At the tender age of 24, Collin Morikawa can make his own history on Sunday at the 149th British Open.
Having won the PGA Championship in his first attempt in August 2020, Morikawa is attempting to win the British in his debut performance. Morikawa was 6 years old when another American, Ben Curtis, became the last first-time winner of the British Open – and at Royal St. George’s, no less, in 2003. No player has ever won two different majors in his first try.
“There’s a little bit of ignorance is bliss,” former British Open champion and NBC/Golf Channel commentator Justin Leonard said. “He makes the game look easy, and what scar tissue does he have? That may be one of his greatest assets.”
Morikawa, who is playing in just his eighth career major, shot a 2-under 68 at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, to improve to 11-under 199 and take his place one stroke behind leader Louis Oosthuizen. When he won the PGA, Morikawa also came from behind, shooting 64 on Sunday to erase a two-stroke deficit. No player has ever won two majors in his first eight attempts.
Should Morikawa hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday, he would become only the ninth player to win the PGA Championship and the British in a 365-day span. Only Tiger Woods did it before turning 25. He would join select company as a winner of the Open in his tournament debut. Along with Curtis, only five others have done so since 1900: Jock Hutchison (1921), Denny Shute (1933), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Lema (1964), Tom Watson (1975) and the aforementioned Curtis (2003).
It would also be Morikawa’s second major win in just his 8th major start. That would be the fewest major starts to two major titles since Bobby Jones.
In the third round, Morikawa struggled out of the gate. He made bogeys on two of his first five holes, but as NBC’s Paul Azinger observed, “there was just no panic in Collin Morikawa.” How did he maintain his composure despite falling four strokes back at the turn before tying Oosthuizen for the lead on the 14th hole with his last of four birdies?
“It was just believing that I was still hitting good shots,” Morikawa said. “No matter what happens tomorrow, I know I produced good golf shots already this week and I’m capable of it. I just have to stick to that and believe in the process. Hopefully we can just put it together from hole 1 all the way through hole 18.”
Morikawa’s ballstriking prowess makes him a tough foe for Oosthuizen to have to stare down in the final pairing on Sunday.
“He’s a lot like Johnny Miller in his prime,” Azinger said. “He hits every shot right at the flag when he’s playing well.”
And Morikawa relishes the chance to win a second major at such a youthful age.
“The biggest thing I can draw from the PGA is just knowing I can get it done,” he said. “I don’t have much experience on links golf, and pretty much all the highlights in my head are from this week. Thankfully there is quite a few.”
And don’t expect Morikawa to do anything differently tomorrow, except perhaps get off to a better start.
“We create these routines that we get accustomed to,” he explained. “Just because it’s a major, it’s going to be a final round and we’re in contention, doesn’t mean that you have to change. I’ve built this routine and hope that it’s bulletproof.”