For months this column has been pointing out that too often in golf the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
The loud presence of Bryson DeChambeau is good for the game, even if it irks traditionalists. DeChambeau’s cartoon persona, “scientist” schtick and his monstrous ball-hitting at least has the potential to take golf from its currently entrenched strongholds into new and lucrative markets.
DeChambeau’s attention-grabbing and the fact that he “moves the needle” has promoted him to the game’s No 1 young attraction.
But in terms of talent, in the professional arena Collin Morikawa has been clearly the better player, even before he won his second major on debut at The Open Championship.
Collin consistently outperforms Bryson
In the last two years, if you make a direct comparison, the smiley yet steely American with Japanese heritage has out-performed DeChambeau in every measurement except driving distance. In 2020 both players won lockdown majors, but Morikawa finished higher in the FedEx standings once the season was complete.
DeChambeau’s US Open win at Winged Foot last September counts for the current PGA Tour season. But even then, and adding his Bay Hill victory, Morikawa is outperforming Bryson again. He won the WGC Workday Championship in February and his major record in 2021 is T18-T8-T4-W compared to Bryson’s T46-T38-T26-T33.
And Morikawa has done all this pretty much under-the-radar. No drama, no outbursts, no apologies required. Just that warm smile and then that stone-cold killer instinct and cool he showed on Sunday at Royal St George’s, not even giving a glimpse of an opening to his pursuers.
You might make the complaint that Morikawa is one of a series of characterless and bland but technically sound golfers produced by the US college system of recent times, like Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler and the like.
But really, that’s because nobody’s much taken the trouble to talk to him. He’s an intelligent, eloquent lad, with a good sense of humour – witness his tussles with the European Tour’s social media department.
The word on him was that his iron play was all-world good, but putting would hold him back. Didn’t look too shabby at the weekend.
Self-contained, and self-confident
On Monday, I asked Collin why his coach/agent hadn’t made the trip over.
“I just don’t need them every week.”
Tells you everything you need to know. In an age of coddled players, he is refreshingly self-sufficient. There is a distinct lack of pretension. An absolute superstar.
— Daniel Rapaport (@Daniel_Rapaport) July 18, 2021
It was also notable that Morikawa’s two weeks in the UK at the Scottish and the Open, it was just him and his caddie JJ. No massive entourage, no hangers on. He’s quite self-contained, without that need for constant reinforcement.
Morikawa even changed his irons between Renaissance and Sandwich. He realised he needed a different spec for links turf, and just did it. No need to engage a whole battalion of Research and Development staff from his equipment suppliers.
He just appears to be an outstanding, technically-sound player with a pleasant manner and a mental strength and attitude of formidable proportions.
It’s going to be fun getting to know Collin Morikawa better and – most likely – seeing him accumulate more majors.
Harrington’s Ryder Cup choices become clearer
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) July 19, 2021
Two notable strategic issues also changed as a result of the Open. Firstly Jon Rahm’s strong finish put him back to World No 1.
And quite rightly. It was an utter nonsense he lost the ranking to Dustin Johnson when DJ was idle last week while Rahm played – and pretty well – at the Scottish.
Secondly, Shane Lowry moved into the ninth and final qualifying position in the European Team’s Ryder Cup standings after his T12 finish. The man to drop out was France’s Victor Perez, who missed the cut at Sandwich and has been under threat for some time.
It’s hard to imagine Padraig Harrington giving Perez a wildcard unless his form picks up dramatically. Qualifying ends at the BMW PGA Championship.
The other eight players in the qualifying standings won’t be moved and include just one rookie, Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
Poulter, Garcia and one other?
Matt Fitzpatrick 📈
Thomas Detry 📈
Ian Poulter 📈
All three made moves in the European Points Race at the #abrdnScottishOpen.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) July 12, 2021
Will Harrington be inclined to go with a rookie in one of his three wildcards? You’d imagine he’ll give one last hurrah to Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, in fact he’s said as much. But that third spot?
Francesco Molinari would be a popular choice, but he’s surely got to show a lot more form. Then there’s the other rookies on the bubble, Bernd Weisberger and…Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre.
I kind of think Bob’s got to win something this next two months – anything – to get in. That would prove to Harrington he was worth any risk.
Thomas Pieters came with a late run nobody expected five years ago and Darren Clarke was smitten. There’s still time for MacIntyre to do the same.
Sandwich struggles with even a reduced Open
An over-excited – and opportunistically cynical – Northern Irish politician let slip last week that Royal Portrush will host the 2025 Open. That’s great, and largely expected.
It also shows that the R&A want to return quickly to places where the authorities – in this case the NI Assembly – bend over backwards to help them. Existing and ambitious hosts should take note.
The Open won’t be back at Sandwich for a decade, but they really need to up their game. The narrow roads around the course were downright dangerous for motorists and spectators, the park and ride double decker buses struggling to get people to the course.
Sandwich – the town – was gridlocked on Thursday. Sergio Garcia and Australian Lucas Herbert needed police escorts to get to the course in time for their slots.
The R&A seem to have been prepared to overlook certain shortcomings with this venue because it’s the only host in the south and nearest to London. But even Carnoustie is far better for access than Royal St George’s and there’s a bloody railway line in the way there.
A normal Open – the reduced Covid version went off well, as far as we know – might be too much now for this place.