Collin Morikawa trying to revive season with British Open title

History is cool and all, but Collin Morikawa is totally focused on the present.

He took a few hours over the weekend to stroll around this city, the cradle of golf, and then turned his attention to defending his title at the British Open.

“You have to accept history, you have to accept everything that happened before us,” said Morikawa, 25, who grew up in La Cañada Flintridge and has not had a major championship or PGA Tour event since winning the Claret Jug won at Royal St George’s last year. “But I’m here to win a tournament.”

Morikawa missed the cut at the Scottish Open last week, but Rick Sessinghaus, his swing and mental coach, said it could actually stand him in good stead because he’s had the weekend to further familiarize himself with the Old Course.

“Collin is a master at teaching golf courses and he’s proven that on the PGA Tour,” said Sessinghaus, who ran nine holes with Morikawa on Monday. “I think St Andrews has enough variability that he knows some nuance and line of sight of where that hill is and where that pot bunker is and whatnot – he was taking notes today and looking back at some of the tee shots to get more of a get perspective on some of the blind shots – it only increases his commitment to shooting and making a game plan.

His two second places this year, including at the Genesis Invitational on the Riviera, are no consolation for him. He was leading after 36 holes at this year’s US Open but shot seven over par 77 on Saturday and finished fifth by rebounding with a 66 on the final round. He also finished fifth at the Masters.

“We only get four majors a year, and we’re already at number 4,” he said. “I don’t want to look back on this year and somehow not be happy with what I’ve done and how I’ve prepared. So I’m doing everything to be ready for this week and hopefully we can put together four really good laps.”

Monday began on a predictable minus note: as per tradition, he had to return the Claret Jug.

“It sucked, it really did,” he said. “I woke up this morning and looked at it. The replica is beautiful, but it’s not the same. It really isn’t. It never will be.

“But I don’t want to dwell on the past. I think I talked about that early in my career. I always look forward to what comes next. Maybe giving back will hopefully free me up in some way and allow me to just focus on winning this week.

Collin Morikawa holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open at Royal St George's Golf Club.

Collin Morikawa holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 18, 2021.

(Peter Morrison / Associated Press)

At this 150th Open Championship, there has already been a lot of talk about whether today’s players, who can hit the ball so far, could overpower the course. Morikawa conceded that St Andrews is judging by the nine holes he played Monday, four of which he played with driver and lob wedge. But getting to the greens is only part of the challenge.

“Pins definitely get hard,” he said. “They’re going to have to because sometimes when you’re 50 yards away it’s not beneficial to be there and you have to play back and almost bring the bunkers into play.”

He said he was particularly amazed by the 351-yard 12th hole, the shortest par 4 on the Old Course, which features a fairway with five fairly hidden bunkers and a particularly flat green. Even five-time Open champion Tom Watson has said he still doesn’t quite know how to play the hole.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Morikawa said. “I could tell you 15 different ways to play it and they could all be wrong. I kind of want to sit on 12 and watch the guys play and see what they do.

Rare company

Jack Nicklaus, who won two of his three Claret Jugs here, had no plans to return to St Andrews after retiring in 2005. But he has returned this year as he will be named an honorary citizen of the city on Tuesday, leaving Bobby Jones and Benjamin Franklin as the only Americans to receive the honor.

“The conditions, the weather, where you put the pins, whether the golf course is going to dry out, whether the golf course is going to get wet, all those things that make St Andrews a magical place,” said Nicklaus, who won here in 1970 and ‘ 78

“And to think that the game of golf essentially started here, and it’s absolutely stunning to me that it still stands up to the golfers of today. I’m telling you, if you get a little bit of weather, it’ll tell you very quickly how fast you can handle it every time you get it.

As for the location itself, he said: “I used to say that St Andrews looked like an old gray town until the Opens were held. Suddenly it shone like a light and it was beautiful. And St Andrews, always the week of the Open Championship, is always beautiful. Actually, I probably imagine that with everyone who makes a pilgrimage here to play this golf course.” Collin Morikawa trying to revive season with British Open title

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