Collin Morikawa had a marvellous season in 2020, coronavirus or not. He won his first major, the USPGA Championship in San Francisco, and everyone agreed the (then) 23-year-old was set for a glittering career. If what he’s accomplished in 2021 is an accurate indication of his progress, his rivals may need to seriously up their games if they are to challenge him regularly in future.
This past season he made his debut in the Ryder Cup (very much a successful one) and in the Olympic Games (a little less so). He won the WGC/Workday Championship in February and his second major championship, the Open at Royal St George’s, in July. (He always wins in July: in 2019 it was the Barracuda Championship and in 2020 the Workday Charity Open.) And on Sunday he ensured that he enjoyed a notable November by becoming the first American to be crowned the winner of the Race to Dubai on the European Tour…which begins life as the DP World Tour in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Morikawa achieved this by winning the concluding tournament, the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, overcoming a three-shot final round deficit on the third-round leader, Rory McIlroy. Five birdies in the last seven holes brought the Californian home by three shots from Matt Fitzpatrick and Alexander Bjork. McIlroy finished five back, his hopes effectively ended when his approach to the 15th hit the flagstick and bounded into a bunker. A kick-in birdie became a kick-ass bogey. In some respects, that incident perhaps exemplified the Irishman’s season, although that he ripped his Nike polo shirt apart in frustration on his way to the recorder’s room, making him look more like a guy emerging from a particularly messy rugby scrum rather than a golfer walking off a course, wasn’t a suitably dignified end to his bid to win the Race to Dubai for the first time since 2015.
Of course, someone was happy, even if it wasn’t Rory. “To be the first American to do it on the European Tour is special,” Morikawa said. “Two years ago we thought ‘let’s go and play around the world’ but we didn’t know what cards we would be dealt.” OK, so he was impacted by the pandemic. Also, incidentally, he became “the first American to do it on the European Tour” on the very day that another American who would have previously done it had his schedule complied with European Tour eligibility regulations, a gentleman by the name of Tiger Woods, posted a 3-second clip on social media of him hitting golf balls under the headline of ‘Making progress’ following the ongoing recovery from his horrendous car crash of last February.
“The way my head is wired,” said Morikawa, “I’m always looking for what’s next. But I’m going to try to enjoy this one. This one is special; it’s at the end of the year. I’ve got one more event left [this year, so] I’m going to try to enjoy this one as much as I can.” For the great golfers, there is always the next tournament to be won, but it must have been a nice way for him to go into Thanksgiving week.
And let’s not make a huge deal about the new champion’s recurrent excellent form in July. All considered, I think we can consider Collin Morikawa to be a golfer for all seasons.
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