The Bay Area’s only PGA Tour event, the Frys.com Open, may reap an unexpected benefit from Rory McIlroy’s celebrated wire-to-wire win in the Open Championship on July 20, 2014—a repeat appearance by the Golf Championship Trophy, also known as the Claret Jug.
Two years ago the 2012 Open Championship winner Ernie Els was in the field at Frys.com Open at CordeValle Resort, near Morgan Hill. Els brought with him to CordeValle the replica of the Claret Jug that each year’s champion is given to keep until the next year’s event, where the trophy had as many photos taken of it as any player in the field. Rory McIlroy’s commitment to play in the 2014 Frys.com Open, which was announced April 7, 2014 means that there will once again be a “Champion Golfer of the Year” (the formal title of each year’s winner of the Open Championship)‚ in the field at the Frys, and possibly a return of the Claret Jug to the event.
The original Claret Jug was first presented to the Champion Golfer of the Year in 1873, 13 years after the first Open Championship was held, but from 1928 has been retained on permanent display at the clubhouse of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Since that time, each year’s winner has been presented with the current replica to retain for a year, returning it in one year’s time for presentation to the next year’s champion. At the end of their tenure, each champion is given a replica to keep.
It has become customary each year for the Open Champion to travel with the presentation replica of the Claret Jug. In 2012 Ernie Els, the South African who overtook Australia’s Adam Scott over the final four holes for the victory at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England, brought the trophy with him when he competed in the Frys.com Open. It is only speculation, but it is not out of the question that the 2014 champion, Rory McIlroy, will bring the Claret Jug with him when he comes to the Frys tournament’s new home, the Silverado Resort in Napa, next October for the 2014 Frys.com Open.
This year will be the second year that the Frys tournament has opened the PGA Tour season. Formerly one of the late-season Fall Series events which did not award FedEx Cup points, the Frys became the season opener when the PGA Tour instituted a wrap-around season for 2013–2014.
The change to season-opener increased the standing of the tournament within the PGA Tour lineup, and has brought with it an increased interest from PGA pros who want to get a jump on the standings for the season-long FedEx Cup title. The 2013 champion, Oklahoma native Jimmy Walker, notched up his first PGA Tour victory at the Frys event. Walker recorded two more wins after the Frys, at the Sony Open in Hawaii, in January, and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, in February, and with eight top 10 appearances so far this season, and 15 Top 25 finishes, has led the FedEx Cup standings ever since his win at the Frys.