The 24-year-old entered the final day of the major with one shot behind Louis Oosthuizen, but a streak of three consecutive birdies over the last nine helped propel the American past the South African, who had topped the standings in the standings. during the three previous tournament. days.
In his first appearance at the UK major tournament, Morikawa became the first man to win both the PGA Championship and the Open on his tournament debut.
Just over two years ago, Morikawa was ranked 1039th in the world after finishing tied for 14th at the RBC Canadian Open in June 2019. He is now a two-time major winner.
Afterwards, Morikawa said he was not yet finished winning the majors.
“At 24, it’s so hard to look back on the short two years I was pro and see what I did because I want more. I enjoy those moments and I love it. that, and I want to teach myself to kiss it a little more, maybe spend a few more days and sit and drink from that, “he told media.
“But I just want more. When you’re in those times and you really love what you’re doing, what I love to golf and compete with these guys, these are the best times ever because nerves drive you to be a better person. “
Before the last day of action, it was almost impossible to pick a winner between Oosthuizen, Morikawa and Spieth.
Despite a shooting advantage, Oosthuizen has developed an unfortunate habit of failing at the last hurdle in recent years. And that’s what turned out, with two bogeys out of the top nine, knocking the South African down in the standings.
Morikawa jumped up to take advantage, coming in with three straight birdies to close the final nine that gave him a four-stroke lead before moments later a birdie from Spieth reduced the lead to three.
There was never any question of a plane for the American.
If overnight leader Oosthuizen fainted in the last 18 holes, three-time major winner Spieth regained his best level as he raced to the top of the standings.
The 27-year-old’s putter was hot and his chipping smart as he recovered from a few early backhands to put some pressure on Morikawa.
Oosthuizen produced a moment of magic when he hit the flag on the difficult 11th hole par three, just millimeters from a memorable hole-in-one.
Meanwhile, defending US Open champion Rahm was building his own push for the coveted Claret Jug.
An eagle on the 7th hole and a streak of four consecutive birdies on the back nine propelled him to the top of the standings and made the 26-year-old Spaniard dream of a second consecutive major.
But Morikawa was unfazed. Despite his youth and relative lack of experience in major tournaments – he has only played seven before this weekend – Morikawa has calmly eliminated his rivals.
He kept his driving precise, his iron shots precise and his hits as he tackled all the challenges that the delicate course of the Royal St George could offer.
And under the blinding English sun as the UK experienced a mini-heatwave, Morikawa was able to tap the historic 18th hole putt to be crowned 149th Open champion.
The American is the first player to win the Open in his debut since Ben Curtis in 2003 at Royal St. George’s.
Morikawa also became the second player to win the Open and the PGA Championship before the age of 25 – the only other golfer to have achieved this feat is Tiger Woods.
After hitting the winning putt, he said that although he looked calm on the surface, his nerves were shaking.
“I’m glad I sound calm because the nerves are definitely up there. But you channel those nerves into arousal and energy, and that pulls you away like a fear factor in what I want.
“Especially as those last nine holes were coming in. Jordan was birdies; I think Rahm was pushing; Louis had a birdie on 11, an amazing birdie. You can’t care about the score. I had to worry about every shot. Can I execute each move to the best of my ability? Some we did, some didn’t, and then you move on. We can’t control what’s going to happen, what happened. So I really looked at it as just focusing on each shot, how to see what the best shot is and try to do my best from there. “
Close but not enough
For Morikawa’s rivals, it was a close affair, but not a cigar.
Oosthuizen, who won the Open in 2010, has now tied for second or second in six different majors.
And this week, despite finishing atop the standings for three quarters of the Open, he passed out once again on the final lap. For one of the most beloved golfers it was once again heartbreaking as the South African finished tied for third.
As for Spieth, who was looking for his first major victory since 2017 after a long stretch with a few struggles, the American has shown he is again a force to be reckoned with.
Spieth was magnificent in all aspects of his game, cutting the course as he put pressure on compatriot Morikawa.
However, Spieth believes it was his bet that ultimately let him down.
“My putting is not where I want to be at all. I’m saying at all,” he told media afterward. “It’s moving in the right direction, but that’s not where it has been.
“And I know what it takes to get there, and it’s just really hard to do. But it’s heats like today or this week, major championship heats, where you obviously have to test not only your touch here, but also a lot of knobs, broken putts and confidence lines.
“I just wasn’t extremely sharp with the putter this week. I was sharper than Augusta, and it’s been a bit here and there this year. My bad weeks have gone well and my good weeks are gone. really good, but needed a bit of work trying to get almost a few hundred to 500 putts between yesterday’s finish and today’s round to think I could go out and play with enough of confidence to win. “
It wasn’t quite enough on Sunday as Morikawa was able to hold on to be crowned champion golfer of the year.
As a result of this victory, Morikawa rose to No. 1 in FedExCup and No. 3 in the world.
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