“Collin Morikawa has looked so comfortable, and he’s got so much quality. Nobody is really shocked by his quality and calmness over the first couple of days, and I don’t think this is a flash in the pan.”
Collin Morikawa fired a high-quality 64 on day two at The Open
Sir Nick Faldo knows more than most about what it takes to compete and contend at The Open, and he is hugely impressed with how Collin Morikawa has handled himself over the first two days at Royal St George’s.
Morikawa’s defied his lack of links experience on his Open debut, displaying commendable course management and a composed attitude to add a brilliant 64 to his opening 67 and claim the early clubhouse lead on nine under par.
Three-time Open champion Faldo believes the 24-year-old has been aided by the softer, greener conditions than usually seen at the Sandwich links, and he is certain the American will remain a leading contender for the Claret Jug over the weekend.
Morikawa has managed himself extremely well on his Open debut
“Many times we pitch up at Royal St George’s and the fairways are brown and look a little burnt, and the R&A have said that was intentional,” Faldo told Sky Sports. “With the rough so long, they didn’t want it firm and fast so balls were kicking off the fairways and into the thick stuff.
“That has helped the course become a lot more playable for the Open debutants, and particularly the Americans like Morikawa, because they know they have more control over where they can land the ball. We have not seen any players left scratching their heads because they have nailed a drive straight down the middle which has taken a wicked bounce into the rough.
“Morikawa has looked so comfortable, and he has got so much quality. It’s easy to think of him as still a rookie as he has only been out on Tour for a couple of years, but he is already a major champion. But nobody is really shocked by his quality and calmness over the first couple of days, and I do not think this is a flash in the pan.
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“He was really impressive on Friday, had a nice run of birdies to gain the lead and he just kept ploughing on, knowing that posting a good score in the morning wave does not mean the late starters cannot catch him. Collin looked determined to keep moving forward, and I am pretty sure he will be sticking around over the weekend.”
PGA Tour statistics suggest he is the best player in the world from tee to green right now, and Faldo added: “Collin certainly looks it this week. He’s nicely in control, and that’s exactly what you need here. You need to control the ball flight, think smart about the options, and know which pins you can go at and which ones to avoid.
“What I also like about Morikawa is he has an “old-school” feel about him. He plots his way around, he’s not looking to overpower any golf course, his positional play is very good, and he clearly has a natural feel and instinct about his game.
Morikawa won last year’s PGA Championship in only his second major start
“It’s quite a statement to refuse to change your strategy and chase the guys that are hitting it miles. He’s not exactly short, but some players can find it demoralising if his playing partners are knocking it 20, 30 yards longer off t he tee.
“For Morikawa, he does not care about that. His mindset is he thinks he can hit it closer to the flag with any iron in the bag than his opponents hitting a wedge.”
But while Morikawa was enjoying a leisurely Friday afternoon with his work done for the day, Bryson DeChambeau was scrambling to make the halfway cut after another turbulent week for the controversial former US Open champion.
Bryson DeChambeau has had off-course distractions to deal with this week
His ongoing feud with Brooks Koepka continues to dominate press conferences, he was clearly angered by accusations he fails to shout “fore” after a wayward shot might be putting crowd safety at risk, and after hitting only four fairways in his opening 71, he upset his club sponsors by declaring, “my driver sucks”.
DeChambeau later apologised for his comments, although only after a Cobra representative labelled him “stupid” and claiming he was “never happy”, and Faldo urged the powerful American to rein himself in, both on and off the golf course, to avoid unwelcome – and unnecessary – distractions.
“When you are building up for a major, I think you need to come in quietly,” added the six-time major champion, who will be teeing it up at The Senior Open at Sunningdale next week. “I arrived at many majors as the favourite, and I made it a priority to just take everything down a couple of notches. You keep talking to a minimum, saying as little as you can.
“But it appears Bryson is the opposite, he’s come in and created a firestorm – and you do not want to be out on the golf course when you are trying to put out fires. He clearly felt embarrassed with his comments on Thursday evening that landed him in hot water with his equipment sponsors, and he looked a little sheepish when he got to the first tee on Friday morning.
“It’s a distraction you do not need when you are competing at The Open. You need to concentrate 100 per cent on yourself and be comfortable with everything you are doing and how you are doing it. Bryson seems to be expending an awful lot of emotional energy at times, and that has an adverse effect on your game, and your thought process.”
Although he disappointed many in the grandstand around the first tee when he pulled an iron out of his bag, DeChambeau reached for the driver far too often for the liking of Faldo, who insisted the world No 6 needs to cut out the bravado and manage his way around the links in the manner of Morikawa.
DeChambeau hit only four fairways on day one
“This is a golf course of just over 7,000 yards, so it would be nice to see him use some power management,” said Faldo. “I would go and buy him a proper driving iron. If he twanged that iron off all the par-fours, and probably the par-fives as well, saving the driver for when he really needed it, he would find this course much easier.
“Yes, the crowd love watching him smashing it miles off the tee, but Bryson should only be reaching for the driver on a few occasions, when it really will be a benefit. If he reaches for the long-iron, he can still send that 300 yards comfortably and still have only a short-iron in.
“It does not matter if the holes are 470 yards, that could be a two-iron and an eight-iron or less for Bryson. Why hit a driver so he can get his ball within 50 yards of the green, when the likelihood is he will be in the long grass with little control over how his ball comes out?
“Perhaps he needs to have a chat with Morikawa, or maybe he needs to talk to me!”