Speaking for myself, I thought that this Open Championship was fantastic. Sure, the weather in Sandwich, Kent was pretty benign. The wind was nearly non-existent whilst bordering on a gentle spring zephyr and rain? Well, there was no precipitation to be found anywhere during the week. Two key factors that protect these Open Championship links courses. Sure, there’s the fescue and/or gorse too.
Friday’s cut line saw a few notable names not make the cut. Guys like 2021 PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Lucas Glover who had just won on the PGA TOUR the week before, Jason Day, “The Patrick’s” (Reed and Cantlay), former Champion Golfer of the Year Stewart Cink who himself has played great golf in 2021 and countless others.
If you’ll allow me to do a little pre-Olympics flag-waving for a second, a couple of fellow “Canucks” fared very well. Mackenzie Hughes (T-6th) had the highest finish ever in Canadian golf history as it relates to the Open Championship. Corey Conners played well over the week too, even though he did falter a little bit out of the gate on Sunday. He would gather himself, but, towards the end he slowly fizzled out finishing in a tie for 15th. Slowly but surely the developmental program of Golf Canada and their provincial golf associations are reaping the rewards. The Canadian contingent on the worldwide tours is growing and there are so many great golfers in the pipeline. Taylor Pendrith finished 11th in the alternate field event (Barbasol Championship), and Adam Svensson tied for 18th on the Korn Ferry Tour this week. The “Maple Leaf Invasion” is real folks (I’ll leave the Canadian women for a future article).
With Collin Morikawa being crowned the Champion Golfer of the Year, it signals the end of Major season in men’s professional golf. This is the first major tournament since before the pandemic that felt “right”. Then again, links golf will always give you that feeling of purity. The crowds were there, astute golf fans, and the void of any stupid comments from drunkards in attendance was quite refreshing. The weather was so good that it sucked but in the end it resulted in some very good golf being played. While “The Open” may not have had a 50-year-old winning, nor did it have a Matsuyama-like type of history attached to it, or did it have the drama of the U.S. Open this tournament was fun to watch. The leaderboard was pretty good too. Defending Champion Golfer of the Year Shane Lowry acquitted himself very well, Louie Oosthuizen was great nearly all week, Jordan Spieth what can you say about the “Comeback Player of the Year”?
Collin Morikawa, the affable American, is a professional golfer that’s hard to not like. Impossible? Maybe something will come up eventually that will shed a negative light on him. Maybe, it’ll turn out that he doesn’t like puppies. Wait, nope that isn’t it! That won’t happen because during the pandemic he and his girlfriend were taking in dogs and fostering them. Whenever he appears and speaks on camera he carries himself well beyond his years, to the point where I find myself smiling and enjoying what he has to say. Even when he’s breaking a trophy he’s likable. In a way, he reminds me of a younger – previously aforementioned – Jordan Spieth, the, again, he himself is only 27 years old. Although, it sure feels like he’s been around for much longer. In saying this, Morikawa just might be THE new “Golden Child” which is very much a compliment.
Watching the tournament from Friday on, you had the feeling that it was going to go down just like it did with Morikawa winning. At one point on Sunday, I thought that it was over by his 11th hole, even though Spieth did put some pressure on him. But the clutch putt that Morikawa made to send him to -15 was enough to convince me that he was winning The Open. Out of all of the golfers in men’s professional golf I look at three swings that I just admire. The first is Oosthuizen, the second is Morikawa’s, and lastly is Corey Conners’.
At age 24, Morikawa is just getting started in his journey. A product of the University of California at Berkeley, Morikawa came out of college and immediately signed with TaylorMade Golf and he loves their equipment. In the short time that he’s been playing on the PGA TOUR he’s been as close to a “cut machine” as you can get. Collin Morikawa has come exactly as advertised and isn’t a bad face for sponsors to get a hold of either. With this victory he claims his first Claret Jug, already has a Wanamaker Trophy (PGA Championship) and with it he has half of the “Career Grand Slam”. He definitely has the game to win a Green Jacket and the U.S. Open. So, who knows how long it will be for him to get the “‘Kawa-Slam”? What Morikawa is doing is historic and beyond impressive. Two Major championship trophies in just under a calendar year. So, exactly how high is Morikawa’s ceiling?
The answer to that last question remains to be seen. As long as he doesn’t go chasing distance, Collin isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Between his ball-striking, driving accuracy, accuracy into the green (2nd in GIR 71.85%) his deft touch around the green when he does miss, and his ability to make clutch putts it’d be easy to suggest that his ceiling is extremely high. It goes to show you that with the right tools you don’t need to drive the ball a long way to win. His paltry 294.3 yards per drive is good enough for 116th in driving distance.
Collin Morikawa is your Champion Golfer of the Year for 2021. Congratulations Collin. Not bad for a first time appearance in The Open.
Until The Next Tee!!