I won’t say I told you so. I won’t say I told you so. No. You know what? That’s not true. I DID (kind of) tell you so last week. I did (sort of) predict the 149th Open Championship winner. In a roundabout way, I foretold of Collin Morikawa being named Champion Golfer of the Year for 2021. At least, that’s how I choose to remember it. Let’s take a quick peek at how it happened.
Unorthodox Course Conditions
The Open Championship is synonymous with links-style golf… and all that entails. Usually, that’s some combination of rainy and/o extremely windy conditions that force players to think outside the box from tee to green. It’s a bit ironic, then, to say that the dare I say pleasant conditions experienced last weekend at Royal St. George’s were anything close to unorthodox. Except that they were. Although Royal St. George’s is known for giving up low scores in the past, it’s still odd to see so many rounds under par in the UK. Sure, some players had their difficulties (sorry those thumbs weren’t working, Phil). But that happens in any tournament. This was a gettable course with perfect weather conditions and the final leaderboard reflects that.
So… Just How Did They Finish?
Recall that in last week’s preview, I threw out a few names as ones to watch. Jon Rahm was the betting favorite. Brooks Koepka always seems to show up every weekend, not just the majors. Tony Finau has had numerous high finishes at majors in the last few years. Let’s take a look at the top of that final leaderboard, shall we…
Let’s work our way back through those names I mentioned, shall we? Tony Finau…tied for 15th. A hair outside another top 10 finish, but a good overall showing. Brooks Koepka… tied for sixth. Mr. Consistency. Jon Rahm… tied for third. So close. Then, wait, what’s that name at the top? Collin Morikawa? Verbatim from last week, “Maybe we see a player like Collin Morikawa continue to build on his burgeoning legacy.” VERBATIM.
Excellent Golf on Display
The reality of this year’s Open Championship was that we saw a lot of really good golf from start to finish. For a while, it looked like Louis Oosthuizen would break through and win his first major after finishing runner up in each of the four in his career. Possibly even as a wire-to-wire leader after sitting atop the leaderboard through the first three rounds. Jordan Spieth, who has been somewhat MIA over the last several years, has clearly rediscovered his stroke and was right in the thick of things up until the end. Rahm made some noise on Sunday with a 4-under 66 (same score as Spieth and Morikawa, among others). Koepka tied for the lowest round on Sunday with a 5-under 65. Oosthuizen sputtered to a 1-over 71.
All the while, Collin Morikawa held his composure like a seasoned pro, despite being a mere 24 years old and playing in only his eighth major, two of which he won in his first try: the 2020 PGA Championship and this, the 2021 Open Championship. Carding zero bogeys on Sunday, Morikawa never challenged the course nor went outside his own game. Opting often for his three-wood off the tee rather than a driver, he played for position and shots he was comfortable with. Over the course of the tournament, he hit 75 percent of greens in regulation, averaging just over 1.5 putts per green, and on Sunday alone, his greens in regulation increased to 77.8 percent with again just over 1.5 putts per green. This is a model of consistent golf. This is how the Champion Golfer of the Year should finish.
The Sport Is In Good Hands
With so many young talented players, there’s never been a more clear sign that the sport of golf is in good hands. While we have budding rivalries with big personalities, these are also balanced by the more mild-mannered. Morikawa fits that mold to a tee. Just listen to how he talks about how winning The Open Championship is special, and even more so because it was his caddy’s birthday!
Champion Golfer of The Year: Collin Morikawa
I can’t wait to see what more Morikawa brings to the table in the years to come. I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see him as the last man standing on a Sunday at a major. For now, though, he holds the Claret Jug as your 2021 Champion Golfer of the Year. And golf is better for it. Plus, I love seeing these guys flying commercial back home with their trophies in tow in the airport terminal. In this, Morikawa did not disappoint.
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