SANDWICH, England (AP) – Collin Morikawa was having one of the most satisfying walks in golf, along the 18th fairway as a future British Open champion, when he looked up at the huge grandstand surrounding the green.
It was packed with spectators, who first applauded and quickly gave a standing ovation to a 24-year-old American making a historic start to his great champion career.
So different than 11 months ago, when Morikawa won his first major tournament, the PGA Championship, in an empty hall.
“I hope the thing is off the table,” Morikawa said, “that I can play with the fans and that I can play well on a Sunday.”
Fans. No fans. Park. Now even links. Morikawa is the real deal, make no mistake about it.
The Californian beyond his years closed with a bogeyless, 4 Under 66 at Royal St. George’s and won the British Open in his debut on Sunday, becoming the first player to capture two different majors at the first attempt.
And this time there was a crowd, 32,000, the largest since the return of golf in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
After tapping the par to win by two shots on Jordan Spieth, he punched before applauding the spectators.
Shortly after, he was handed the burgundy jug that so many people go their entire careers without earning. He looked at it adoringly, then tossed it in the air and gave it a kiss.
“These are the moments, the few seconds that you kiss so much,” he said. “And you look around, every seat is full. There are people everywhere. “
They saw a young player already halfway to a career Grand Slam after eight starts, the first since Bobby Jones in 1926 to win two majors in so few appearances. He follows Gene Sarazen, Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Spieth by winning several majors before turning 25.
His total of 15 under 265 was a record 72 holes in 15 British Open at Royal St. George’s. In 13 of them, the winning score was less than or equal to 5.
“When you make history” he said, “It’s hard to grasp, it’s hard to really understand … At 24, it’s so hard to look back on the two short years I was a pro and see what I did because I want more. “
He did it in style in a pristine time on the links off Sandwich Bay, pulling shots with his irons and moving on the rare occasions he ran into trouble. He called his putting display one of the best of his short career, turning a statistical weakness into a strength.
Starting the last lap one stroke off Louis Oosthuizen, Morikawa was tied for the lead after four holes, then netting three consecutive birdies on the No.7-9 to pass the South African, who hadn’t trailed since the 12th. hole of his second round. .
Morikawa made key saves – pumping his fist both times – at No. 10 and 15, between which he rolled a birdie putt and over a ridge and into the cup on the 14th to build a lead of two shots he never lost. Spieth parried his last four holes and also shot 66.
Reaching par to last after another perfect practice, Morikawa played his last 31 bogeyless holes on a course that baffled many great players due to its quirky rebounds and wavy fairways.
All the more remarkable since it was his first big test on a seaside connection. Morikawa had little experience with this style of golf before playing the Scottish Open last week at the Renaissance Club, which is not a traditional links but had the kind of tight lees and hilly terrain that prepared it for it. He even had three new irons in his bag this week.
He achieved a feat achieved by Ben Curtis on the same course in 2003, winning the oldest golf championship in his links debut.
For Oosthuizen, who was chasing a end-to-end victory and a second burgundy jug – he picked up a smashing victory at St. Andrews in 2010 – it was another near miss in a career full of them. He finished second this year at the PGA Championship and the US Open, two of his six second places in major tournaments.
This time, Oosthuizen is tied for third with US Open champion Jon Rahm (66) after closing with a 71 – his first round not in the 60s this week. He never recovered from losing his lead with an ugly bogey on the seventh par-5 hole. He caught way too many balls in the green bunker with his third stroke, which bounced off the putting surface and landed in a bunker on the other side.
Morikawa birdied the hole routine to take two leads over Oosthuizen. Spieth had eagle at No. 7 a few minutes earlier.
“Well I know one thing, the fans at the Open are second (or third) to none,” Oosthuizen said on Twitter, having declined to speak to reporters. “Thank you for the incredible support this week, and congratulations to Collin Morikawa who performed with class and courage today.”
Spieth has had his closest appeal in a major tournament since winning the British Open in 2017 at the Royal Birkdale. Missing an 8-foot putt at number 4 and hitting his tee shot in a bunker at number 6 resulted in abandoned shots. He caught those with his eagle and played the last 10 holes in 4 under.
“I did everything I could in the last few hours to win this championship”, said Spieth.
It was his bogey-bogey arrival on Saturday – he missed a 2-foot putt on the 18th – that Spieth especially regretted.
“If I had finished the par-par, I would have been in the final group. he said. “And if you’re in the final group, you feel like you’re in control.”