The Open 2022: Collin Morikawa out to 'dissect' Old Course at St Andrews

It’s not something I’ve been told too often. “It’s a great question,” said Collin Morikawa, the Open champion, in reply to being asked if he’d pictured in his head hitting a shot on the Old Course at St Andrews this summer for the first time.

That’s probably not happened too often when it’s come to the Claret Jug holder in golf’s oldest major, but, as was the case when he won at Royal St George’s last summer, Morikawa will, indeed, be breaking new ground in the 150th edition of The Open.

“People ask me if I'm going to go over there early or take a couple trips,” added the 25-year-old Californian. “I really have never done that for any majors. When it comes to St Andrews, obviously there's the history, there's everything that St Andrews represents, right, the home of golf and everything about that.

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“But I need to go out there Monday through Wednesday and do my normal prep on how I'm going to figure out St Andrews. I can't play it like people have played it in the past. We don't know what the weather is going to be like. We don't know what the little changes might be or might be in front of us as time comes through.

“I just have to be prepared and know how I'm going to prepare now for links golf. I think having an experience of a year ago, I'm going to be able to kind of adjust a little quicker than I did last year.

“Last year I took a lot of risks, changing some irons, changing a little bit in the putter setup. But I think I'll be a little more prepared this year to just be ready to figure out how to dissect this golf course to the best of my abilities.”

He’s picked a good year to be heading to the Fife venue, where a record 290,000 fans will be in attendance for the milestone occasion, which will include a ‘Celebration of Champions’ at the beginning of the week.

“I think anytime you're defending a tournament, it's always special, right?” acknowledged Morikawa. “You're coming back as the previous champion. You just know that you've done it before.

Collin Morikawa kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 149th Open at Royal St George's last summer. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images.

“But, when we narrow that down to a major championship, especially being an Open, and you have a rotation of courses and you're moving around, which is also kind of weird in a sense of its own because it's not like I have previous history at St Andrews.

“There's a million other guys before me that probably have played there, played well, and you can look at them as more experienced, more as a favourite because they have played there.

But that's the thing is that I've done this now for three years, and I keep showing up to new golf courses and I try and figure them out, and I just have to go out and play.

“When it comes down to it, it's just more about am I going to be ready to go out there and play golf and play my game and just do what I do. That's kind of dissect the golf course from tee to green and hopefully make some putts for the week.”

The odd eyebrow might have been raised when Morikawa won the 2020 US PGA Championship behind closed doors at Harding Park in San Francisco behind closed doors due to the Covid pandemic, but that was certainly no fluke.

He produced a polished performance to also win that Open at Royal St George’s in front of fans last summer and became the first American to win the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai in 2021 as well. He’s relishing those huge crowds out on the Old Course.

“The more the better to be honest for me,” he declared. “This year's Masters was the first time I had full fans, and I think when I have more people around, it almost makes me focus a little bit more on what I'm doing rather than almost enjoying the scenery around.

“When you get a little distracted, you pay attention to other things rather than actually focusing on golf. So, when there's more people, for me, I enjoy it even more, so I look forward to seeing all those people out there.”

As a colleague said at the end of a video chat, Morikawa is the sort of guy you’d be happy to see your daughter bring home. He’s polite, respectful and charming and is also clean living. Compared to, say, 1995 winner John Daly, the Claret Jug is currently in safe hands.

“It actually hasn't made its way too far,” said Morikawa of the game’s most iconic trophies. “The miles it's travelled are very few. It's made it to a few friends' houses, made it to a couple sponsor outings; where I practice in Vegas, I'll leave it out there a couple days here and there.

“But I think the best experience I get is just people seeing myself take it out of the case and them seeing it front hand with themselves holding it and just seeing the history that they can witness right in front of them. I think that's one of the coolest experiences that people kind of underestimate.

“When they actually take it out and they hold it and they realise what they're holding, it's kind of a cool memory for me just to see what they're kind of living through because they've got it in their hands and they're seeing all the previous history before me.

“That's the coolest thing is just seeing the reaction on people's faces, picking up the Claret Jug. I think it'll never get old. I think when you see someone pick it up and you see them witness it for the first time, it really is a special place in the game of golf, and it always will be.”

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