Collin Morikawa made great history at Royal St George’s when he celebrated his Open debut with a stunning two-stroke win over Jordan Spieth.
Morikawa, who won last year’s PGA Championship in just his second major appearance, held off Spieth and Jon Rahm’s compelling challenges to become the first player in history to win two different majors on the first try.
The ultra-composed 24-year-old fired a bogey-free 66 to claim the win at 15 under par, with Spieth’s 66 putting him in second place, while Louis Oosthuizen got more heartbreak as he stumbled to a closing 71 and had to settle for a podium finish at 11 under with Rahm.
In a bid to match 500/1 outsider Ben Curtis’ debut win over the Sandwich left 18 years ago, Morikawa started the final round with one shot behind Oosthuizen and was soon on top as the South African made his approach to the fourth drew and became unable to save par.
Spieth dropped shots in the fourth and sixth to launch himself back into the running with a brilliant eagle in the seventh, where there was a two-shot swing in the final pair as Oosthuizen thinned his bunker splash out over the green and took six , while Morikawa broke his pars with his first birdie of the day.
Knowing he now had a two-stroke advantage over his playing partner, Morikawa resisted the temptation to try and protect his lead and extended it with even more birdies at eight and nine to go four clear, although Spieth narrowed the deficit to three when he chose. up shots on the ninth and 10th, where Morikawa made a clutch par save.
Oosthuizen revived his hopes with a stunning tee shot to the par-three 11th that rattled the pin and set up his first birdie, but Spieth was the man who ramped up the pressure on the leader and the 2017 champion narrowed the gap to a single shot when he rolled in consecutive six-footers for birdies at 13 and 14.
But Morikawa responded with a nerveless 6-yard putt for a priceless four in the long 14th, just as Rahm was in the midst of a spectacular late attack, the Spaniard pulled in four straight birdies from the 13th and within a matter of inches of a hole-in. in-one on the short 16th.
Rahm’s rally would fall short as the pre-tournament favorite finished pars on 17 and 18 to complete a 66 and claim the clubhouse lead at 11 under, and Spieth missed a great opportunity to narrow Morikawa’s lead again when he hit his approach to 12 feet on the penultimate hole only to read too much break in the birdie putt.
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Morikawa’s determination and composure remained intact as he negotiated 15 and 16 in pars, and Spieth couldn’t make his compatriot’s victory march any less comfortable as he parried 18th for a 66 – 13 under par for the week and his best result in a major championship since winning at Royal Birkdale four years ago.
Another cast-iron par on the 17th gave Morikawa the relative luxury of a two-stroke advantage to beat the 72nd hole, and after another pure shot found the center of the fairway, he drilled his second to 25 feet before catching the applause. took in the bumper galleries with victory just a formality.
Two putts later it was official, and a fitting result in a year of historic big results, while Oosthuizen had to think about yet another case of what could have been as he parried the last four holes to take part of third place. earning money with Rahm, the man who led him to the US Open title last month.
Brooks Koepka had previously threatened the course record when he raced to five under for the day with a third of his final lap to go, but was disappointed to close with six straight pairs for a 65, leaving him seven shots behind the champion. .
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson returned a 67 to finish seven under, along with rising Scot Bob MacIntyre, who took back-to-back top-10 finishes in both of his Open appearances with a 67 that could have been a few lower his if he hadn’t drawn his tee shot on the 14th out of bounds.
After two years in possession of the Claret Jug, Royal Portrush champion Shane Lowry’s solid defense of the title ended with a 69 and a creditable draw for 12th place at six under par.