According to a study of the United Kingdom, it turns out that experience might be an overrated factor to success.
Granted, that study likely did not have the sample size and did not account for enough variables to be considered for publication, but it is difficult to come to any other conclusion after watching 24-year-old American phenom Collin Morikawa dismantle an elite field at England’s Royal St. George’s Golf Course, the second year in a row where he has won a major he had not played before.
Last season, he won the PGA Championship at San Francisco’s Harding Park by two strokes.
Even further, the California University product now has five wins in his brief PGA Tour career, and not a single one of those happened at an event where he had previously been in the field.
This most recent win at the 149th Open Championship came courtesy of a bogey-free final-round 4-under 66, which allowed him to finish two strokes ahead of three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, a 27-year-old who was considered then what Morikawa was now, when he won the 2017 Open Championship by three strokes.
Beginning the final round, Morikawa found himself a stroke behind South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who had led after each of the first three rounds at Royal St. George’s. The 38-year-old was the 2010 Open Champion by seven strokes, and has contended in each of the last three PGA Tour majors held, without a victory.
On six occasions, Oosthuizen had finished second at a major, including at least once in all four.
Paired in the final Sunday grouping with Oosthuizen, Morikawa opened with six straight pars. Oosthuizen’s bogey on the par-4 fifth tied the duo atop the leaderboard. A bogey 6 on the par 5 7th from Oosthuizen put Morikawa alone on the top, a lead he would never relinquish.
Morikawa birdied that same 7th hole, and added two additional birdies on 8 and 9. That put him three up on Oosthuizen at the turn.
On the back, Morikawa’s chief competition turned out to be Spieth, who recently found his footing on Tour again after he fell into a slump following the ‘17 Open. Spieth began the final day three off the lead, and looked to be out of it after two early bogeys, but was rejuvenated with an eagle on 7.
A birdie on 9 got him close, and another on 10 got him even closer. A three-shot lead was cut to two after Spieth birdied the par 4 14th.
That would be the closest Spieth would get. Morikawa and Spieth both birdied the par 5 14th, with Collin’s coming via a 25-foot putt, and parred out from there, although Spieth certainly had his chance to close the deficit.
Morikawa would not waver under the pressure of a two-stroke lead heading into the last, calmly sinking a moderate par putt for the win.
The only other Sunday pressure came from world No. 2 and recent U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm. The 26-year-old Spaniard began the final day five back of Oosthuizen, got off to a slow start with a bogey on 2, got back under par with an eagle on 7, and then immediately bogeyed 8 to put him even at the turn. His push came when he birdied 13, 14, 15, and 16, but it was not quite enough. A 4-under 66 tied Rahm with Oosthuizen for third place.
The next closest finisher was South African Dylan Frittelli, a former roommate and teammate of Spieth at the University of Texas. He finished 9-under for the week, six back of Morikawa.
This was not the only time recently where Royal St. George’s saw a first-time American triumph. Two hosted Opens ago, Ben Curtis won the 2003 Open in his major debut.
Curtis was a bit more of a longshot, though, ranking 396th in the OWGR heading into his victory, while Morikawa was No. 4. A rare accomplishment nonetheless. Morikawa has five wins in 48 career starts, while Curtis had four wins in 290 career starts.
149th Open Leaderboard
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 4)
1. Collin Morikawa -15 (-4)
2. Jordan Spieth -13 (-4)
3. Jon Rahm -11 (-4)
3. Louis Oosthuizen -11 (+1)
5. Dylan Frittelli -9 (-2)
6. Brooks Koepka -8 (-5)
6. Mackenzie Hughes -8 (-1)
8. Dustin Johnson -7 (-3)
8. Robert MacIntyre -7 (-3)
8. Daniel Berger -7 (-2)
8. Scottie Scheffler -7 (+1)
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 4)
12. Viktor Hovland -6 (-4)
12. Emiliano Grillo -6 (-2)
12. Shane Lowry -6 (-1)
15. Tony Finau -5 (-3)
15. Corey Conners -5 (+3)
19. Sergio Garcia -4 (-4)
19. Webb Simpson -4 (+1)
19. Paul Casey -4 (+1)
26. Xander Schauffele -3 (-5)
26. Ian Poulter -3 (-2)
26. Matt Fitzpatrick -3 (E)
26. Andy Sullivan -3 (+2)
33. Bryson DeChambeau -2 (-5)
33. Tommy Fleetwood -2 (E)
33. Danny Willett -2 (+2)
40. Justin Thomas -1 (-1)
40. Matt Wallace -1 (+2)
46. Adam Scott E (-2)
46. Rory McIlroy E (+1)
46. Justin Rose E (+3)
53. Rickie Fowler +1 (-5)
53. Billy Horschel +1 (-1)
59. Joaquin Niemann +2 (E)
59. Lee Westwood +2 (+2)
67. Richard Bland +3 (E)
72. Padraig Harrington +4 (+1)
How Collin Morikawa Won The Open Championship
Morikawa became the Open Championship Golfer of the Year by looking like he had had been there before, even though he had not. He birdied his final 31 holes, and had just four birdies for the entire week, which tied for second in the field.
