Golf history is strewn with players who either couldn’t be denied or just caught lightning in a bottle in their major championship debuts, belying the axiom that it takes experience to win majors.
History, however, has never seen someone like Collin Morikawa, who was not once but two times a maiden winner in both his first PGA Championship and his first Open Championship. The 24-year-old got halfway to a career slam in two attempts. It must be terribly frustrating to him that he could do no better than T44 and T35 in his Masters and U.S. Open debuts, respectively.
Skeptics wondered whether or not Morikawa benefitted from not having fans present when he stormed to victory in relative solitude at TPC Harding Park last summer in only his second career major start. If anyone thought that warranted an asterisk, Morikawa made an emphatic statement in front of throngs at Royal St. George’s and played a flawless final 31 holes to fend off a cast of challengers that included at times Sunday six players with a combined 12 majors among them – Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Shane Lowry.
Golf is a fickle game and predicting the future is folly, but there is nothing in Morikawa’s taut game to suggest he is done collecting major hardware. He quite literally is just getting started.
So let’s review a sterling week at Sandwich:
BIRDIE: Collin Morikawa. With a winning effort in his British Open debut, Morikawa has now proven he can handle every kind of major test. Ball-striking always travels. You can safely pencil him in as a threat in every major pool for the foreseeable future.
BOGEY: Louis Oosthuizen. Bridesmaid revisited. A bogey-free 64 – “the perfect round” – established the early lead which he extended to a 36-hole record 11-under and hung onto through 54. But the South African did not have his Sunday best (sigh), shooting a 71 while everyone else in the hunt was breaking par.
BIRDIE: Jordan Spieth. Seems like only January we were wondering if Spieth would ever be relevant again. The answer is an emphatic yes. He might have won if not for a sloppy Saturday finish. In fairness, despite his recent struggles, Spieth has missed the cut in only three of 31 majors since his Masters debut in 2014.
BOGEY: Dustin Johnson. Once again in position to strike at Royal St. George’s, DJ spit the bit this time on Saturday with a desultory 73 that fit the theme of his unspectacular 2021 major season and cost him a legitimate chance on Sunday. For some guys, T8 simply isn’t good enough.
BIRDIE: Jon Rahm. He reclaimed world No. 1 by making a run at the leaders late Sunday even though he couldn’t quite repeat his magic from Torrey Pines. The Spaniard played the majors in a collective 24-under this year, finishing T5, T8, 1st and T3 in them.
BOGEY: Past Masters winners. Reigning champ Hideki Matsuyama (positive), 2007 Augusta and 2015 Open champion Zach Johnson (positive) and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (exposure) all withdrew for COVID-19 reasons. The pandemic isn’t over folks. Please get your shots and stay safe.
PAR: Lee Westwood. The 48-year-old Englishman finished his 88th career start in a major championship T59, breaking his tie with Jay Haas to stand alone as the golfer with the most major starts without a victory. “It’s nice to have a record; it shows I’ve been a good player for a long, long time,” he said. “Another accolade. Thank you.”
BIRDIE: Lewine Mair. Global Golf Post’s esteemed resident dowager was appointed president of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW), the first woman to be honored with the role in the association’s 83-year history. Mair’s historic appointment follows Beth Ann Nichols, who became the first female president of the Golf Writers Association of America this spring.
BOGEY: Bryson DeChambeau. The luckless mad bomber got a little testy and defensive when the well-documented subject of him not routinely yelling “Fore!” on errant drives was brought up. Sometimes a simple “I’ll strive to do better” would settle it better than a surly denial.
DOUBLE: DeChambeau. His frustrated “the driver sucks” comment didn’t please his Cobra Golf folks, who likened it to an 8-year-old’s temper tantrum. “It’s just really, really painful when he says something that stupid,” Cobra rep Ben Schomin told Golfweek. Bryson later apologized: “I sucked today, not my equipment.”
BIRDIE: Scottie Scheffler. In his first full pass through all four majors, Scheffler joined only Rahm and Morikawa in finishing under par in all four with all top-20 finishes – T18, T8, T7 and T8. His time is coming.
BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. Age sneaks up quickly. One month you’re a 50-year-old PGA champion and another you’re a 51-year-old former Open champ shooting a career-worst, birdie-free 40-40—80 opening round to start T-DFL on a course you last finished runner-up on a decade before.
BIRDIE: English golfers. OK, so nobody broke the Claret Jug drought that goes back to Nick Faldo in 1992, but 16 of the 23 English professionals in the field made the cut. Every top 300 English pro advanced to the weekend except No. 10 Tyrrell Hatton.
