SANDWICH, England — Shane Lowry is in position to do something that has only been accomplished once: repeat as British Open champion after a postponement or cancellation of the previous championship.
Lowry, the winner at Royal Portrush in 2019, was unable to defend his title in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponed 149th British Open was delayed until this week.
The Open has only been postponed or cancelled four times in its history, the first coming after the 1870 Open when Young Tom Morris won the championship for his third consecutive time (1868-1870), keeping the Challenge Belt, made of red Moroccan leather with a large silver buckle.
By rule, the winner of three consecutive Opens kept the belt permanently.
Since the belt was given to Young Morris forever, the 1871 Open was postponed because funds for a new trophy were unavailable.
In 1872, the Claret Jug replaced the belt as the trophy for the Open winner and Morris again won the championship, winning his fourth consecutive Open and becoming the only player to successfully defend the title after a postponement or cancelation.
The next postponement came after the 1914 Open at Prestwick, when Harry Vardon won by three strokes over J.H. Taylor. The Open was not played again until 1920 when Scotsman George Duncan won the championship.
The 1939 Open was won by Englishman Dick Burton at St. Andrews, but with World War II starting in September 1939, the Open was again postponed until Sam Snead won at St. Andrews in 1946.
“I have no idea, to be honest,” said Lowry of his defense. “The thing is obviously I've defended tournaments before, but I've never come and defended a tournament of this magnitude. I've never really had that. Everything that happens for me this week is kind of new.”
At 40-1 in Las Vegas, odds are strong that Lowry will not join Young Tom Morris as the only players to ever successfully defend his title after a postponement.
“I think, I hope that I can be competitive this week,” Lowry said. “I just like to put up a good defense of my trophy, and I'd give anything to have a chance to win come the weekend. I'm out there planning for that over the next few days, and we'll see how it goes.”
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