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World No. 4 Collin Morikawa made it very clear ahead of his tournament debut at The Open Championship that he was not looking to simply gain experience or learn how to play links golf.
He was at Royal St. George’s to win.
The 24-year-old Californian made that assertion a reality on Sunday in Sandwich, England, carding a bogey-free 66 in the final round of the 149th Open to finish at 15-under 265 and win by two shots over 2017 Open champ Jordan Spieth, and by three shots over world No. 2 and reigning U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm and 2021 bridesmaid-of-the-year Louis Oosthuisen.
“I’m not making the trip over here just to experience The Open or learn about it,” said Morikawa on Wednesday prior to his just his second start on European soil after finishing T-71 at the Scottish Open the week prior. “I’m two years in as a pro now. Yes, it’s a tournament I have never played, but I’ve done this for two years. I show up to tournaments, I show up to venues and this is a little different – it’s a little farther away from home – but the belief is still there. The end goal is obviously to win.”
With the win came a slew of notable “firsts.” Morikawa, listed at +3500 to win at the start of the week and +200 going into Sunday via PointsBet Sportsbook, becomes the first player in history to win two different majors in his debut appearances following his triumph at the 2020 PGA Championship 11 months ago, and the first player since Bobby Jones in 1926 to win two in his first eight starts. He also becomes the first player to win in his Open debut since Ben Curtis in 2003 – also at RSG – and the youngest since Seve Ballesteros in 1979 to come from behind on the final day and win the claret jug.
“I think when you make history — and I’m 24 years old — it’s hard to grasp, and it’s hard to really take it in,” said Morikawa, who teased that perhaps four straight days of eating a burger might have been “the secret” to his historic win. “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.”
Through three rounds, Morikawa stayed hot on the heels of Oosthuizen, who was looking to avoid becoming the first golfer since 2000 to finish runner-up in three straight majors and kicked off the season’s final major with a flawless first-round 64 to hold the solo lead by one. The 38-year-old South African extended his lead to two shots with a 65 on Friday and maintained the solo lead by one with a 69 on Saturday. Morikawa, meanwhile, followed up his opening-round 67 with a 6-under 64 of his own to trail by two going into the weekend and started the final round just one off the pace thanks to a 68 on Saturday.
“I’m glad I look calm because the nerves are definitely up there,” admitted Morikawa, who credited last week’s start at the Scottish Open as “huge” in helping him dial in his equipment and strategy for The Open. “But you channel these nerves into excitement and energy, and that puts you away from like a fear factor into, ‘This is something I want.’”
The victory marked the fifth career title for Tokyo Olympics-bound Morikawa and second this season after winning the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession in late February. Since then, he’s notched five top-10 finishes including a playoff loss at the Memorial, T-4 at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and T-8 at the PGA. The victory also puts Morikawa into Tiger Woods’ territory as the only players to win The Open and PGA before age 25. He also joins Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win multiple majors before age 25 when trailing entering the final round.
World No. 23 Spieth, a three-time major winner, tried to find the bright side of his runner-up result – his fourth career second-place finish in a major – although he admitted to being haunted by a bogey-bogey ending to his 1-under 69 on Saturday, which knocked him out of the final pairing.
“It’s hard to be upset when I was a couple over through six,” said Spieth, who made bogeys at Nos. 4 and 6 on Sunday before an eagle at No. 7 shifted his momentum. “…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. …
“What good does it do to be upset? You come out today, and I kind of came out with, ‘Yes, I should be leading the tournament.’ That’s how I felt. But now I get to play with a chaser’s mentality, which sometimes can be with a bit more freedom.”
For Oosthuizen, who came into the week listed at +3000 and seeking a second claret jug to pair with his 2010 runaway victory at St. Andrews, it was another near-miss following runner-up finishes at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open (two of six career second-place finishes at majors), and his fourth podium finish in his last five major appearances.
“Well I do know one thing, the fans at the Open are second (or third) to none,” Oosthuizen tweeted after declining to speak with the media. “Thank you for the incredible support this week, and congrats to Collin Morikawa who played with class and grit today.”
