Morikawa drawing Tiger comparisons after claiming Open win

Bernie McGuire
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Morikawa drawing Tiger comparisons after claiming Open win

Open Champion, Collin Morikawa kisses the Claret Jug (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

History-making Open Champion Collin Morikawa is already being likened to Tiger Woods moments after joining Woods as the only male golfers under the age of 25 to win both the PGA Championship and The Open.

Morikawa, aged 24 and six months, posted a brilliant bogey-free final round 66 to win by two shots at 15-under par on a glorious afternoon at Royal St. George’s. The American’s victory on his debut in golf’s oldest major is Morikawa’s second taste of Majors success after capturing last year’s 2020 PGA Championship on his Majors debut in San Francisco. Here’s the enormous number of records the affable American has matched or broken with his win:

  • Morikawa made his tournament debut and won the PGA Championship in his first appearance (2020); He’s the first player ever to win two different majors in his first attempt.
  • He is the ninth player to have won The Open in tournament debut: Willie Park Snr (1860), Tom Kidd (1873), Mungo Park (1874), Jock Hutchison (1900), Denny Shute (1933), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Lema (1964), Tom Watson (1975), Ben Curtis (2003) and now Collin Morikawa (2021)
  • Collin was making an eighth career major championship appearance; no player has ever won two majors in his first eight attempts
  • Collin, aged 24, now joins now joins Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth with multiple major wins before turning 25
  • Becomes sixth winner of The Open to record four rounds in the 60s: Greg Norman (1993), Nick Price (1994), Tiger Woods (2000), Henrik Stenson (2016), Jordan Spieth (2017), Collin Morikawa (2021)
  • Played the final round bogey-free; last two times a major champion went bogey-free in the final round: Morikawa/2021 Open Championship, Morikawa/2020 PGA Championship
  • Morikawa’s two major wins have now been in ‘come-from-behind’ fashion.

Three-time Major winning Jordan Spieth, clearly back to his best, pushed Morikawa all the way, signing off for a 66 to finish second at 13-under with Louis Oosthuizen (71) and US Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain (66) tied for third at 11-under. South African Dylan Frittelli carded a 68 to take fifth at nine under while Brooks Koepka soared up the leaderboard with a 65 to finish tied sixth at eight under with Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes (69).

Morikawa came from one behind overnight leader Oosthuizen to superbly stay firm to par his opening six holes before storming clear of his rivals with three birdies in succession from the seventh hole. Morikawa, in the final pairing with Oosthuizen, was aided by the South African dropped shots at five and seven, with the par-5 seventh hole costly as Oosthuizen found a greenside bunker with his third before blading his chip to the other bunker behind the green and taking bogey.

Morikawa stood on the 10th tee with a four-shot lead and though he managed just one inward nine birdie at the 14th, it was a smiling Morikawa who strode down the last in what was his first major triumph with a virtually full spectator attendance. In attending the winner’s press conference, Morikawa was asked his ‘secret’ for the week – the response bringing a big smile to his face.

“The secret? Well, I never do this, but I had a burger for four straight days, so my body is probably feeling it,” he said laughing.

“I know my body’s feeling it. I think I just enjoy these moments, and I talk about it so much that we love what we do. And you have to embrace it. You have to be excited about these opportunities, and that’s how I looked at it today, especially coming down the stretch, was I’m excited. To have the Claret Jug right here in my possession for a year, I believe, I’m excited to have it. “

The new World No. 3 ranked Morikawa then addressed the history he has created for himself in being handed the famed Claret Jug.

“I think when you make history — and I’m 24 years old — it’s hard to grasp, and it’s hard to really take it in,” he said. “A quick little side note, when Phil (Mickelson) won the PGA — I think he’s 50 years old, right — 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, maybe spend a few extra days and sit back and drink out of this.

“But I want to — yeah, I just want more. When you’re in these moments and you truly love what you do, which I love playing golf and competing against these guys, these are the best moments ever because the nerves push you to just be a better person.”

Morikawa immediately endeared himself to UK fans in firstly singling out Low Amateur winner, Matthias Schmid for special praise while he also identified it was his caddy ‘JJ’s’ birthday, and what a birthday. He also singled out his family, friends and girlfriend for praise who were not able to travel to Royal St. George’s due to the COVID restrictions. So, what will be his first drink from the Claret Jug ahead of the flight back to the States later this evening (UK time – Sunday)?

“You know, I’ll drink anything. We’ve been staying at the hotel right by the course,” he said. “Every night I see all the caddies drink, and I’m like, ‘Man, I really want to drink,’ but I hold back. I hold back on tournament week.”

Looking back on his four rounds, it was clearly Morikawa’s putting that was key as he agreed.

“It was definitely one of the best putting displays, 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. Especially in a major. I think in a major on a Sunday in contention, I wasn’t thinking about anything other than making a putt. I’m going to tell myself probably tomorrow why can’t I keep doing that all the time?

“But you know, I’m going to try to figure out what worked today and use that for the future because I know I can putt well. I know I can putt well in these pressure situations. I’ve just got to keep doing that.”

And in singling out his putting, SKY Sports Tony Johnstone summed it up brilliantly.

“Last week he putted like a Model T Ford while this week, he’s putted like a Rolls Royce,” said Johnstone.

The way Morikawa has conducted himself in his short few years in the pro ranks is a great credit to his family and his upbringing while the manner in winning on a glorious summer afternoon along the Kent coastline has earmarked him for a Rolls Royce future in the ancient game.

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