Many Things, Like Ladybugs, Have Filled Claret Jug

By Jon Ackerman 07/24/2013

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    With his come-from-behind victory Sunday at the Open Championship, the famed Claret Jug is now in Phil Mickelson's hands. Lefty owns possession of the trophy until he arrives at Royal Liverpool for next year's tournament.

    Ernie Els, the 2012 champ, relinquished the chalice when he pulled up to Muirfield last Monday. What Els did with it for the past year he didn't elaborate, other than to say it traveled the world.

    Surely a drink or two found its way inside. That's the most standard of uses for the jug. One of the most uncommon? Filling it with ladybugs, or ladybirds as they're known around the United Kingdom. That's what Padraig Harrington said he did with his son, Patrick, after winning in 2007:

    We assume that came after the John Smith's Smooth Bitter beer Harrington said he drank from the Claret Jug. Regardless, a lot of beer was drank and a lot ladybugs were captured because Harrington won again in 2008.

    But beer is usually the way to go. Stewart Cink, the '09 winner, said he first poured in Guinness, his brew of choice. His kids followed with some Coke, and later, he actually basted some barbecue with it. Eventually, he enjoyed some wine out of the cup.

    That is actually how the Claret Jug received its name. The Bordeaux region of France produces a dry red wine called claret. Silver jugs were used to serve that wine at parties in the 1800s.

    Yet, it seems the alcoholic beverage to most often be sipped from the Open Championship's jug is beer. That's what Ben Curtis also filled it with in 2003. "It just seemed like I was intoxicated for the first week," he said.

    Other liquids have been consumed, though. Greg Norman popped a bottle of champagne on the 18th hole late at night following his victory in 1986, then drank it out of the Claret Jug.

    Justin Leonard's mother brewed some ice tea and served it to her son, the 1997 victor.

    The most expensive drink consumed from the container may have been Cristal, a type of champagne that regularly goes for more than $200 per bottle. That's what Todd Hamilton enjoyed after he triumphed in 2004. Upon returning home to Dallas, a restaurant-owning friend gave Hamilton $500 off his bill for bringing in the trophy.

    And these are just the stories of which we're aware. Tiger Woods has won the Open Championship three times (2000,'05, '06) but won't say what he put in the Claret Jug. He joked that he couldn't remember because of what he drank out of it. "I certainly enjoyed my libations of choice. But that's the extent of it. I never took it any further than that. It never left the house," he said.

    Darren Clarke, however, says he didn't drop a single drop of anything inside the jug while it was in his possession after his 2011 win. He said he has too much respect for the trophy.

    Or maybe he just couldn't find it sanitary after hearing all these stories. This is the same exact jug we're talking about here, not a new one every year.

    The first Claret Jug was presented in 1873, but since 1927 a replica has been handed out. The Royal & Ancient took control and opted to save the original, putting it on permanent display in the clubhouse of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

    The current trophy is engraved with the winner's name each year. From there, it is in that golfer's hands until he returns to the site of the next year's Open Championship. Upon handing it over, the player receives his own replica to keep forever.

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