Collin Morikawa smashes history at The 149th Open
6 Min Read
Wins second major title in just his eighth major championship event
Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
SANDWICH, England – Tiger’s killer irons and instinct. Phil’s courage, smile and warmth.
Fellow Californian Collin Morikawa invoked thoughts of the two most successful Golden State-bred golfers who came before him as he became the first player to win two different majors in his debut at The 149th Open.
One is reluctant to tie the 24-year-old’s achievements to these legends, such is their enormity, but it is impossible not to watch the now five-time PGA TOUR winner and be amazed. False dawns for new prodigies have come and gone but in Morikawa we seem blessed with a stayer.
“He’s a special kid. I’m lucky to have him. He seems like he has been there 100 times and he hasn’t,” caddie Jonathan Jakovac says. “It just goes to his mental strength and his maturity, and you add the freakish ball-striking to an absolute stone-cold demeanor who is very comfortable in all situations … and you get someone special.”
Let’s just take it all in, shall we?
With his win at Royal St. George’s, Morikawa is the first player in the history of the game to win two different majors on their first attempt. His name stands alone. No Woods, Mickelson, Nicklaus, Hogan, Player or Palmer.
Granted a pandemic of epic proportions made the achievement more accessible but it still should not be discounted. And it is just the first of a myriad of accolades.
• It is a second major win in just eight major starts.
• He joined Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth as the only players in the last 100 years with multiple major wins before age 25.
• He joined Woods as the only players to win The Open and PGA Championship before age 25.
• He became the seventh player since 1900 to win The Open on debut and first since Ben Curtis in 2003, also at Royal St. George’s. Jock Hutchison (1921), Denny Shute (1933), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Lema (1964) and Tom Watson (1975) are the others.
• He became the sixth winner of The Open to record four rounds in the 60s joining Greg Norman (1993), Nick Price (1994), Woods (2000), Henrik Stenson (2016) and Spieth (2017).
• He joined Jones and Nicklaus as the only players to win multiple majors before age 25 when trailing entering the final round.
• Become the third player to win multiple majors with final rounds of 66 or better joining Nicklaus and Johnny Miller.
• His 265 total was one stroke shy of 72-hole tournament scoring record.
Credit where credit is due.
Furthermore Morikawa finished Sunday with a bogey-free 4-under 66 to best Spieth by two. It was just his second event playing links style golf after last week’s Scottish Open on the European Tour.
And he had the courage to change three of his scoring irons AND change his putting grip from saw-style to conventional for longer putts pre-tournament. That is Mickelson-esque.
The enormity of history wasn’t even a featherweight on his back as he coupled a Claret Jug with his 2020 acquisition of the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship.
The Cal graduate won at Harding Park with no spectators and even though he burst out of a seven-way tie with a chip-in on the 14th followed by an incredible eagle on the drivable par-4 16th, the doubters said he wouldn’t have done so amidst a raucous gallery.
But a vociferous 32,000 fans were at Royal St. George’s and they had earlier shown a distinct favoritism to fellow contenders Louis Oosthuizen and Spieth. They quickly warmed to Morikawa. He earned it.
“He seems to perform better in big spots,” Jakovac says.
“I think (the no crowd at the PGA) was a little overblown. You know the stakes of the PGA. You look at the leaderboard and we are tied with seven people for first in a major championship. There are no people there but we are in that moment knowing what is up for grabs. There��s no added pressure when there are fans … especially when you have the focus that kid has.”
“I'm glad I look calm because the nerves are definitely up there. But you channel these nerves into excitement and energy, and that puts you away from a fear factor into this is something I want,” Morikawa said.
And Tiger-like ball-striking.
Morikawa ranked fifth in the field for greens in regulation, hitting 75%. Pre-tournament, he was gaining 1.5 strokes on average a round in Strokes Gained: Approach, leading the TOUR in the statistic by a healthy margin.
“His dispersion is just better. He hits his 6-iron as close as others out here hit their 9-irons,” Jakovac explains.
But he was up against Oosthuizen, who held the lead after the first three rounds, and leads the TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Morikawa? He entered the week ranked 172nd on TOUR in putting. Yet he led the Open Championship with just 111 putts and didn’t have a three-putt all week.
“Definitely one of the best putting performances of my life, especially inside 10 feet. I felt like it was as solid as it's going to get. I don't think I really missed many from that distance,” he said.
“Everything about my stats say I'm not a good putter. I feel like I can get a lot better. But in these situations, I feel like everything is thrown off the table. Forget about all your stats, it’s who can perform well in these situations.
“I'm going to try to figure out what worked today and use that for the future because I know I can putt well in these pressure situations. I've just got to keep doing that.”
The intellect both on and off course is palpable. So too is his sincerity in his praise of others within his circle. He even had the crowd sing Happy Birthday to Jakovac as part of his victory speech.
“I just enjoy these moments,” Morikawa said as the secret to success. “I talk about it so much that we love what we do and you have to embrace it. You have to be excited about these opportunities, and that's how I looked at it today, especially coming down the stretch.
“At 24 years old, it's so hard to look back at the two short years that I have been a pro and see what I've done because I want more. I enjoy these moments and I love it, and I want to teach myself to embrace it a little more… but I just want more.
“When you're in these moments and you truly love what you do, which I love playing golf and competing against these guys, these are the best moments ever.”
We should all enjoy his success because if the trend continues, we won’t need to compare him to others – his name will well and truly continue to stand out on its own.