July 20, 2021
A Golf Game perfect for Major Championships
Collin Morikawa, the newly crowned Open champion, possesses the ideal ingredients to excel at major championship venues. Straight driving, accurate iron play, reliable short game, and clutch putting, but major championships test more than just a player's physical talents, it tests fortitude, resilience, intelligence, and mental toughness. At 24 years of age and in his short two years on the world stage, Morikawa has shown he embraces all the right stuff that labels greatness. Legends are defined after a sustained period of greatness. It remains to be seen if Collin can continue at this level, but given his physical gifts, intelligence, and grit, it would appear he could achieve legendary status.
The Open Championship is played on links type golf courses. A links course is generally treeless, windswept, with undulating fairways, deep steep-faced bunkers, and punishing rough or gorse. Links golf can be unmercifully cruel and at times unfair. Good shots can hit the wrong mound or furrow and bounce to disastrous consequences, while equally struck balls can hit and bound to great results. These are conditions that have to be expected in links golf and hopefully after 72 holes of golf the good and bad breaks equal themselves out. Professional golfers have great skill in controlling distance, the height, spin rates, and working the ball with hooks or fades. On the PGA Tour, with softer conditions, less wind, and different grasses, their shotmaking is more predictable. But in England and Scotland the game is much different. Almost every shot needs to have a creative element added to the equation. Decisions need to account for possible disasters that lurk on nearly every hole in an Open Championship. Of all the major championships, the Open Championship requires the most imagination along with great resiliency to cope with looming adversity. The Champion Golfer of the Year has truly survived a test worthy of his crown.
Collin is not the longest hitter on the PGA Tour, but he is not a real short hitter either. He will never hit it as long as Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, or others, but accuracy is what is important on major championship courses. He has a reliable "go to" shot that has been proven that can repeat in pressure conditions. His playing companion that last day, Louis Oosthuizen, didn't have a "go to" shot and ultimately his "perfect" swing couldn't keep up with Morikawa's relentless accuracy. Jordan Spieth was spectacular! This was the best that I have seen him swing his driver and long irons. For years, he has been obsessed with swing mechanics. This year he has got something that he is comfortable with and trusts. However the Open is not about good swing mechanics, it is about thinking your way around the golf course and making imaginative shots that require all of your creativity and shotmaking ability. Jordan stated he loved links golf, because "It brings a lot of the feel aspect into the game. You get less swing-focused and more shot-focused over here because the second you take your brain off the shot you're hitting, you may not find your ball." He almost did it, except for two mental lapses at the end of the third round. A bogie from 50 yards on 17 and a foot and a half missed putt on 18 and Spieth could have been in a playoff. Spieth made a mental mistake and the winner didn't, but Jordan should take what he learned at Royal St. George and apply it his play in America. If his does, he could be even better than when he won his three major championships.
It looked like Louis Oosthuizen might finally come through after so many near misses in major competitions, but he faltered again. Most believe Louie owns the best swing in golf. I agree with that assessment. However, the golf swing is just the "tool" that you use to play golf. The better your "tool", the better your potential, but golf is getting the ball around the golf course in the lowest number of shots with whatever method that works. Most players have an "A" game swing, which when "on" gives them their best chance of success. But they also have a backup swing that works when their "A" game is off or then they are really pressed or choking. Louie doesn't appear to have a "go to" swing. Louie's standard driver shot is a small draw. He is usually very good at it, but not when it matters most. Morikawa's standard driver shot is a small fade. To hit the fade the left wrist stays firm through the ball and doesn't turn-over until well past the ball. Louie's small hook requires the club to be slightly closed to the target line at impact. This makes the right hand a little more dominant. When you lead with the left and hold it there, the club is more stable and stays on line longer, therefore less chance of off line shots. With the way Louie hits, it requires great hand coordination and timing. That is Oosthuizen's greatest attribute, but also his failing in clutch situations. He have won one major, but zero PGA Tour wins and has failed in six runner-up finishes in major championships and now this third place finish at the Open. He is a very, very, very good player, but has not figured out how to win. He appears to play "golf swing" and not golf! He is so good at it that it has made him a multi-millionaire, but if he wants more majors, he needs to learn from Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa and find a "go to" shot and be more creative.
Collin Morikawa is the Champion Golfer of the Year. He now has won two major championships in only 8 attempts on the most strenuous, toughest tests of golf. Occasionally you get an unlikely major winner, but win again and it's not luck. Collin's golf game is an ideal fit for major championship golf, but it also is perfect for consistent high level tournament golf. The greats in the game, Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Players, Woods, Watson, Trevino would show up week after week and be a factor in any tournament that they played. Morikawa's game is similar to the greats in the game with exceptional ball striking and superior golf intelligence. The Open Championship win was a work of art and a model of how golf should be played.