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Collin Morikawa makes history with two-shot victory at British Open

Collin Morikawa holds a trophy.
Collin Morikawa kisses the Claret Jug after winning the British Open on Sunday in Sandwich, England.
(Peter Morrison / Associated Press)

It’s Collin with two Ls.

And now two Ws.

Collin Morikawa made golf history Sunday by becoming the first player to win two different major championships on his first try.

Morikawa, a graduate of La Cañada High, shot a bogey-free, four-under-par 66 in the final round of the British Open at Royal St. George’s to secure a two-shot victory over Jordan Spieth. Eleven months earlier, Morikawa won the PGA Championship at Harding Park.

“This is by far one of the best moments of my life,” said Morikawa, 24, who joins Tiger Woods as the only players to win both the British Open and PGA before turning 25.

It was the first British Open in two years, as last year’s tournament was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the aftermath of lifting the Claret Jug, Morikawa had a difficult time wrapping his mind around the idea of making golf history.

“At 24 years old, it’s so hard to look back at the two short years that I have been a pro and see what I’ve done, because I want more,” said Morikawa, a three-time All-American at Cal who reached No. 1 in the world rankings for amateurs. “I love it, and I want to teach myself to embrace it a little more, maybe spend a few extra days and sit back and drink out of this.”

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Morikawa, the first player since Bobby Jones in 1926 to win two majors in eight or fewer starts, birdied the seventh, eighth and ninth holes to pull away from Louis Oosthuizen, who finished second at last month’s U.S. Open and was angling to clinch a second British Open victory with a wire-to-wire performance. Morikawa finished the tournament at 15-under 265.

Although Oosthuizen has the lowest putting average on tour, it was Morikawa who was absolutely scorching on the greens Sunday, calling it one of his best performances ever, especially inside of 10 feet.

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“I felt it was as solid as it’s going to get,” said Morikawa, who began the week ranked 128th in putting. “I don’t think I really missed many from that distance. Especially in a major. I think in a major on a Sunday in contention, I wasn’t thinking about anything other than making a putt.

“Everything about my stats say I’m not a good putter, statistically. I feel like I can get a lot better. But in these situations, I feel like everything is thrown off the table. Forget about all your stats, [it’s] who can perform well in these situations. That’s why I think over the past few majors you’ve seen a lot of the same names up there. Because they believe in their game, they know what they’re doing when they practice, and they’re able to bring it out in these big moments.”

Working in lockstep were Morikawa and caddie J.J. Jakovac. When, during his victory speech, Morikawa mentioned it was Jakovac’s 39th birthday, the crowd responded by singing “Happy Birthday.”

“I’m biased, but Collin’s got the best caddie on tour,” said Rick Sessinghaus, of Burbank, who has coached Morikawa for the last 16 years. “They get along extremely well, they see shots similarly, and J.J. helps him stay in the moment.”

Collin Morikawa, carrying a club, watches a shot.
Collin Morikawa celebrates after a birdie putt on the 14th hole during the final round of the British Open in Sandwich, England, on Sunday.
(Peter Morrison / Associated Press)

Cal golf coach Walter Chun said Morikawa’s humility kept him focused and living in the moment.

“He’s the same person he was in college,” Chun said. “Fame hasn’t gotten to him. That’s just a credit to [parents] Blaine and Debbie, but that’s also who he is. He’s been on the Jimmy Fallon show, all these things, but he’s still grounded. He still has his goals.”

Morikawa, born in Los Angeles, has already won more majors than any L.A. native. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Johnny Miller, Billy Casper and Dave Stockton were born in other parts of California.

Because no spectators were allowed at the PGA last August, it was a relative library when Morikawa won that tournament in San Francisco. On a pristine, 82-degree day Sunday — the warmest day of the year in Sandwich, England — the maximum allowable attendance was 32,000, which was 8,000 fewer than the previous British Open at Royal St. George’s.

“They are some of the best fans I’ve ever seen,” Morikawa said. “They truly understand the game. They appreciate the game. ... When you hit a tough shot out of the rough, and you hit it in the green, they enjoy that. They enjoy tough shots.”

It didn’t seem as though Morikawa had many of those Sunday. He hit fairways and greens, then sank his putts, making it look far more routine and straightforward than it actually was.

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Back home in La Cañada Flintridge, Debbie and Blaine Morikawa were glued to the broadcast with their younger son, Garrett. Collin and his girlfriend, Katherine Zhu, live in Las Vegas.

“When we’re watching the tournament, we as parents are looking at the little movements of his body and his face,” Blaine said. “We can kind of tell whether he’s all there or partially there or frustrated. Yeah, we can tell.”

On Sunday, “I saw determination, confidence,” he said. “It didn’t look like he was out of it at any point.”

After the tournament and while awaiting a text from his son, Blaine Morikawa was heading out to walk the family’s chocolate Labrador retriever, Palmer — as in Arnold.

Just another Sunday. Like father, like son.

A graphic shows winners and statistics.
Collin Morikawa earned his second major victory with a two-shot win Sunday over Jordan Spieth at the British Open.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)


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