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Collin Morikawa is the “champion golfer of the year’’ as the winner of the 149th British Open on Sunday at Royal St. George’s.
In other news: Jordan Spieth is back.
For golf, that second development is as exciting as the first.
Golf is better and more fun to watch when Spieth is in the mix.
And, after nearly four years in the wilderness while trying to rework his swing and regain the form that resulted in 12 wins (including three major championships) in his first five years as a pro, Spieth is in the mix again.
Sure, he didn’t win Sunday, which left him so ticked off he appeared close to drawing blood biting his lip while speaking to reporters afterward.
Morikawa was the deserving winner — the best, most consistent player this week without argument. But Spieth was right there. His 13-under for the week fell two shots short of Morikawa.
Those two shots can easily be traced to bogeys on his final two holes in Saturday’s third round — the first when he needed three shots from 60 yards away in middle of the fairway on the 17th and the second a missed 18-inch par putt on the 18th.
Those are the two shots Spieth will be thinking about for a while. He, too, should be thinking about the fact that he’s become a force in major championships again.
He won this year’s Valero Texas Open to end his winless drought. He finished tied for third at the Masters. And now this, his fourth career runner-up in a major.
Spieth, 27, should take stock in the fact that he rallied from bogeys on Nos. 4 and 6 Sunday, falling as many as four shots back and nearly ran Morikawa down as he played the final 12 holes in 6-under par to close with 66.
Spieth’s only problem was the fact that the unflappable Morikawa, a par-saving machine, gave him nothing.
“It’s hard to be upset when I was a couple over through six [holes],’’ Spieth said. “I couldn’t have really done much more after that point. But the finish [Saturday] was about as upset as I’ve taken a finish of a round to the house. I knew that was so important because I would have been in the final group [Sunday], and being in the final group you feel like you’re in more control.
“I’m proud of going 6-under in the last 12 in this golf tournament and putting some pressure on Collin. From what I’ve heard, he made a big par save on 10, made a putt up the ridge on 14 and a par save on 15. I needed a break, and I didn’t get it from him.’’
Spieth has intimate knowledge about the world in which Morikawa is living — a place where he’ll now be expected to win more major championships now that he’s won two of them in his first eight tries.
Spieth won two major championships in his first 10 tries and knows the feeling that the burden of expectation can bring. It’s a feeling he’s tried to fight and one that has derailed him at times.
“I felt, I guess, obviously very pleased, but almost like, ‘Oh wow, that’s good timing,’ ’’ Spieth recalled of his meteoric early success. “I just remember everything was easy, everything was fun, things were going your way, everything is very smooth. I think it’s certainly not going to be the case over the course of a career, but [Morikawa] has got the potential and the game and the head to be able to manage any kind of bumps in the road.’’
Those are the bumps in the road that Spieth has been managing for the past four years, dating back to his 2017 British Open victory after which his form dipped and questions about his game persisted.
Spieth was asked if he had any advice for Morikawa as he embarks on navigating the stardom that comes with being a multiple major winner.
“I don’t think there’s anything I need to even say about it that hasn’t already been talked about or that he’s certainly proven,’’ he said. “I would say less is more at this point. Stay down the path he’s on. Clearly, with the shots he’s hit and the putts he’s holed, he’s not afraid of high-pressure situations and winning a major championship. At 24, obviously there’s a bright future ahead.’’
Morikawa is special, there’s no doubt. But people shouldn’t forget how special Spieth still is and that his future, too, is every bit as bright as that of the man who hoisted the Claret Jug.
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