British Open takeaways: Morikawa dazzles in his debut

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

July 19th, 2021

Collin Morikawa is just 24 years old. Tiger Woods had already won three times on the PGA Tour before Morikawa was even born. Yet over the weekend at Royal St. George’s, Morikawa played a level of golf beyond his young age. He was simply sublime on the final day as he lifted the Claret Jug by shooting a round of 66 to finish 15-under-par, two shots clear of Jordon Spieth and another two shots clear from the rest of the chasing pack.

It’s Morikawa’s fifth win on the PGA Tour and his second major despite only turning pro 24 months ago. Here’s what we learned from another huge four days in the golfing world...

Morikawa’s incredible mental strength

British Open form was a key trend going into the tournament, with 14 of the last 15 winners prior to this event having already posted a top 10 finish at the Open. Morikawa was making his debut, so naturally that was a negative. He was also new to links golf – another notable negative. Especially as his first effort on links came a couple of weeks before at the Scottish Open which he used as a tune-up for this, and proceeded to shoot 73 on the final round and finished 71st.

The signs weren’t good.

But a scintillating 64 in the second round put him right in the mix, only two shots off leader Louis Oosthuizen, and that lead was down to one as thy teed off on the final day. It was here Morikawa showed the world his metal strength. Six straight pars to begin with was the solid start he needed before a birdie on the seventh, a monster 25-foot putt to birdie the eighth and another birdie on the ninth put him into a three-stroke lead turning for home. That shifted momentum and from then on nothing phased Morikawa – not eve with Jordon Spieth and John Rahm hot on his heels.

Both Spieth and Rahm eagled the seventh before Rahm shot four birdies in a row on the back nine, and Spieth played holes seven to 14 in six-under-par to get within a stroke of Morikawa. He wouldn’t get any closer.

Brooks vs. Bryson is hurting both men

The Brooks vs. Bryson rivalry is fun. It leads to lots of social memes, lights a fire in golf chat online and continues to bubble nicely towards the Ryder Cup. But is it now at a place where it is hurting both men?

DeChambeau shot a 71 on Thursday and missed 10 of the 14 fairways during his round. He came out afterwards and told the media his driver "sucks" which then got him a slap on the wrists from his equipment company, Cobra. Bryson had to come out and apologize on Friday.

Meanwhile on Friday, Brooks Koepka shot a 66 to move to five-under-par and into the top 10. It was a great round, and he came out afterwards full of praise for his driver in interviews and tweets, not-so-subtly taking another dig at his long-time rival.

But did that take his eye off the prize? The next time Brooks was on course he hit three bogeys in the first five holes on Saturday and carded a 72. He was back to form on Sunday with a round of 65 to finish sixth – seven strokes of Morikawa. If he’d stayed focussed on Friday and ignored what was happening with Bryson, could he have put in a better third round and got closer to Morikawa on Sunday? Possibly, but we’ll never know.

DeChambeau, meanwhile, made the cut and finished with a flurry thanks to a 65, although it flew under the radar as he battled for a place in the top 35.

Will Louis ever be King again?

Louis Oosthuizen didn’t stick around to chat to the media after Sunday’s round. All we heard from him was a tweet a couple of hours after the final putt sank congratulating Morikawa and thanking the crowd.

You can’t blame him, as the questions are getting pretty old now. Simply put, why haven’t you won another major?

11 years ago, the South African lifted the Claret Jug at St. Andrews. His one and only major win. Since then, he has posted 10 top 10 finishes in majors and eight times he has finished either second or third. He has already finished as runner-up in the PGA Championship and U.S. Open this year, so when he took to the tee on Sunday with a one-stroke lead you thought maybe he could shake the bridesmaid tag. A bogey on the fourth hole and then on the par-five seventh hole set the scene and Oosthuizen carded a 71, falling into a tie for third, four shots off the winner.

The pressure is on next year to shake this hoodoo.

Who is going for gold?

Golf returned to the Olympics in 2016 after a 112-year absence and there will be a strong field this year in Tokyo with Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, and Bryson DeChambeau among those making the trip.

Rahm heads the betting for gold despite his British Open charge coming a little too late. He shot 198 on the final three rounds – the same as Morikawa and four strokes better than Spieth – but he couldn’t recover from an opening round of 71. If he can continue that top form in Tokyo, he has every chance of a medal for Spain.