Collin Morikawa with the Claret Jug – photo Matthew Lewis R&A /R&A via Getty
In just his eighth appearance in a major championship, Californian, Collin Morikawa, added a second title at the elite level of the game, when he outplayed and outlasted the game’s current greats to win The Open Championship at Royal St Georges.
At one stage the world’s leading ranked amateur golfer, Morikawa will now trail only John Rahm and Dustin Johnson as the world’s greatest players at any level following his two-shot victory over Jordan Spieth at Royal St Georges today.
Two years ago, Morikawa was outside the world top 1000 in the game but five wins on the PGA Tour in that time including the two major titles have swept him to his now highest ranking of 3 and given that both major titles have come on debut it is a fair bet to assume the growth curve is a long way from over.
Morikawa began the day one shot behind the long-time leader, Louis Oosthuizen but, by the turn, he was four ahead of the South African and although he would add only one more birdie when he holed a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th the gap was too great for his chasers.
Eventually it would be Jordan Spieth who threw out the biggest threat to Morikawa. After his two late bogeys on Saturday, Spieth had begun the final day in third place but three shots from Oosthuizen and two behind the then leader.
When Spieth bogeyed the 4th and 6th any realistic chance of him winning appeared gone and so it would prove but he fought his way back with an eagle at the 7th then added another four birdies for a round of 66 to equal that of the winner’s but it was not quite enough.
Spieth would finish runner-up, with Jon Rahm 3rd after making a strong late bid with four consecutive birdies from the 13th to put himself in the picture should Morikawa falter over the closing stages.
It was not to be, however, with Morikawa playing mistake free golf to win by two with Rahm two further back in third place and tied with Oosthuizen who for the 8th time in major championship golf finished either runner-up or third.
Morikawa was clearly delighted to have won on Open Championship debut, but he is obviously keen for more as he outlined when asked how he would reflect on this amazing start to his professional career.
“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, maybe spend a few extra days and sit back and drink out of this. But — yeah, 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 because the nerves push you to just be a better person.”
When asked about his feeling on now having his name alongside some of the greatest of all time to have won this championship, he openly expressed his growing appreciation of the event and its place in golfing folklore.
“There’s so many names. I’m not going to pinpoint one. But to be cemented on the Claret Jug with countless names, countless Hall of Famers, countless people that I’ve looked up to, not just from golf, but outside of golf, it’s so special.
“To be honest, I cannot tell you my earliest memory of the Open Championship. I didn’t watch a ton of golf growing up. I probably watch more golf now than I do because I know a bunch of guys and I want to see them play well. It’s going to be up there now. We only get four majors a year, and every single one of them is very special.
“To finally get to play an Open Championship for the first time and win it, it’s going to be that much more special. I won the PGA, and then coming back as the defending champ you just have a sense of like you belong, this is going to be part of you for the rest of your life. The Open Championship is going to be part of my life the rest of my life no matter what happens.”
Morikawa earned US$2,070,000 for his win which is just over 8 times the US$250,000 Justin Leonard won when winning in the year Morikawa was born (1997).
Spieth reflected on his bogey, bogey finish on Saturday but was proud and happy with his effort today especially after such a disappointing start to his round.
“It’s hard to be upset when I was a couple over through 6. I couldn’t have really done much more after that point. But the finish yesterday, was about as upset as I’ve taken a finish of a round to the house.
“I walked in and wanted to — I said, Is there something that I can break? I knew that was so important because I would have been in the final group. Anyway, had to regroup 18 hours later and then just had a lot in between clubs, and you have to be so precise here. You need some good numbers.
“Then kind of fatted it off 6 and went to 7 thinking, Okay, now we’re going for everything, and we’re going to see what happens. I’m proud of going 6-under in the last 12 in this golf tournament and putting some pressure on Collin.”
It was Spieth’s 4th runner-up finish in a major championship but he does own three major titles including this one in 2017.
On the golf course itself, Spieth was full of praise but acknowledged that the conditions during much of the week did not allow it to show its real teeth.
“I did enjoy this golf course from when I first played 12 holes last Sunday, and I thought that it was quirky in a fun way. I think we only late today did we start to see the wind that the course is designed, I think, to play in.
“So I don’t think we got the same test as those guys have had in years past. But even saying that, each hole provided its own kind of unique way to play it because of that, and I thought that the R&A did just a fantastic job of allowing the scores to happen.”
Cameron Smith was faltering at 6 over for his round through 15 holes but birdies at the 17th and 18th holes would see him finish 33rd although he did drop 24 places from his third-round position. He would though finish as the leading player amongst the 13 Australasians who teed it up on Thursday.
He finished two head of Adam Scott who closed with a 68 to be in 46th place with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox slipping to 67th.
Cameron Smith earned US$60,000 for his efforts.
Collin Morikawa – R&A via Getty Images