Golf: Collin Morikawa wins Open Championship on his debut for second Major title

US golfer Collin Morikawa with the Claret Jug after winning the 149th British Open at Royal St George's, Sandwich on July 18, 2021.
US golfer Collin Morikawa with the Claret Jug after winning the 149th British Open at Royal St George's, Sandwich on July 18, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - When Collin Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship in his home state of California, pandemic restrictions meant that no spectators were in attendance to celebrate with him.

More than 8,000km away, to bookend a stretch of seven Majors in 12 months, he received his due from British fans at The Open Championship as they lauded the emergent American star.

Morikawa's final-round 66 on Sunday (July 18) wrapped up a 15-under 265 at Royal St George's in Sandwich, England, lifting him past South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen for his second Major title.

The 24-year-old became the first golfer in history to win on his debuts at two different Majors and the first player since Bobby Jones in the 1920s to win two Majors in eight starts or fewer.

American three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth shot 66 to finish second at 13 under. 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, and Brooks Koepka soared up the leaderboard with a 65 to finish tied sixth at eight under with Canada's Mackenzie Hughes (69).

Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion at St Andrew's, led the event after each of the first three rounds, yet failed to convert a major opportunity once again.

Earlier this year, he was a 54-hole co-leader at the US Open and finished second after he also took the runner-up spot at the PGA Championship.

“I’ve had belief in myself since turning pro that I can do it,” said Morikawa. “When it’s coming to these tournaments, courses and styles that I have never played, I do my homework Monday to Wednesday to know what I need to do."

He received a glowing accolade from compatriot Spieth.

“I don’t think there’s anything I need to even say about it that hasn’t already been talked about or that he’s certainly proven,” Spieth said of Morikawa.

“He swings the club beautifully, gets it in positions that make it very, very difficult to not start the ball online, so therefore he’s going to be very consistent tee to green.”

Playing in the final pairing, Morikawa opened with six straight pars while Oosthuizen gave a shot back on No. 4 to create a tie for the lead at 11 under.

Everything pivoted at No. 7, a reachable par-five hole where Oosthuizen came undone.

The 38-year-old South African skulled his third shot out of a greenside bunker, over the green and into a different bunker. His recovery from there was not much better, landing on the green but too far from the hole to have any hope for par.

Morikawa, meanwhile, landed a chip shot right next to the hole for a tap-in birdie and a two-shot swing.

That propelled Morikawa forward. He hit a perfect approach at the eighth to set up a birdie, dunked a long birdie putt at No. 9 and saved a mid-range, downhill par putt at No. 10. The run took him to 14 under and established a three-shot lead over Spieth at the time, while Oosthuizen remained stalled at 10 under.

Spieth, who wrapped up his third round in frustrating fashion with two poor bogeys, went two over for his first six holes on Sunday before capitalising on the seventh with an eagle putt. With momentum on his side, he poured in four birdies between Nos. 9 and 14 to rise to 13 under.

But like a handful of players in the final round, Spieth found his groove a bit too late.

Morikawa sank another lengthy birdie putt at No. 14 to reach 15 under, and Spieth missed a birdie chance at No. 17 to keep apace.

Oosthuizen, who totalled only three bogeys from Thursday to Saturday, made three bogeys and two birdies on Sunday for a disappointing finish.

Rahm nearly holed out an albatross on the par-five seventh, where his approach rolled and missed the cup by a few inches, leaving him a five-foot eagle putt.

The world No. 2 then strung together four birdies on Nos. 13-16 to climb to 11 under, with his tee shot on the par-three 16th stopping a few feet shy of the pin.

Frittelli, overshadowed by bigger names throughout the day, snuck into the top five with two of his five birdies coming at Nos. 15 and 17.

Earlier in the afternoon, Koepka polished off a bogey-free 65 with three birdies and an eagle, a round that could have been lower with some more converted birdies on the home stretch.

Morikawa went 67-64-68 over the first three rounds to set himself up for Sunday. His second-round 64 featured seven birdies that briefly put him in the hunt for a 62, which would have been a course record and tied the single-round record for a Major.

He played his final 31 holes of the championship without a bogey.