Collin Morikawa relishing 'really special' title defence in 150th Open at St Andrews

Bryson DeChambeau won’t be alone in playing the Old Course at St Andrews for the first time in this year’s 150th Open as the defending champion, Collin Morikawa, is facing the same scenario.

Defending Abu Dhabi HSBC champion Tyrrell Hatton, centre, is flanked, from left, by Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood in the build up to this week's event at Yas Links. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Defending Abu Dhabi HSBC champion Tyrrell Hatton, centre, is flanked, from left, by Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood in the build up to this week's event at Yas Links. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Speaking as he prepared to tee up in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the American admitted that his Claret Jug defence in the milestone event in July was already something he’s looking forward to in 2022.

“Yeah, it's really special,” Morikawa, who landed his second major in last year’s event at Royal St George’s, told The Scotsman.

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“Look, whenever you're defending a tournament, it means you've done a great thing in the previous year, but when it's the 150th anniversary of The Open Championship, obviously there's a lot of weight on your shoulders.

“But, at the end of the day it's going to be a place that I've never played golf at, a place that I've never been, so I'm still going to have to remember that like every other week, I've got to be ready by Thursday.

“So I'm going to have to make sure I space out every media obligation, whatever I have going on for the week, and really space it out to where I feel relaxed and ready to play golf, because it is a tournament that I absolutely do want to defend.”

Morikawa, a two-time major winner, claimed victory in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on his last visit to the UAE in November.

“Feels great,” he said of being back in the Middle East, where this week’s $8 million Rolex Series event is being held at a new home, having moved to Yas Links from Abu Dhabi Golf Club “You know, I've been announced for a handful of months now as the Champion Golfer of the Year, but this is the first time someone brought that up of being the reigning Race to Dubai Champion, and there's a lot of weight that's on your shoulders right now.

“It's a great weight to have and I want to come back as strong as ever. I want to start these first two weeks (he’s also playing in next week’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic) off on a real high note and hopefully come out with a couple trophies.”

The 24-year-old, who has a chance to become world No 1 if he wins on Sunday, let a trophy slip from his grasp following a disappointing final round in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas as he squandered a five-shot overnight lead.

“I get over things pretty easily, and I think for me it's motivation,” he said of that. “How do I learn off these bad events and how, if I miss a cut or whatever it may be, how do I not have that happen again?

“But I don't look at it as highs and lows. I think that, for me, is the wrong way of how I put it in my head. For me, it's just you have a good week, you have a bad week, things happen.

“We're playing half the weeks of the year. There's going to be some bad days. Obviously what happened at the Bahamas, it wasn't great. But, for me, it's learning about those things, and making sure I never have those happen again.”

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