! Scotsman Herd, who’d only emigrated the previous year, saw off 44 other competitors, including compatriot Alex Smith to win by seven shots. Impressive.

Francis Ouimet won the US Open on debut.

Francis Ouimet – US Open (1913)

Francis Ouimet’s Major debut is the most impressive of all. He won the 1913 Massachusetts Amateur before losing in the US Amateur quarter finals, and then entering the US Open at Brookline against his father’s wishes.

The amateur took Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to an 18-hole playoff and coped best in the torrential rainfall to win by five over Vardon and six over Ray. Ouimet’s victory made waves and helped the initial growth of the game.

Ben Curtis won The Open in 2003.

Ben Curtis – The Open (2003)

It took 90 years for the seventh player to join the list of golfers who’d won a men’s Major on debut.

Ben Curtis only qualified for the 2003 Open with a tie for 13th at the Western Open a fortnight earlier. He was fourth after the second round at Royal St George’s and went into Sunday just two shots behind leader Thomas Bjorn.

Curtis was six-under through the 11th in his final round to lead by two. Thomas Bjorn, with Billy Foster on the bag, famously struggled over the remaining holes, but it was his struggle to escape a bunker on the 16th that eventually ensured he finished one behind Curtis.

Keegan Bradley will aim to win his second PGA Championship having previously lifted the trophy in 2011.

Keegan Bradley – PGA Championship (2011)

During his rookie season in 2011 Keegan Bradley hit the ground running, with two top-10 finishes before winning the HP Bryon Nelson Championship in May.

Nonetheless, he headed to the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club outside the world’s Top 100 and was not expected to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy. Eight off the lead after round one, Bradley fired a Friday 64 to share top spot with Jason Dufner. He was one behind Brendan Steele after Saturday before a triple-bogey at the 15th in the final round looked to have ended his hopes, leaving him five behind Dufner. But Bradley birdied 16 and 17 and Dufner made three successive bogeys to fall into a playoff with his fellow American.

Bradley’s birdie and two pars across the three-hole decider proved enough to secure his only Major crown to date.

About the Author

Rob Jerram is Today's Golfer's Digital Editor.

Rob Jerram – Digital Editor

Rob specializes in the DP World Tour, PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the Ryder Cup, spending large chunks of his days reading about, writing about, and watching the tours each month.

He’s passionate about the equipment used by professional golfers and is also a font of knowledge regarding golf balls, golf trolleys, and golf bags, testing thousands down the years.

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