A wise old head on such young shoulders, Collin Morikawa’s sublime annexing of the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s also put him into Tiger Woods territory.
For, in adding the British Open to the US PGA he won last year, Morikawa joined Woods as the only players to have lifted both championships before the age of 25.
Morikawa, a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of Berkeley University, produced a bogey-free closing round of 66 for a winning total of 15-under-par 265, two strokes clear of Jordan Spieth. It earned him a gold medal (and he will next week head off in pursuit of another of such hue at the Olympics), the famed trophy and a cheque for €1.75 million.
“I’m 24 years old. It’s hard to grasp, and it’s really hard to take it in. When Phil (Mickelson) won the PGA (at Kiawah Island at 50 years old), I didn’t look at him as this old guy winning. I looked at him as competition that could still play really well. If he put everything together, and he did, he could play well and 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. I enjoy these moments and I love it and I want to teach myself to embrace it a little more,” explained Morikawa of his desire to also etch his name as one of golf’s greats.
Morikawa’s impact so quickly on the professional circuit has seen him claim two Majors during Covid times. His first, the US PGA at Harding Park in San Francisco last August, was played out with no spectators. At least for his second, at Royal St George’s, he could enjoy the acclaim of some 32,000 spectators as he made his way down the 18th hole with the job all but done.
“I think golf is a love-hate relationship, but every time you’re able to tee it up in a tournament, you just love it because every shot’s a new challenge, every day is a new challenge, and it’s all on your own . . . . . I think enjoying every moment you can, even though sometimes frustrating, you look at some of the best players, their demeanour is that calm, cool, relaxed, but they’re so driven, right? The end goal is still there. So we’ve had tough days. We’ve had good ones. You try and remember the good, forget the bad, and then move on,” suggested Morikawa, who is set to have many more such days.
For Shane Lowry, a tied-12th finish - earning a payday of €153,340 - had the effect of also bumping him into an automatic place on the world points list in Europe's Ryder Cup qualifying, although his more immediate goal will be targeting a medal at the Olympics in Tokyo.
“I’ll be trying my best. Obviously, it’s a huge honour for me to go and represent my country at the Olympics. It’s something I never thought I’d do, but now I get to go and do it. I’m going with one goal and one ambition, and that’s to bring a medal back to Ireland. That’s the only reason I’m going. I’m not going there on my holidays. I’m going there to win a medal, and that’s kind of the way I look at it. I feel like I’m playing some good golf going into it. Who knows? It’s a great opportunity for me to go and do something very special. Hopefully, I can get over to Tokyo and grab it by the scruff of the neck, and like I said, come back with a medal,” said Lowry.
Rory McIlroy's appearance at Sandwich proved to be another disappointment, as he finished in tied-46th while Pádraig Harrington struggled over the weekend and had to be content with a 72nd place finish.
McIlroy, like Lowry, next has the Olympics on his mind but is aiming for a late-season flourish on the PGA Tour with the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs: “For me at the minute, it’s just the process of trying to work my way back to the sort of form and the sort of the level that I know I can play at,” said McIlroy, who conceded there were “too many mistakes” in his game at present.
As McIlroy elaborated, “That’s the part if need to try to get right. Whether that’s trying to be a little too aggressive from bad spots or putting myself in bad spots to begin with, but it’s a matter of just trying to iron out the mistakes. There is enough good stuff in there to contend at these golf tournaments, but I’m not just allowing myself to do that with some of the mistakes I’m making.”