He ranked 172nd in the field in strokes gained: putting on the season, but was more than enough this week, leading the field in total putting.
His 19 birdies ranked third in the field for the week. As he often does, he just did not make many mistakes.
Morikawa’s Winning Numbers
Distance: 295 yards
Fairways: 34/56, 60.7%
Greens: 56/72, 75%
Putts/Per GIR: 1.54
Scoring: 19 Birdies, 49 Pars, 4 Bogeys
What It Means For Morikawa
Where to start? Morikawa’s two career victories in eight career major starts ties him with two of the all-timers in Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones in most majors over such a short amount of time.
He is now the only player in Tour history to win two majors in their tournament debut, and he joins Tiger Woods as the only golfers to win both the PGA Championship and The Open Championship before the age of 25.
More important in regards to 2021, Morikawa moves from 10th to 1st in the FedExCup rankings, overtaking previous No. 1 holder Patrick Cantlay, who missed the cut entirely. He also jumps from 4th to a career high of 3rd in the world rankings.
The win also means a great deal in terms of PGA Tour and major eligibility, but seeing as he was unlikely to not need anything extra to accomplish all that anyway, it feels barely worth mentioning here.
Morikawa’s 2021 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 16
Wins: 2 (WGC-Workday, The Open)
Additional Top 10: 6
Earnings: $6,950,768 (1)
FedExCup Pts: 2,136 (1)
World Rank Before/After: 4/3
Brooks Koepka. Majors. Is anything else needed?
The four time major winner hurt his chances of a fifth major title with a difficult Saturday, but he was great on Sunday, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 65 to jump 19 spots, from T25 to T6 – the ninth time in his past 11 major starts that he’s finished inside the top 7 at a major. This was his third consecutive major finishing inside the top 6.
Among those to also shoot a 65 on Sunday was Koekpa-rival Bryson DeChambeau, who at least was able to make something out of the week. The 2020 U.S. Open Champion jumped 31 spots from T64 to T33 with his strong final round, playing bogey-free after shooting 70 or worse in each of his first three rounds.
Also, since it is a major, it would feel wrong not to mention 27-year-old San Diego State product Xander Schauffele. His 65 rose him a field high 32 spots from T68 to T26.
With a T7 at last month’s U.S. Open, Schauffele had already posted a top-10 at a major for the fourth consecutive year, but is still looking for that first victory. He has nine top-10s in 18 major starts.
Also shooting 65 was former Open runner-up Rickie Fowler, who has struggled badly in 2021, but was tremendous on a major Sunday, which moved him from T73 to T53. Again, he couldn’t get out of his own way, as his 14 bogeys for the week ranked 143rd in the field.
Corey Conners was attempting to become the second Canadian major winner in Tour history (Mike Weir, 2003), and he looked in good shape early, after an eagle on the 7th hole got him within three of the lead, but he would get no close.
The 29-year-old had no birdies and four bogeys over his final 11 holes to drop from T4 to T15. To his credit though, he now has three top 20s in majors on the season.
Also dropped hard on Sunday was Aussie Cameron Smith. The 27-year-old continues to be absurdly up-and-down on the 2021 season, this time record four 6s on his card to shoot a 4-over 74 and drop from T9 to T33. He has three Tour victories, but cannot quite be consistent enough to contend for four rounds at a major.
Sunday’s biggest drop came from Australia’s Ryan Fox, who plummeted 42 spots from T23 to T67 with a field-low 6-under 76 on Sunday, carding just a single birdie in the process.
Fox opened a number of eyes when he vaulted to 66th in the OWGR in 2018, but has not been able to string good results together since. He came into the week ranked 185th.
“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. A quick little side not, when Phil won the PGA — I think he’s 50 years old — 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.”
– Collin Morikawa, Open Championship Golf Of The Year