Standing on the 18th green at Royal St George’s, the famous Claret Jug cradled in his talented hands, Collin Morikawa declared: “I just want more.”
The most prestigious trophy in men’s golf is enough for most people, but, after strangling his colleagues at Open Championship with a terrifying level of precision and composure, the 24-year-old feels his career like everyone else.
It has only just begun.
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Morikawa is now a two-time big winner, cutting and cutting links on his Open debut, posting under 15 under to win the Claret Jug by two hits against Jordan Spieth.
The American – who also won the PGA championship on his debut last year – joins Tiger Woods as the only male golfer to win a double major before their 25th birthday.
Comparisons to Woods are thrown around all too often but for now, they don’t quite feel out of place.
It is thought that it has not been since the 15-time major winner that a more impressive batting was witnessed in the American victory over the British mainland.
Morikawa is tailor-made for golf’s most rigorous tests, where there’s superior course management quality and clear contact with tight lies instead of distance. That is clear now.
There’s a feeling that Sunday won’t be the only time he’s got his best walk in golf.
Of course, nothing is certain when playing against a field of more than 150. Predictions for excellence can be a dozen, while the true greats of each era can be counted on one hand.
But what Morikawa has accomplished in 12 months, let alone within a week on the English coast, bodes surprisingly well for a two-time big winner.
Morikawa, born, raised and attended college in California, wasn’t used to traditional golf before this month.
Having only turned pro mid-2019, he had no reason to play in the UK until this year, when the 149th Open in Kent was postponed for 2020.
He played last week at the Scottish Open; a major event in its own right with a star-studded field, but one that largely doubles as the Open’s US team prep link.
Morikawa is not good. It was horrible, in fact, by his standards.
He lacked on the final day of competition, finishing 15 shots behind Australian winner Min Woo Lee in a 71st draw, making it the worst game of his professional career.
Just four days later, he was on the first tee at Royal St George’s, 72 holes away from immortality.
Between the lows and highs of Morikawa’s professional career – just days apart – was a bold gamble he took after his disappointment at the Scottish Open.
In Aberdeen, he doesn’t feel he can find the heart of the face with short-to-mid irons, which are considered his favorite and “most important”.
His measure of accuracy is different from most people. When equipped with his college club, Morikawa was said to have the same dispersion pattern with his six-iron than most pros do with wedges.
He was simply straying millimeters in Scotland but, for someone with great dribbling qualities, he felt as though he might as well be fooling them.
This was followed by a call to his TaylorMade Tour representative, Adrian Rietveld, to find a solution.
“When the question came to me from Collin, I didn’t even respond immediately,” said Rietveld GOLF.com. “I just told him I needed to think about it. He’s just the type of guy that won’t change unless there’s a definite reason to change, and he just feels like he hit the wrong iron. But he couldn’t understand why.
“He is a great dribbler who has a lot of shots. So a little out of the way, you’re affecting the warm-up and spin on each shot, so he can’t be exactly as he wants. “
One gear change was finally settled after testing on Monday, with Morikawa taking the risk to swap out his 7-iron TaylorMade P730 for a 9-iron. He has replaced them with the P7MC model, which he feels interacts with the yard of the fair affiliated companies better.
“Those three important clubs are some of my favorites,” says Morikawa. “Eight irons is my favorite club in the bag, and when I couldn’t hit it (well) last week, I knew I had to try something else.”
“I hit these irons last week that I wouldn’t normally hit and my swing felt good, but it was a huge learning opportunity.
“Last week, I wanted to win, but I learned a lot more and luckily it helped this week.”
Few players swap out a team club mid-season, choosing to experience the thrill with one, while resisting the urge to look for something better until it’s clear on the calendar .
Morikawa did it hours before a major championship, like Harry Kane wearing new shoes before the Euro final, or Steve Smith changing his racquet on the first day of the Ashes.
In his four championship rounds at the Open, Morikawa hit 72, 83, 67 and 78% of his prescribed batting, compared with on-court averages of 64, 68, 66 and 70.
His numbers in the first two rounds are particularly impressive when you consider he hit just 50% of the fairway on Thursday and 57.1% on Friday.
Meanwhile, another rising American star, Bryson DeChambeau, is still scratching his head, struggling to break par.
Morikawa was choosing golf like Albert Einstein for physics, while mad scientist DeChambeau was at the back of the class, cursing his computer.
DeChambeau hit just 29% of the fairway in his first inning 5, and immediately blamed his equipment, which he was unhappy about, but didn’t change.
“If I can hit it down the middle of the fairway, that would be great, but for the driver right now… the driver sucks,” he said, before shaving below the cut line and finally finishing the T33.
“It’s not a good face for me, and we’re still trying to figure out how to make it good when it misses. I’m living on the razor blade like I’ve been telling people for a long time.”
If DeChambeau’s distance is to be considered intimidating, then Morikawa’s accuracy and consistency must be terrifying.
As the pressure increased, the distance between Morikawa and his opponents also increased.
He hit 68 percent of passes at the weekend compared to an on-field average of 63 percent. Most notably, he didn’t make a trick in the last 31 holes he played and only had two at the weekend. Runner-up Spieth has six in rounds three and four, while third-place Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen both have five.
Spieth took the lead by just one shot with Morikawa standing on a long birdie putt on the 14th green, but the lead effectively swooped down to claim the trophy.
From his attention to detail before the tournament, to his ability to withstand pressure in many aspects of the game; No matter what angle you look at this performance from, Morikawa is an upperclassman.
Now, he leaves Britain $2.8 million richer and in a way that seems like the least relevant point in his Open success.
Money will be of least interest to Morikawa, who last month had some ingredients for greatness, and now there’s more to it.