Collin Morikawa shines in Sandwich to win British Open

Californian finished with stunning round of 66 to claim claret jug and his second Major

Collin Morikawa celebrates after winning the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St George’s. Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Collin Morikawa celebrates after winning the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St George’s. Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

 

For a player rightfully praised for the sheer quality and majesty of his iron play, Collin Morikawa’s imperious performance in the 149th Open Championship at Royal St Geroge’s - where the 24-year-old American claimed his second career Major, adding the Claret Jug to the Wanamaker Trophy of last year - showcased that other elements, his putting and his scrambling, were the primary tools in enabling him to claim victory.

Small things contribute to the bigger picture; and, in firing a bogey-free final round 66 for a total of 15-under-par 265 for a two stroke winning margin over Jordan Spieth, Morikawa - cool, calm and collected in the heat of battle - effectively sealed the deal with two brilliant par saves, one on the 10th, the other on the 15th, that proved as important as any of his four birdies.

Morikawa plays his second shot on the 14th. Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Morikawa plays his second shot on the 14th. Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

On a day of beautiful sunshine with barely any wind to complicate club selection on a links that had dried out to ensure creativity and the odd lucky or unlucky bounce would be factors, it proved another discommoding final round for South African Louis Oosthuizen, whose bid to be a wire-to-wire winner was undone by a nervy displace that ultimately saw him finish four shots behind Morikawa. After a final round of 69 Shane Lowry completed his Open defence with a tied-12th finish while Rory McIlroy and Pádraig Harrington both ended a long way back at level par and four over respectively.

In the end Oosthuizen had to be content with a share of tied-third alongside Spain’s Jon Rahm which, perhaps, spared him having another runner-up finish added to the six he had accumulated throughout his career. Any prospect of a sublime march to glory akin to his 2010 success at St Andrews was scuttled for the Sprinbok by front nine bogeys - on the fourth and seventh, where he went from one greenside bunker to another - as the initiative was instead grabbed by Morikawa.

In fact, a two stroke swing on the Par 5 seventh, where Oosthuizen’s bogey was in contrast to Morikawa’s tap-in birdie, proved pivotal in altering the outcome. For sure, Morikawa, competing in his first British Open, would have to subsequently demonstrate short game wizardry from thick fescue rough around the 10th and 15th greens, but it meant he had got an edge and never let up.

As it happened, Morikawa’s principal rival would transpire not to be Oosthuizen but rather Spieth who appeared to revel in the role of pursuer. After two bogeys in his first six holes seemed to rule him out of the equation, Spieth’s response - an eagle at the seventh and a birdie at the ninth to turn in 34 - energized the Texan and birdies at the 10th, 13th and 14th holes drew him within touching distance only for the birdies to dry up on the homeward stretch.

Jordan Spieth celebrates making a birdie putt on the 10th. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images
Jordan Spieth celebrates making a birdie putt on the 10th. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

“I needed a break and I didn’t get it from him,” said Spieth, adding: “I did all I could. So I’m upset because I really felt like I played well enough to win and made a couple of really dumb mistakes that possibly, if I had maybe played the week before (in the Scottish Open or John Deere), wouldn’t have made.”

As it happened the real cardinal sin of Spieth’s had occurred in the closing action of his third round on Saturday evening, when he had a short putt - about 20 inches - for par on the 18th hole which he didn’t give his full attention. That missed putt had played on his mind, especially given that he had also bogeyed the 17th hole with just a lob wedge in hand for his approach.

It was, Spieth said, “after dinner” before he was able to let go of the angst. “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.”

In fairness to Spieth, he played that card well. In fairness to Morikawa, he was well and truly able for it.

Morikawa’s breakthrough Major win came behind closed doors in the US PGA at Harding Park in San Francisco last August where, coincidentally, he also went bogey free in his final round in sealing the deal.

In this year’s Majors, the evidence of being a big-time player was regularly on view: tied-18th at the Masters, eighth at the US PGA and fourth in the US Open. He was trending, although his lack of links experience - especially after a poor Scottish Open - had left a question mark over his ability to take on a finicky Royal St George’s with its reputation for bad bounces.

Ultimately though, Morikawa proved more than a match for the links. And his putting, once seen as a possible weakness, proved stronger than anyone’s. Through the four rounds he took a total of 111 putts which ranked him number one in putting statistics, adopting the saw grip - one he first worked on with former Masters and Open champion Mark O’Meara - to show a new level of comfort on short putts.