BOGEY: Tyrrell Hatton. The “Angry” Englishman was on brand with a stomped-upon iron shaft, some saucy language directed at a hole and a middle-finger salute to someone in the gallery on Friday en route to his fifth missed cut in his last seven major starts.
QUAD: Francesco Molinari. One of six past champions to miss the cut, the 2018 winner from Italy can point to the greenside bunker on the par-3 sixth where it took him three tries to get out en route to a quadruple bogey 7. Thanks to the Sands of Molinari, he missed the cut on the number.
The bunkers at Royal St George's are no joke 😳
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2021
BIRDIE: Nicholas Poppleton. He didn’t exactly make like Kurt Warner, who went from grocery bagger to Super Bowl MVP, but the 27-year-old part-time supermarket delivery man enjoyed his Open experience (T142) even if only the greens crew saw him play last out and he said “I cacked in my pants” on the first tee.
BOGEY: Marcel Siem. The charismatic German might have rued the triple-bogey snowman on the par-5 14th on Saturday, but he didn’t let it get him down as he bounced back with two late birdies that pumped up the appreciative galleries.
BIRDIE: Jigger Thomson. At 6 feet, 9 ½ inches, the survivor of childhood leukemia became the tallest player to ever compete in the Open. Then the man nicknamed for his toddler trait of dancing in nappies made his major-debut cut in style with an ace-birdie combo on 16 and 17 Friday. He finished T53.
A big man with the big moment 🙌
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2021
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. For the record, 20 players have collected 27 major championship trophies since the gifted Northern Irishman won the last of his four. He keeps claiming he is “close,” but the major objects in his mirror seem a lot further than they appear.
BIRDIE: Team Europe. Six of the 14 players who made the cut in all four 2021 majors are European – Rahm, Paul Casey, Robert MacIntyre, Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry and Matt Fitzpatrick. Of the other eight, five were Americans (Morikawa, Spieth, Scheffler, English and DeChambeau). Bring on the Ryder Cup!
BIRDIE: The Super Six. Technically there were six majors in the supersized 2020-21 wrap-around season, and only six players made the cut in all six – Oosthuizen, Rahm, DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Shane Lowry and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
BOGEY: Paul Azinger. For those who didn’t listen to all the talented accented voices on the Open radio and listened to the commentary on TV instead, sorry for all the lazy clichés that Zinger has become too prone to leaning upon.
WD: Will Zalatoris. The promising breakout star of 2021 was 3-under par on Thursday when he felt a tingle go from his back down his leg trying to lash out of the thick rough on the 15th hole. He withdrew the next morning to avoid further injury damage. The Open rookie left “completely gutted” not to finish.
BIRDIE: Martin Slumbers. A month after outgoing USGA president Mike Davis caddied one round in the U.S. Open, the chief executive of the R&A was spotted pedaling around Royal St. George’s, telling GGP “it was easier to get around the course on a bike than in a buggy.”
BOGEY: Pairings committee. You’d think as two-time Open champion and current European Ryder Cup captain who finished T4 at the PGA Championship two months ago, Pádraig Harrington would warrant higher end playing partners than Brad Kennedy (5 over) and Sam Forgan (10 over). He still made the cut.
BIRDIE: Selection committee. Kudos to the R&A for honoring 2020 amateur qualifiers despite the one-year postponement. That allowed 2019-20 European Amateur winner Matthias Schmid of Germany the opportunity to shoot Friday 65 and make the cut in his second Open start.
BIRDIE: Royal St. George’s. Sure, it’s not the sexiest venue on the Open rota, but with pristine weather and firm but fair conditioning (not too hard and not too fast) its natural lumpiness provided a really nice stage for a very compelling championship that identified the best players in the world. What else do you want?
BOGEY: Traffic. Particularly the first two mornings, notes our John Hopkins, journeys that would require only a half hour normally were taking three and sometimes four times as long. RSG is wonderful, but the narrow streets of Sandwich you must navigate to get there remain a logistical hurdle.
BOGEY: Iowa 80 Truck Stop. I have no idea how much an ad on Sirius XM’s PGA Tour Radio costs, but with Zach Johnson a WD I’m not sure how much bang for its buck the “world’s largest truck stop” off the interstate in Walcott, Iowa, got during the peak of Saturday’s Open radio broadcast.
BIRDIE: St. Andrews. Not sure if you heard, but there is a first-ever ballot going on anticipating unprecedented demand for tickets to the 150th Open Championship next year at the Home of Golf. If the annual Masters lottery is any indication, I will be receiving regrets this fall.
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