GOLF DOCTOR

Cool, calm, collected: Morikawa impresses with British Open win

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Cool, calm and collected. That’s how Collin Morikawa appeared on Sunday, July 18, as he dissected the field at Royal St. George’s on his way to winning the 149th Open Championship. Last year should have been the 149th Open Championship but it was canceled due to the pandemic.
The first year the Open Championship was played was 1860. It was not held during World War I years from 1915 thru 1919 or during World War II years from 1940 through 1945.

Morikawa won the Gold medal as the “Champion Golfer of the Year,” a legendary title dating back to the 1800s, and with it the prized Claret Jug. It was Morikawa’s debut at the Open Championship, aka the British Open, played this year at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, very near the white cliffs of Dover. Past champions at Royal St. Geroge’s in the modern era include Sandy Lyle (1985), Greg Norman (1993), Ben Curtis (2003) and Darren Clarke (2011).

Beginning in 1894 there have been nine previous Opens at Royal St. George’s. Colin Morikawa finds himself in pretty elite and historical company.

Louis Ooosthuizen was the leader through the first three rounds of the Open Championship but that was inconsequential to Morikawa, 24.

Morikawa shot a final round of 4-under par 66, finishing the tournament at 15-under and two strokes better than runner-up Jordan Spieth. Spieth, who won the Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017, was lurking near the top all week, but bogies on 17 and 18 at the end of his third round, and two bogies in his first six holes on Sunday hurt his chances. Morikawa won $2,070,000, while Spieth won $1,198,000 in sole second.

Bryson De Chambeau, whose pre-tournament talk suggested he intended to bring Royal St. George’s to its knees with his length off the tee, barely made the cut. After round one he stated to the press that his driver “sucks,” to which he needed to apologize hours later. Bryson finished tied for 33rd and won only $60,143, and maybe lost some fan support with his complaints.

Morikawa has now won two majors in just eight starts. He won the 2020 PGA Championship last August at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Regarded as the best ball striker in the game today, he remains the leader in the “strokes gained approach” stat at +1.52. That means he’s one and a half strokes better than the rest of the field for tournaments played this year. That’s huge!

On Wednesday prior to Thursday’s first round Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee picked Morikawa to win. “This golf course has a darn good record at picking the best ball striker in the game,” Chamblee said. He added that, since the stroke gained metrics came out in 2004 there has only been one player who has ever finished a season gaining more than a stroke and a half over his peers with his iron play – that’s Tiger Woods.
Morikawa may not be the longest driver in the world, but he is one of the most accurate. That counted big at Royal St. George’s, with lurking out-of-bounds on several holes, and extremely long and penal rough. Plus, for his 72 holes Morikawa averaged per-round 27.75 putts. Think about that! How many putts do you take per round?. Majors are won with the putter.

There are many takeaways from this edition of the British Open. One is that Jordan Spieth is back with his game, and he knows that winning is hard. It’s hard for everyone. The R&A and the golf community in the U.K. know how to maintain golfing’s ageless traditions. Their fans know and love their golf. The bomb-and-gouge style isn’t suited to links golf; links golf is like no other. Bryson needs to harness his brain and his science to the real world and grow up.

One of the most impressive aspects of Morikawa’s game in the final round was the poise and focus he demonstrated.  Morikawa’s three-minute speech on the 18th green at Royal St. George’s, as he clutched the champion’s Claret Jug, was professional and moving as he praised the fans and everyone on his team. Lastly, Collin Morikawa will win more majors and eventually reign No. 1.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed sports psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.