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Examining the historical significance of Morikawa's win at Royal St. George's

Gareth Fuller - PA Images / PA Images / Getty

After every major, it's easy to have a recency bias and speak in hyperbole about the champion when describing what the win does for their career.

Comparisons are often made - unfair or not - to the greats of the game as a way to understand what that player just accomplished. This happened to Tiger Woods when he began winning majors at a rate that made it seem certain he would break Jack Nicklaus' all-time record.

It recently happened to Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka, who all amassed multiple major victories in a short period while golf fans looked for the "next" Tiger.

And now, it's Collin Morikawa's turn.

The 24-year-old put on a historic performance at Royal St. George's. There's really no other way to describe it.

Morikawa's two-stroke victory over Jordan Spieth marked his second major championship title and came in only his eighth start at a major.

Since the Second World War, no player has recorded two major victories as quickly as Morikawa.

Player Starts 2nd major win
Collin Morikawa 8 2021 Open
Jordan Spieth 10 2015 U.S. Open
Peter Thomson 10 1955 Open
Seve Ballesteros 11 1980 Masters
Jack Nicklaus 13 1963 Masters
Gary Player 13 1961 Masters
Tony Jacklin 13 1970 U.S. Open

For reference, Woods won his second title in his 18th major start and 12th as a professional.

And if you change the timeline to include players prior to the Second World War, Morikawa remains in some truly elite company with legends born 95 years before him.

Morikawa also earned both of his majors while making his debut at the tournament - something no other player in men's golf has ever accomplished.

Being the first-ever golfer to achieve a major-related feat in 2021 is extremely rare when you consider the number of great players who have come before Morikawa.

Here's a list of other achievements Morikawa earned with his performance at the 149th Open Championship, according to the Twenty First Group's Justin Ray.

  • Second player to win The Open and PGA Championship before the age of 25 (Woods)
  • Fourth American to win The Open before the age of 25 (Spieth, Woods, Bobby Jones)
  • Third all-time to win multiple majors when trailing through 54 holes before the age of 25 (Nicklaus, Jones)
Morikawa also became the 10th player to win in their Open debut and first since Ben Curtis in 2003, who also won at Royal St. George's.

Then there's the topic of how Morikawa got the job done Sunday.

Accuracy off the tee, all-world iron play, magical hands around the green, and one of the best putting performances of his career led Morikawa to a bogey-free Sunday to become the first player in the last 25 years to win both of his majors with a blemish-free final round, according to Ray.

And if you didn't believe Morikawa was the best iron player since Woods, Sunday's outing should definitely change your mind.

What makes Morikawa's performance even more impressive is the fact he's still super early into his PGA TOUR career.

It's easy to see where Morikawa stacks up against the newest generation of players when you compare his first 52 professional starts to Woods, Spieth, and Jon Rahm's.

Player Majors TOUR wins 2nds Top-10s Missed Cuts
Collin Morikawa 2 5 (10%) 3 (6%) 20 (38%) 4 (8%)
Tiger Woods 1 8 (15%) 4 (8%) 31 (60%) 1 (2%)
Jon Rahm 0 5 (10%) 4 (2%) 23 (44%) 6 (12%)
Jordan Spieth 0 1 (2%) 5 (10%) 20 (38%) 8 (15%)

There's no denying Morikawa belongs among today's young crop of superstars, but he wasn't treated like that before The Open.

Morikawa was +3500 in the betting market. Players like Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Tommy Fleetwood surrounded him on the oddsboard. Viktor Hovland, who broke onto the PGA TOUR scene at the same time as Morikawa, was placed ahead of him. No offense to those players, but Morikawa is in a different class.

The now-No. 3 ranked golfer in the world is surpassing the likes of Rahm, McIlroy, Spieth, and Koepka when it comes to achievements at his age. He now has to be considered a serious threat at every major championship moving forward, regardless of the venue or his form at the time.

Are the comparisons to Woods this early into Morikawa's career unfair? Perhaps. What Woods did by the age of 25 may never be matched again.

However, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who can't see that Morikawa possesses a similar set of skills and attributes that made Woods great. He's also on a similar career trajectory as the 15-time major winner, one the sport hasn't seen for a very long time. It's a path that should make golf fans extremely excited for what's to come.

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