From spectral calm in San Francisco last year to thunderous acclaim at the 149th Open on Sunday evening, Collin Morikawa didn’t just place his name next to the legends of the game, he achieved something that’s earned him a page in golf lore that will surely forever remain his own.
To win one major championship on your debut in the event is rare enough. To win two is not only territory previously unexplored but hitherto not even considered. Not even by the bloke called Tiger.
To think, there were plenty who wondered when he won the USPGA Championship on his first appearance in his home state of California in front of no fans, whether those factors had been pivotal in his success.
Collin Morikawa won The Open at the first attempt as he finished 15 under par on Sunday
The 24-year-old, who won the 2020 USPGA Championship, answered any doubts over himself
Morikawa’s success at his age is impressive and he addressed concerns over his putting
Becoming the Champion Golfer of the Year on first sight of the most funky course on the Open rota rather answers that one. The 24 year old joins Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as the only men to win the Open in the last 60 years at such a young age.
How Spieth, now 27, tried to deny him his gilded throne. He had three majors to his name at 23 and this was like the Spieth of that era, as he picked up six shots in a blistering run of golf from the 7th.
Playing behind him, Morikawa would have had to have been deaf not to know what was going on. He’d already seen off poor Louis Oosthuizen, who was not the same golfer over the last two rounds as he had been in setting his 36 hole record score. Could he hold off Spieth?
They reckon the weakest part of Morikawa’s game is his putting but we surely have to consign that thought to history’s dustbin after this. Every time questions were asked, he responded with putts that found the bottom of the hole every time. ‘He’s already had a great career and he’s only been a pro for two years,’ said Sir Nick Faldo, on Sky.
Jordan Spieth provided Morikawa with competition but was ultimately unable to prevail
Amidst marvellous scenes with the 18th hole framed by thousands of fans, Morikawa emerged from the cauldron with a bogey-free 66 for a two stroke victory over Spieth, with luckless Louis tied third, two further strokes behind.
Adding to the excitement of the closing stretch was a bit of Rahm rage. Dormant for 12 holes, Jon Rahm had four birdies in a row but Morikawa was too impervious for it to matter. Rahm caught Louis but not the men out in front. Nevertheless, following up his US Open win with this top three will see him ranked this morning as the new world number one.
There were plenty of other fascinating storylines to intrigue the spectators who revelled in the freedom and the glorious sunshine.
Bob MacIntyre finished tied sixth on his Open debut at Royal Portrush in 2019 but the Scot looked to be feeling the weight of expectation when he opened with a 72 on Thursday. What a response, though, from the exciting left-hander from Oban, who birdied the 18th on Friday to make the halfway cut, and then followed it with a 65 on Saturday.
Louis Oosthuizen made a stuttering start on day four and eventually ended up falling away
When he got to eight under for the event after 13 holes on Sunday there was the exciting thought he might post a testing total, but driving out of bounds at the dangerous par five 14th took care of that. Typical MacIntyre, he bounced back with a birdie with his second ball and followed it with five pars for a 67 and tied 8th place. Believe it or not, he’s now posted as many top ten finishes in the Open in two starts as Colin Montgomerie managed in his entire career.
At the venue where Sandy Lyle won the Open, the 24 year old has served notice that he can follow in his footsteps all the way to holding the Claret Jug himself one day.
Brooks Koepka fell away badly on Saturday and was clearly smarting when he got to the first tee. The Floridian, who shot a third round 72, made his move with a birdie at the 6th and then followed it with an eagle at the 7th. A birdie at the 9th took him out in 31 shots and raised brief thoughts of an unlikely charge into contention. Too much damage had been inflicted, however, as Koepka picked up one more shot for a 65 and what would prove tied sixth place to continue his remarkable run in the majors. This was his ninth top six finish in his last 16 starts.
Fans flocked to the Royal St George’s course to witness the Open Championship finale
Around 32,000 more supporters have flocked to sunny Sandwich in Kent to view the action
Rory McIlroy finished on a 72 hole total of level par, which was some achievement in itself to be placed so badly given he had 17 birdies over four rounds. Not for the first time over the past two years, he had as many gains as the people contending for the title but finished buried in the pack after as many mistakes as the back markers.
After a three week trip to the British Isles that has been a massive disappointment following his tied 7th finish at the US Open, he’ll be back in Florida by now for a welcome break, before jetting to Japan for the Olympics.
A week of wild drives and unsavoury headlines at least ended on a positive note for Bryson DeChambeau. With the sun on their backs and no pressure, he was one of three Americans out early to post a 65, the others being Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler. This was the first time the Mad Scientist had ever so much as broken 70 in the Open, and it was the lowest round of his career in a major.
Rory McIlroy finished on a 72 hole total of level par despite having 17 birdies over two rounds
No prizes for guessing he did so by dropping the reckless gambler approach and adopting the strategy of an accountant. ‘I enjoy coming here and I enjoy trying to figure out the challenge,’ he said. ‘I feel like I’ve earned a lot this week. This definitely felt like progress.’
It didn’t feel like progress when placed alongside his fellow American who’s three years younger, already won more majors and will be flying home with the best piece of silverware in the game.