Of how he kept his calm demeanour, Morikawa revealed it was a little more jumpy inside. As he explained: “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 like a fear factor into this is something I want. So that’s how I look at it, especially as those last nine holes were coming in. Jordan was making birdies; I think Rahm was pushing; Louis had a birdie on 11, an amazing birdie. You can’t worry about the score. I had to worry about every shot. Can I execute every shot to the best of my ability? Some we did, some we didn’t, and then you move on. We can’t control what’s going to happen, what has happened. So I really looked at that as just focus on every shot, how do I see what is the best shot possible, and try and do my best from there.”

For the most part, he did. Which is why the famed Claret Jug landed as a prized possession at the end of the 149th staging and a special position as the defending champion of the 150th Open at St Andrews in a year’s time.

Collated final round scores and totals (British unless stated, Par 70):

265 Collin Morikawa (USA) 67 64 68 66

267 Jordan Spieth (USA) 65 67 69 66

269 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 64 65 69 71, Jon Rahm (Spa) 71 64 68 66

271 Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 66 67 70 68

272 Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 66 69 68 69, Brooks Koepka (USA) 69 66 72 65

273 Daniel Berger (USA) 70 67 68 68, Dustin Johnson (USA) 68 65 73 67, Robert MacIntyre 72 69 65 67, Scottie Scheffler (USA) 67 66 69 71

274 Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 70 64 72 68, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 68 71 69 66, Shane Lowry (Irl) 71 65 69 69

275 Paul Casey 68 67 70 70, Corey Conners (Can) 68 68 66 73, Tony Finau (USA) 70 66 72 67, Marcel Siem (Ger) 67 67 70 71

276 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 68 69 73 66, Justin Harding (Rsa) 67 67 70 72, Brian Harman (USA) 65 71 71 69, Aaron Rai 70 69 68 69, Webb Simpson (USA) 66 72 67 71, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 68 68 72 68, Kevin Streelman (USA) 70 69 66 71

277 Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 67 70 73 67, Matthew Fitzpatrick 71 69 67 70, Jason Kokrak (USA) 70 70 66 71, Ian Poulter 72 66 71 68, Xander Schauffele (USA) 69 71 72 65, Andy Sullivan 67 67 71 72, Cameron Tringale (USA) 69 66 71 71

278 Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 71 70 72 65, Tommy Fleetwood 67 71 70 70, Talor Gooch (USA) 69 72 67 70, Lanto Griffin (USA) 69 70 68 71, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 66 74 71 67, Cameron Smith (Aus) 69 67 68 74, Danny Willett 67 69 70 72

279 Dean Burmester (Rsa) 70 67 71 71, Max Homa (USA) 70 69 71 69, J. C. Ritchie (Rsa) 71 70 72 66, Justin Thomas (USA) 72 67 71 69, Daniel van Tonder (Rsa) 68 66 74 71, Matt Wallace 70 68 69 72

280 Joel Dahmen (USA) 69 68 69 74, Harris English (USA) 75 65 72 68, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 70 69 74 67, Rory McIlroy (Irl) 70 70 69 71, Justin Rose 67 70 70 73, Adam Scott (Aus) 73 66 73 68, Johannes Veerman (USA) 70 68 72 70

281 Marcus Armitage 69 72 70 70, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 68 72 70 71, Rickie Fowler (USA) 69 72 75 65, Billy Horschel (USA) 70 69 73 69, Chan Kim (USA) 70 69 74 68, Jonathan Thomson 71 67 73 70

282 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 69 71 71 71, Ryosuke Kinoshita (Jpn) 72 69 72 69, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 69 70 73 70, Chez Reavie (USA) 72 66 74 70, Antoine Rozner (Fra) 70 71 67 74, Matthias Schmid (Ger) 74 65 71 72, Lee Westwood 71 67 72 72, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 71 70 70 71

283 Richard Bland 70 70 73 70, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 68 68 71 76, Brendan Steele (USA) 73 68 74 68, Jack Senior 67 71 72 73, Sam Horsfield 70 70 69 74

284 Padraig Harrington (Irl) 72 68 73 71

285 Kevin Kisner (USA) 70 69 78 68

286 Yuxin Lin (Chn) 69 72 74 71, Richard Mansell 72 69 76 69

288 Sam Burns (USA) 71 69 76 72, Poom Saksansin (Tha) 73 68 76 71

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