Clinical Collin Morikawa wins the 2021 Open: Final round review and punter’s notebook

The American carded an error-free final round of 66 to hold off the challenge of Jordan Spieth and win the 149th Open at Royal St George’s.

As Collin Morikawa walked up the 18th hole in the final round of the 2021 Open the engraver was already etching his name on the Claret Jug.

The man himself was doing something far more profound: he was placing his name alongside the legends of the sport.

"It's hard to grasp," he said. "Really hard to take it in."

The nuts and bolts of his win were simple: he played his final 31 holes bogey-free and his Sunday round of 66 left him two shots clear of Jordan Spieth on 15-under 265.

In the process, he became the first player since Bobby Jones to win two Majors in eight or fewer starts.

He is also just the second player, after Tiger Woods, to win the Open and the PGA Championship before the age of 25.

And in overhauling Louis Oosthuizen's 54 hole lead he became the youngest player to win an Open coming from behind since Seve Ballesteros in 1979.

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If he is sitting beside giants of the game with those records, he surpassed them in another: he became the first male golfer in history to win on debut in two different Majors.

Ascent

It is a staggering list of achievements and all the more admirable for the manner and method of his ascent to the top.

The 24-year-old doesn't do drama and he isn't flash. Instead he hits a hell of a lot of fairways, an equally high proportion of greens in regulation, and he racks up the wins with apparent (but surely deceptive) ease.

When he turned pro in mid-2019 he did so with college peers Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland, and the trio were talked of in the same breath.

Wolff has proved himself a Major contender; Morikawa has won two of them.

Hovland has made an excellent introduction to Major Championship golf, finishing top 40 in each of the seven he has played. For most players, it is a record to be proud of; Morikawa has quietly trumped it.

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Bryson DeChambeau advertises the science behind his performance; Morikawa quietly changed three clubs in the bag after his linksland debut at the Scottish Open and the results were extraordinary.

After his first Major win, in last August's PGA Championship, he admitted that the lack of crowds may have helped his performance, but this week the largest Major Championship galleries since the return from lockdown were no threat to his charge to the line.

And nor, ultimately, was the field.

Decisive

Morikawa made a careful start and joined the lead not by his own volition, but when Oosthuizen made a bogey at the fourth.

A decisive hat-trick of birdies before the turn left briefly four shots clear of the chasers, but perhaps just as crucial was a superb scrambling par at the 10th.

Spieth had started the week praising links golf for allowing him to focus on the shot and not the swing, but early in his final round it seemed he had forgotten that lesson.

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The chuntering was subdued, the long game clumsy, his putting deliberate rather than second nature, perhaps affected by the missed tiddler with which he closed his third round.

But he refused to quit. A 30-foot eagle conversion at the seventh prompted another four par breakers in six holes either side of the turn.

The zip was back, he closed to within one of the lead and Morikawa looked set to miss the opportunity to double his advantage at the par-5 14th, when leaving his pitch 20-feet short of the pin.

There have been times in his short career when his putting has been doubted, but he has retained faith in his stroke and it stood up to the pressure on this Sunday. He drained that outside chance at 14 and converted an equally important eight-foot par saver at 15.

"Definitely one of my best weeks on the greens, especially inside ten feet," he said. "I felt like it was as solid as it's going to get. I don't think I really missed many from that distance.

"And especially good that a good performance came in a Major, on a Sunday and in-contention. I just wasn't thinking about anything other than making a putt."

Spieth could find nothing special on the final four holes and Morikawa didn't need to; victory, the Claret Jug, and that place in the record books in company with the legends was assured.

Impressive

The runner-up was left with mixed feelings. "It's hard to be upset when I was a 2-over through six," he said. "But I'm proud of going 6-under in the last 12 holes and putting some pressure on Collin."

He was also appreciative of the contrast in the winner's two Major triumphs.

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"It's not only Collin's first Open, but he's spent a year and a half in an essentially crowd-less environment and it's harder with big crowds," he said.

"32,000 people, a lead down the stretch, you feel it more, you know where you are, it's a big stage. I think that's impressive."

Anguish

Oosthuizen endured more Major Championship anguish. He completed two of the best shots of the day - hitting the flag at the 249-yard par-3 11th with his tee shot and nearly holing out from 156-yards with his third blow at the par-5 14th - but he was otherwise flat. His 1-over-par 71 left him two back of Spieth on 11-under.

The result is the South African's ninth top three finish in the Majors; only the first of them was a victory.

He was joined in third by Jon Rahm, who signed for a final round 66. The Spaniard will be regretting the 71 with which he started the week, but encouraged by a championship career-best performance.

Dylan Frittelli claimed fifth for himself on 9-under with Brooks Koepka and Mackenzie Hughes in a tie for sixth.

In the notebook for next year's Open

Robert MacIntyre birdied his 36th hole to make the cut on the number and then card 65-67 for tied eighth. He was tied sixth on his Open debut at Royal Portrush and also tied second in the 2019 British Masters at Hillside. He likes, and is very good at, links golf.

Matthew Fitzpatrick improved his poor links record when tied second at last week's Scottish Open, but his woes in the Majors continue: he's played 23 of them since turning professional, made the top 10 in the first of them (the 2016 Masters), but has never added to that tally and was T26th this week.

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Bryson DeChambeau carded a Sunday 65 to finish T33rd and land a first Open top 50 at the fourth time of asking. It was also his first sub-70 linksland lap in 12 tries.

The wait continues: some the 2022 Masters it will be just four months shy of eight years since Rory McIlroy last won a Major.

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