LiveScore's resident golf expert Matthew Hill reflects on a long overdue Open Championship that saw Collin Morikawa reign supreme at Royal St George's in Sandwich, Kent.
More Major success for merciless Morikawa
Collin Morikawa once again showcased his comfort on golf’s grandest stages by carding a bogey-free 66 to ruthlessly land the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
Sunday afternoon saw a clinic in composure from 24-year-old Californian, who claimed his second Major championship at just his eighth attempt and continues to forge an outrageously rapid ascent into the game’s upper echelons.
If there were question marks over last August’s behind-closed-doors US PGA Championship win, the production of near-flawless golf in front of 32,000 prying eyes on the Kent coast provided concrete evidence of the youngster's taste for the big occasion.
Starting the final day one shot back from long-time leader Louis Oosthuizen, the American was steady out of the traps before unleashing a run of three straight birdies just before the turn to surge clear.
While Oosthuizen began to toil, countryman Jordan Spieth soon emerged as Morikawa's biggest rival — but in brutally warm conditions, the leader kept his cool.
As 2017 champion Spieth began to sprinkle his trademark magic one hole ahead, Morikawa produced two moments of dogged determination when draining a long birdie at 14 before conjuring an unlikely par save on 15.
Those two outcomes eventually afforded him a stroll up the last hole with a two-shot cushion, meaning a stress-free four saw his name carved into the Claret Jug.
It was a display that appeared nerveless on the surface — but the Champion Golfer of the Year admitted in his post-round press conference it was more a case of handling them well.
“The nerves push you on to be a better person,” Morikawa said. "I’m glad people say I look calm because the nerves are definitely there.
“You have to channel the nerves into excitement and energy and push it away from being a fear factor — more a case of ‘this is something I want’.
“Especially on those last nine holes coming in, Jordan [Spieth] was making birdies, [Jon] Rahm was pushing — Louis had an amazing birdie on 11.
“You can’t worry about the score, just worry about the shot. Can I execute each shot to the best of my ability? What is the best shot possible? Then just go from there.”
The first player in history to win multiple Major championships on debut, the champion has already assured himself of a place in the sport’s history books.
But with his best years still ahead of him, there could be a few more winning moments to reflect on. Whenever he gets round to it, that is.
“I think when you make history — and I’m only 24 years old — it’s hard to grasp, hard to really take it in,” he explained.
“It’s so hard to look back at the last two years that I’ve been a pro and reflect on what I’ve done because I still want more.
“It’s so early on in my career and I enjoy these moments. When you’re in these moments and you love what you do, these are the best moments ever.
Spieth sparkles as Louis melts in sunny Sandwich
Spieth nearly crowned his spectacular renaissance of the last few months with a second Open crown, eventually falling only two shots short of Morikawa.
Going six under par through his last 12 holes, the 27-year-old Texan could not be disappointed with his efforts at the death — but thoughts post-round did turn to his sour end on Saturday.
Ending round three with back-to-back bogeys, the latter of which came from less than two feet, Spieth confessed that the uncharacteristic error was still fresh in the mind 24 hours on.
“The finish yesterday was about as upset as I’ve ever taken the finish of a round,” Spieth said.
“I walked into the house and said, ‘Is there something I can break?’ because I just knew that it was so important and could’ve got me into the final group.
“But then I had to regroup for 18 hours later and it was a tough start — a lot of in-between clubs and you have to be so precise here, you need some good numbers.
“I fatted it on six and then thought, ‘Okay, we’re going for everything now'. I’m proud of going six under in the last 12 holes of this golf tournament and putting the pressure on Collin.
“From what I’ve heard, he made a big par save on 10, a putt up the ridge on 14 and a par save on 15. I needed a break and I didn’t get it from him.”
Jon Rahm promised to try and go low in his bid for an unlikely comeback victory and those following the Spaniard were not left disappointed after he carded an action-packed 66 to tie Oosthuizen for third.
Unlike the South African, who understandably opted against media time following a sub-par final round, Rahm was upbeat despite falling short
“It was a good championship. I played really good golf,” said the world No1.
“I think the main part of my game that could’ve been better is putting. Not that I’m asking to make every putt but I’ve been struggling to make any putts outside eight feet.
“There were a lot of ones I left short, ones I could’ve made and that I know the guys around me were making.
“I’m still going to smile because I gave it my all, finished really strongly and gave myself the best chance I could.”
Dylan Frittelli finished a further two strokes back of Rahm and Oosthuizen in solo fifth while the American quartet of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler secured top 10 spots, in a leaderboard that reads ominously for European Ryder Cup prospects this September.
One bright spot for the British crowd was the performance of the ever-improving Robert MacIntyre, with the Scot sealing a second top 10 finish in as many Open starts and building further on his eye-catching T12 at Augusta.
MacIntyre, 24, looks destined for great things and has previously spoken of his desire to feature at Whistling Straits as part of Team Europe later this year.
Now ranked inside the world’s top 50 for the first time, he is making himself increasingly hard for team captain Padraig Harrington to ignore when it comes to wildcard picks.
The week ahead
After a Covid-caused glut of Major championships, golf fans now have to wait until April for another one of the game’s big four to come around — but there is plenty more entertainment on the horizon.
Those staying on this side of the Atlantic will not have far to travel as the world-famous Celtic Manor Resort in Newport plays host to the Wales Open.
Meanwhile, the PGA Tour action resumes with the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, where the likes of world No2 Johnson, in-form Oosthuizen and marvellous MacIntyre will strut their stuff once again.
Of course, we will have all the fallout from both events covered in next week’s On The Tee.