The Open 2016: How have defenders of the Claret Jug fared?

As the Open Championship begins at Royal Troon on Thursday, how will the odds fare of defending champion Zach Johnson retaining the Claret Jug in Ayreshire?

The Open 2016: How have defenders of the Claret Jug fared?
Photo: Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

It was 12 months ago at St. Andrews where Zach Johnson became the latest name to be etched onto the famous Claret Jug, after winning The 144th Open Championship.

The American came out on top in a play-off with former champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman, on The Old Course in Scotland

As Johnson defends his title at Royal Troon, how do the American's odds fare in winning back-to-back Gold Medals?

2007 Masters champion attempts to defend crown

As the winner of only one other major back in 2007, the former Masters champion's chances - on paper - look slim.

Johnson's achievement however pointed to the resurgence in his game in becoming only the sixth player to win majors at the home of golf and the Augusta National. He joined Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in an exclusive club.

The now 40 year-old had teased at being able to put a run-in at The Open since 2011. In three of four attempts prior to 2015, Johnson had finished inside the top 20 at Royal St. Georges and Royal Lytham and St. Annes. At Muirfield in 2013 after recording a final score of 280, Johnson finished tied for sixth. But can anything be drawn from that?

Retaining Claret Jug remains tall order

Three men have retained the trophy in the last 33 years, but none in almost a decade. Padraig Harrington's double at Carnoustie and a year later at Royal Birkdale 2008 was the last occasion.

Admittedly, Woods achieved the same feat the previous two years, but before then, Tom Watson's 1983 victory was the only other occurrence - curiously at the site of the weekend's Open, Troon.

Padraig Harrington was the last man to retain the claret jug in 2008 (photo:getty)
Padraig Harrington was the last man to retain the claret jug in 2008 (photo:getty)

Defending the silver chalice has indeed been a poisoned one of late. Since 2009, all who have returned to defend the title have finished outside the top 20 on the links. 2011 champion Darren Clarke, failed to make the cut at Lytham and St. Annes.

Zach Johnson will this weekend return to the scene of his debut Open bow in 2004. The American however will be looking to erase memories of a major tournament that failed to extend into the weekend, having carded a 149 over two days. 

Unfortunately for Johnson the pressure will be there. As a rare commidity of a PGA Tour player reknowned as a links 'expert', expectation is high.

Dustin Johnson is seeking a second successive major triumph this calendar year, and alongside world number one Jason Day is seen as a favourite, after both having coming close in previous years.

Johnson has recent history firmly against him and it will be interesting to see whether the defending champion rises above pressure, or merely flounders, in the hazardous and likely damp surroundings of Troon.