Watch out for the quiet ones. Collin Morikawa, golf’s less-recognised new superstar, confidently walked away with the Claret Jug with an impressive and unflappable performance in the 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
The 24-year-old Las Vegas-based player became the first player to win two separate majors at his first attempt since the great Bobby Jones. This was Morikawa’s Open debut, and he won the PGA Championship in San Francisco at his first attempt last year.
He is the first debutant to win the Open since Ben Curtis, also at Sandwich, in 2003.
Nothing but class from @Collin_Morikawa.
A very deserving champion. pic.twitter.com/FNEBzVsN9a
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2021
And Morikawa won beating two former Open champions. 2017 winner Jordan Spieth trailed by two shots alone in second, with 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen four back. Morikawa’s final round 66 completed a 15-under-par total of 265, a record for Sandwich.
US Open champion Jon Rahm shared third place with Oosthuizen on 11-under after a final round 66. The South African has now had 10 top tens – six runner-up finishes and now two third places but no wins – since his 2010 title at St Andrews.
But the smiling Morikawa wasn’t for sentimentality in the blazing sunshine. One behind at the start of the final day, he claimed the lead at the long seventh and then held it with barely any suggestion of wavering the rest of the way.
Key moments for the three contenders on the fourth
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 18, 2021
When the leading groups went out they seemed to drag their feet on what was a good day for scoring – four 65s in the books before they’d even reached the first tee.
But no-one seemed to want to take it on. For the first six holes, no-one in the last seven groups moved forward at all.
But the fourth had proved the first indication of what was to come. All of the leading three missed the green on the tough and rolling 500-yard par four to the right, and each had a different approach to try to get up and down.
Spieth tried a bump and run into the bank, and bogeyed. Oosthuizen tried to use the bank at the back of the green, and bogeyed. Morikawa tried an all-American flop shot – the least linksy shot in his arsenal – and was the only one to come away with a par.
He didn’t have the lead on his own until the long seventh, when Oosthuizen made an almighty mess of possibly the easiest hole on the course. He knifed two bunker shots and took bogey, while Morikawa birdied in regulation fashion.
A sudden two-shot lead
A sudden two-shot lead, and the links novice playing the two former champions was never to relinquish it. In fact he drove the dagger home – two magnificent iron shots at eight and nine, and birdies at both made it surely all over bar the shouting.
A defiant Spieth did raise his voice at least for a bit. He had recovered from his poor start with an eagle three at seven and then added three more birdies to get within one when he birdied the second par five, the 14th. But he wasn’t unable to add any more down the finishing stretch.
But Morikawa wasn’t one for nerves or looking over his shoulder, anyway. He holed a 15 footer for birdie at 14, and the only moment of even slight stress was an eight-foot putt for par at 15, which he made confidently. No worries.
‘I needed a break and I didn’t get it from him’
“I’m proud of going 6-under in the last 12 and putting some pressure on Collin,” said Spieth.
“I heard he made a big par save on 10, made a putt up the ridge on 14 and a par save on 15. I needed a break, and I didn’t get it from him.”
Attention will be paid to Spieth’s three-putt on 18 on Saturday night. Holing the first, a 15 foot birdie try, would have given him the two strokes he ultimately fell short by.
“I’m upset because I really felt like I played well enough to win,” he said. “I made a couple of really dumb mistakes like just stepping in and missing a two-footer on 18 yesterday, not really thinking about it.
“But at the same time, I did everything I could in the past few hours to win this championship.”