SANDWICH, England – Collin Morikawa gazed at the maroon pitcher in admiration, poked it in the air, then kissed it, a two-time major champion at the age of 24.
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This time there were people cheering him on.
The American finished with a bogey-free, 4-under 66 and won the Open Championship on his debut Sunday, becoming the first player to instantly capture two different majors.
His win 11 months ago on his PGA Championship debut came in the first major with no spectators amid the pandemic.
So it was a very different scenario for Morikawa, a Californian who had outgrown his years, as he took one of the greatest golf walks on the 18th fairway at Royal St. George’s, first with applause and then with a standing ovation.
After winning the par with two strokes over Jordan Spieth, he gave a punch before applauding the spectators on the huge grandstand around the 18th green, part of a crowd of 32,000 people who have made up for the largest gallery in golf since before Coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m obviously very biased because I’m from the USA, but I see some of the best viewers out here that I’ve ever seen,” said Morikawa in his victory speech in 18th place.
“Those are the moments, the few seconds, that you hug so much,” he added. “You look around, every seat is full, everywhere is full of people.”
They saw a player make a historic start to his great championship career.
Morikawa is halfway to the Career Grand Slam after eight starts and the first player since Bobby Jones in 1926 to win two majors in so few appearances. He follows Gene Sarazen, Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Spieth in winning multiple majors before turning 25.
His total of 15 under 265 was a 72-hole record in 15 opens at Royal St. George’s.
“When you make history,” he said, “it’s hard to understand, it’s hard to really grasp. … At 24, it’s so hard to look back on the two short years I was a professional and See what I did because I want more. “
He did it in style in the pristine weather on the Sandwich Bay links, flushing blows with his irons and pacing on the rare occasions when he had trouble. He called his putting display one of the best of his short career, turning a statistical weakness into a strength.
Morikawa started the last lap with one stroke behind Louis Oosthuizen, was tied in the lead after four holes and then made three straight birdies on numbers 7-9 to overtake the South African, who has not returned since the 12th hole of his second lap was.
Morikawa made important par saves – both times with his fist – on numbers 10 and 15, rolling a birdie putt up and over a ridge and into the cup between to build a two-stroke lead he never lost. Spieth parried his last four holes and also shot 66.
After reaching par for the last time after another perfect drive, Morikawa played his final 31 holes without a bogey on a course that confused many great players with its quirky bounces and undulating fairways.
It was all the more remarkable that this was his first major test on a sea connection. Morikawa had little experience of this style of golf before playing the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club last week. He even had three new irons in his pocket this week.
He completed a performance by Ben Curtis on the same course in 2003 and won the oldest championship in golf on his links debut.
For Oosthuizen, who was aiming for a wire-to-wire win and a second burgundy pitcher – he had a formidable win at St. Andrews in 2010 – this was another near-miss in a career full of them. That year he finished second in the PGA Championship and the US Open, two of his six second places in majors.
This time Oosthuizen shared third place with US Open winner Jon Rahm, 66, after finishing with a 71 – his first round not in the 60s this week. He never recovered from losing his lead with an ugly bogey on the par-5 seventh hole. With his third stroke, he caught way too much ball from the green bunker, which hit the putting area and landed in a bunker on the other side.
Morikawa made a routine birdie on the hole to pull two ahead of Oosthuizen. A few minutes earlier, Spieth had made eagle at number 7.
“Well, I know one thing, fans are second (or third) at the Open,” Oosthuizen said on Twitter after declining to speak to reporters. “Many thanks for the incredible support this week and congratulations to Collin Morikawa, who played with class and courage today.”
Spieth had his closest call in a major since winning the 2017 Royal Birkdale Open. The lack of an 8-foot par putt at # 4 and hitting his tee shot into a bunker at # 6 resulted in dropped shots. He made up for this with his eagle and played the last 10 holes in 4 under.
“I’ve done everything in the last few hours to win this championship,” said Spieth.
It was his bogey-bogey finish on Saturday – he missed a 2-foot par putt on Jan.