With long odds of winning the British Open in his bid to capture golf’s two oldest championships in the same year, Jon Rahm went down swinging.
He was five shots behind going into the last round, not insurmountable except that no one had come from that far back in Sunday at a major since Phil Mickelson in the 2013 British Open.
And the U.S. Open champion had his chance except for too many medium-length birdie chances skirting the side of the cup. Even so, he ran off four straight birdies on the back nine before he had to settle for two pars and a 4-under 66.
That gave him a tie for third, four shots behind Collin Morikawa.
“I think the main part of my game that could have been a little bit better is putting,” Rahm said. “Not that I’m asking to make very putt, but I really struggled to make putts outside 8 feet. … There was a lot of chances out there that I could have made, or that I know that guys out there ahead of me are making.”
Still, the 26-year-old Spaniard capped off perhaps the best year in the majors. He is the only player to finish in the top 10 at all four majors — a tie for fifth at the Masters, a tie for eighth in the PGA Championship, a win at the U.S. Open and a tie for third at the PGA Championship.
And as a small consolation, he returned to No. 1 in the world.
Dustin Johnson had returned to No. 1 last week while not playing — attribute that only to the rolling, two-year cycle — but finished in a tie for eighth at Royal St. George’s.
Johnson’s demise came during an eight-hole stretch he played with five bogeys and no birdies in the third round. He had two more bogeys early on Sunday before rallying for a 67.
Collin Morikawa delivered a world-class speech to the surprise of no one who has heard him. He began by paying tribute to Matthias Schmid, the German who won a silver medal as the low amateur at the British Open.
“It feels like literally two years ago I was an amateur,” Morikawa said to him before promising great things to come for Schmid.
He was being literal.
Morikawa turned pro after graduating from Cal in 2019. He was a winner in his sixth start. He went 23 starts before he missed a cut.
That’s a high standard for Schmid, but the German who played golf at Louisville had a week to remember. He shot 65 on Friday to tie the British Open record for low score by an amateur. he closed with a 72 and tied for 59th, four shots ahead of Yuxin Lin in the amateur division.
“I just got told some of the names that has been on the list for a silver medal, and I’m proud of myself I was able to join it this week,” said Schmid, mentioning names like Rory McIlroy (2007) and Justin Rose (1998). “That was the goal coming in here.”
BIRDIES AND BOGEYS
Rory McIlroy made it through a seventh straight year since he last won a major, and except for a brief moment of Sunday contention at the U.S. Open, he wasn’t particularly close.
He tied for seventh at Torrey Pines. He didn’t finish among the top 40 at the PGA Championship or the British Open. He didn’t make it to the weekend at Augusta National.
“If you want someone to shoot even par for you for a week, I’m your man,” McIlroy said.
That’s where he finished at Royal St. George’s.
Making birdies wasn’t an issue. McIlroy made 17 of them for the week — two fewer than Collin Morikawa, who beat him by 15 shots. It’s pretty easy to figure out the rest.
“I think it’s just more the bogey avoidance and the mental errors, because I’ve made 17 birdies this week, which is more than enough to challenge to win this golf tournament,” McIlroy said. “It’s just I make too many mistakes, and that’s the part that I need to try to get right.”
Mackenzie Hughes of Canada had missed the cut in six of the eight majors he had played. And then he was right in the thick of it on the back nine at Torrey Pines until his ball got stuck in a tree, and he had his best finish at the British Open with a tie for sixth.
“When you have high finishes like that and play with the best players in the world and hang in there and stay with them, does a lot for you,” Hughes said. “There is tons of room for improvement still. But I’m getting better.”
This was his first British Open, and he posted all four rounds in the 60s. Hughes only got into the Open two weeks before it started through the world ranking. By finishing in the top 10, he is exempt for St. Andrews next year.
Jordan Spieth and Mackenzie Hughes shots in the 60s all four rounds, making them the first players since Rickie Fowler in 2014 to do that without winning. The other two players to have done that in the British Open are Ernie Els (twice) and Jesper Parnevik. … Shane Lowry tied for 12th, making him the fifth straight British Open champion to finish among the top 12 in his title defense. … Richard Bland and Bernd Wiesberger were the only players to not break par in any of the four rounds.