Golf Asia

149th British Open

Morikawa Magnificen­t In Historic Winning Debut


Morikawa Magnificen­t In Historic Winning Debut

Collin Morikawa is the Champion Golfer of the Year after he produced a stunning final-day charge to win The 149th Open at Royal St George’s. The American beat Jordan Spieth by two shots in the Sandwich sunshine after a flawless round of 66 to take home the Claret Jug on his Open debut.

Morikawa started the day one shot back from overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen but three consecutiv­e birdies on the front nine propelled him into a fourshot lead at the turn. Spieth, Oosthuizen and Jon Rahm all applied pressure on the back nine but Morikawa showed plenty of heart to see it through.

The 24-year-old also set a new record for the lowest score at Royal St George’s, his 265 strokes beating Greg Norman’s 1993 effort by two.

Spieth matched Morikawa’s 66 to finish alone in second place, while Rahm (also 66) and Oosthuizen (71) share third on -11. 2010 Champion Oosthuizen dropped two shots on the front nine and, despite an improved second half to his round, he could not recover and his wait for a second major title goes on.

In the Garden of England, Morikawa grew as the week progressed and when it came down the final flourish, he bloomed. Playing in the final pairing at The Open is not for the faint-hearted and Morikawa made an understand­ably slow start on Saturday. But on Championsh­ip Sunday, there was no sign of nerves.

Confident from the fairway, he landed gorgeous approach shots at both 1 and 2 but failed to convert either into birdies. It was a clear warning. At a course as imposing as Royal St George’s, there are always sticky moments but Morikawa seemed unperturbe­d. He scrambled pars at 3 and 4 and stood on the 5th tee in a tie for the lead with Oosthuizen after the overnight leader dropped a shot.

The South African was clearly struggling, his swing a little tense, his mouth perhaps a little dry. Morikawa could sense it was the time to strike – and he did so ruthlessly. While Oosthuizen dropped another shot at the par-5 7th, Morikawa made birdie to take a two-shot lead and he extended that to three at the 8th after a sublime second shot that bounced on the front of the green and fed down towards the hole. Then, really turning the screw, he landed another birdie on the 9th. Three holes, three almighty blows that proved decisive.

At the turn, Morikawa was on -14 and momentaril­y his lead was as big as four shots. But, in a sign of the immense quality on display across the golf course, that had been reduced to just one by the time he reached the 14th, all without the American dropping a single shot.

With Spieth chasing, Rahm charging and Oosthuizen re-awakening, Morikawa could surely sense the net closing in. But he responded like a Champion, sinking a decisive birdie on 14.

He then scrambled a par at 15 after an errant approach shot flew over of the back of the green, his par putt from 10 feet met with

a clenched fist-pump. For a player who does not show much emotion on the course, the reaction to that putt was telling.

Ahead, neither Spieth or Rahm could land a telling blow and Morikawa maintained a two-shot lead for the final three holes. He delivered three danger-free pars to clinch victory and become the first male golfer to win two majors on debut – backing up his 2020 PGA Championsh­ip success.

“This is by far one of the best moments of my life,” he said.

Though Jordan Spieth came up short, he still stood tall, commenting : “I’m proud of going six under in the last 12 in this golf tournament and putting some pressure on Collin. I did all I could.”

When Spieth left Royal Birkdale with the Claret Jug in his back-pocket in 2017, it seemed a case of when, not if, he would become Champion Golfer of the Year once more. The brilliance that carried him to that thrilling win was put on ice during a fallow three years, but his re-emergence as a major force was confirmed on the Sandwich links.

After six holes, Spieth’s charge looked done. He missed a 10-foot par putt on 4 and then another on 6 to drop to -7, four strokes off the lead.

But what followed was simply sublime. An eagle on 7 kick-started his day and a peach of an approach shot into the par-4 9th set up an eight-foot putt that he drained with ease. Another birdie followed at 11 and then back-to-backs at 13 and 14 closed the gap to just one stroke.

But with Morikawa not flinching, Spieth needed to pick up at least one more stroke to truly make his rival wobble. He could only par the last four holes but leaves the Kent coast having proved he is truly back to his best.

Oosthuizen is another who will cast his mind ahead after a turbulent final round. The South African finished second at both the PGA Championsh­ip in May and U.S. Open in June but he is playing some of the best

golf of his life and will surely contend again.

Unlike days one, two and three, Oosthuizen’s swing was not quite so pure. His irons too often missed greens and he was made to pay with a bogey at 4, while another dropped shot at 7 was difficult to swallow.

Oosthuizen launched a perfect drive down the fairway but his approach shot found a bunker to the left of the green. These bunkers are not to be messed with and Oosthuizen fell foul, his attempt at a sand-save flying across the green and landing in another bunker on the opposite side.

His first birdie came at 11 and he made another at 14, finishing T3 – his best at The Open since 2015.

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