Golf greats and shock winners among Sandwich's Open champions

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This week sees the British Open return to Royal St George's in Sandwich, southeast England.

The first venue outside Scotland to stage golf's oldest major in 1894, Royal St George's has played host to 14 previous Open Championships.

Below AFP Sport looks back at some of the famous -- and not so famous -- names to have enjoyed Open glory at Sandwich.

1899: Vardon out in front

One of the great players of the late 19th and early 20th Century, Harry Vardon won the third of his record six British Opens and first of two at Sandwich by five shots with a contemporary report saying he "hit every ball with magnificent freedom and power". Vardon also set the fashion style on the course becoming the first professional golfer to play in knickerbockers.

1922: Hagen's first British Open title

Walter Hagen, one of the most colourful and popular sports figures of his age, once explained his approach by saying: "I never wanted to be a millionaire. I just wanted to live like one."

A winner of 11 major championships -- a tally bettered only by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods -- Hagen's one-shot victory in 1922 was the first of his four British Open titles and the first by an American-born golfer.

Hagen also won the 1928 British Open at Sandwich.

1985: Lyle joins the elite

As an 11-year-old, Sandy Lyle had watched Tony Jacklin win the 1969 British Open at Royal Lytham -- 16 years later he became the next home winner of the title.

Lyle's one-shot victory sparked a run of eight major titles by British golfers -- four British Opens and four US Masters -- in seven years.

1993: Norman's sensational finish

The Australian endured a frustrating seven-year gap between Open titles after triumphing at Turnberry in 1986.

But from one behind after 54 holes, Norman's superb closing 64 took him ahead of a high-class field that included his longtime English rival Nick Faldo.

2003: Curtis' stunning triumph

The 500/1 outsider Ben Curtis became the first player in nearly a hundred years to win at his first appearance at a major as the 26-year-old from Ohio enjoyed the week of his golfing life to win by one shot.

"Right now many people are probably saying: 'Well, he doesn't belong there,'" said Curtis at the time.

"But I know I do and that's all that matters," he added after becoming the first debut winner of a British Open since Tom Watson in 1975.

But while Watson was one of golf's greatest players, this was Curtis's lone major title and by 2017 he had stopped playing professional golf.

2011: Clarke ends long wait for Open glory

Darren Clarke finally became a British Open champion in his 20th appearance when the Championship was last played at Sandwich.

A 200/1 chance at the start of the week, the Northern Irishman put some poor form with the putter behind him to post an opening round of 68 before the 42-year-old won by three shots from Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Full list of British Open champions at Royal St George's, Sandwich:

1894: JH Taylor (ENG)

1899: Harry Vardon (ENG)

1904: Jack White (SCO)

1911: Harry Vardon (ENG)

1922: Walter Hagen (USA)

1928: Walter Hagen (USA)

1934: Henry Cotton (ENG)

1938: Reg Whitcombe (ENG)

1949: Bobby Locke (RSA)

1981: Bill Rogers (USA)

1985: Sandy Lyle (SCO)

1993: Greg Norman (AUS)

2003: Ben Curtis (USA)

2011: Darren Clarke (NIR)

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