Oosthuizen, whose two-day, 11-under 129 total set a new 36-hole scoring record at The Open, closed with a 1-over 71 — his first round not in the 60s on the week. He opened the door for Morikawa with a bogey at No. 4, lost his lead with another bogey at No. 7 and never recovered although he did manage to go 1-under over his final nine holes.
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Bryson back in headlines after ripping on equipment
Another week, another attention-getting performance by world No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau, who wasn’t in the news for his play – he finished T-33 at 2-under 278 – but rather for his comments ripping his Cobra driver following a 1-over 71 in the opening round, where he hit just four of 14 fairways.
“If I can hit it down the middle of the fairway, that’s great, but with the driver right now, the driver sucks,” said DeChambeau, who was listed at +3000 to win coming into the week. “It’s not a good face for me, and we’re still trying to figure out how to make it good on the mis-hits. I’m living on the razor’s edge, like I’ve told people for a long time.”
The comments drew ire from Cobra tour operations manager Ben Schomin, who had caddied for DeChambeau just two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
“Everybody is bending over backwards,” Schomin told Golfweek on Thursday. “We’ve got multiple guys in R&D who are CAD’ing (computer-aided design) this and CAD-ing that, trying to get this and that into the pipeline faster. (Bryson) knows it. It’s just really, really painful when he says something that stupid. … He has never really been happy, ever. Like, it’s very rare when he’s happy.”
DeChambeau, who closed out his week with a bogey-free, 5-under 65 for his only sub-par score of the tournament, later issued an apology on Instagram, writing: “I deeply regret the words I used earlier. I am relentless in pursuit of improvement and perfection. Part of that causes me to become outwardly frustrated at times. With the new speeds I am obtaining, my game is a constant work in progress and so is controlling my emotions.”
Odds and ends: Rahm finishes strong, Mickelson misses weekend
Spain’s Jon Rahm, the betting favorite at +800 coming into the week, notched his fifth consecutive top 10 in a major and 11th top 10 of the season. Rahm joins Brooks Koepka (2019), Jordan Spieth (2015), Tiger Woods (2005) and Phil Mickelson (2004) as players since 2004 to finish inside the top 10 in all four majors in a season including a win.
Also notching top 10s were world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (T-8 at 7-under 273; started at +1700) and No. 8 Brooks Koepka (T-6, 8-under 272; +1600), who recorded his 16th top 10 in his 30th major start. Koepka has finished inside the top 10 in 12 of his last 16 major starts including this year’s U.S. Open (T-4) and PGA Championship (T-2). Defending champion Shane Lowry, who had custody of the claret jug for 722 days and was +4000 to start the week, also finished a respectable T-12 at 6-under 274.
On the other end of the spectrum, reigning PGA champion Phil Mickelson shot 80-72 to miss the cut by 11 shots. The six-time major winner, listed at +8000 ahead of The Open, failed to make a single birdie in his first round, didn’t make his first birdie until the 11th hole on Friday and made just three overall.
Also missing out on weekend action were Jason Day (+7000), Patrick Reed (+3500) and Patrick Cantlay (+3500). Day (75-70), the 2015 PGA champion and former world No. 1, could not recover from a bumpy start at RSG where he made three bogeys and a double in his first nine holes. World No. 9 Reed battled a case of the “lefts” through his first two rounds and shot 72-71 to miss the cut by two. World No. 7 Cantlay, who came into the week riding a victory at the Memorial and two top-15 finishes in his last three starts, also missed the cut by two after rounds of 74-69.
Next up: 3M Open
While a notable contingent of players will travel to the Tokyo Olympics this coming week, the Tour heads to Minnesota where Michael Thompson will defend his 2020 title. Thompson ended a seven-year winless drought with his two-stroke victory over Adam Long at TPC Twin Cities, located just north of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Reigning FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson will be looking for his first Tour victory since the Masters in November, while 54-hole Open Championship leader Louis Oosthuizen is set to make his 3M Open debut. Other notables set to tee it up in Minnesota include Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, two-time Tour winner this season Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia and recent winner Lucas Glover. Also making their tournament debut are Rickie Fowler and American Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.
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