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When Collin Morikawa tapped in the winning putt at the British Open, it brought to an end the wildest and most condensed 12-month period in the history of men’s major championship golf.
With the British open canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the three others majors rescheduled for later in the year, the top players in the world were faced with seven major championships starting last August and ending Sunday at Royal St. George’s in England.
Some of the majors came off brilliantly, others struggled to find just the right feel in a new time period. Players were lost from some majors because of COVID-19, while other majors found just the right mix to produce a great week.
Here’s a list of the five best moments from the remarkable and busy 12-month major blitz in men’s golf:
1. Phil at 50
Phil Mickelson poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after he wins the PGA Championship golf tournament. David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
This wasn’t just the most remarkable moment of the last 12 months, but it has to rank as one of the most remarkable moments in golf in the last few decades. Phil Mickelson, already a two-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions and eight years removed from his last major championship win, was not supposed to be part of the story at the PGA Championship in May at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. But at 50 years old, Mickelson was among the leaders at the end of each round. A typical Mickelson moment in the final round, holing a bunker shot for a birdie, propelled Mickelson to the win over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen and made him the oldest winner of any of the four modern majors. We’ll talk about this one for a long time.
2. Rahm's revenge
Jon Rahm celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. Photo by Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Withdrawn from the Memorial tournament after three rounds while leading by what seemed like an uncatchable six shots because of a positive COVID test, Jon Rahm’s participation in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego was in serious doubt. Not only did he play, he played almost as well as he had been playing at the Memorial. With two huge birdie putts on the final two holes and with Oosthuizen hitting a tee shot into the unplayable canyon to the left of the 17th hole, Rahm reached his first major title and was no longer a great player without a major win. And the Memorial withdrawal didn’t have quite the sting it had two weeks earlier.
3. Morikawa gets his second
Collin Morikawa holds up the claret jug trophy as he poses for photographers on the 18th green after winning the British Open at Royal St George's in Sandwich, England on Sunday, July 18, 2021. Photo by Ian Walton/Associated Press
On perhaps the quirkiest course in the British Open rotation, Collin Morikawa played brilliant golf all four rounds to earn his second major title in 12 months with a two-shot victory over Jordan Spieth and three shots over Rahm and Oosthuizen. Two long putts on the 14th and 15th holes let Morikawa pull away for the win and prove that sometimes it is still more important to hit the ball in the fairway than just hitting it 330 yards offline. Morikawa was just as impressive in his post-victory comments, giving golf fans plenty of reasons to root for the 24-year-old in the coming years.
4. Bryson's major moment
Bryson DeChambeau poses and celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club - West. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The 2021 calendar year has not been a good one for Bryson DeChambeau, with a childish rivalry with Koepka and no top-20 finishes in the four majors the year. But last fall DeChambeau showed the kind of talent he has with a remarkable win at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, a course and a setup that were supposed to swallow DeChambeau. The rough that was expected to catch and hold all of DeChambeau’s errant drives did little to slow him down. A final-round 67 gave him a runaway six-shot win over Matthew Wolff, with Oosthuizen (there’s that name again) finishing third. Perhaps the win set expectations too high for DeChambeau, but he did have his major title.
5. Japan's first major
Hideki Matsuyama celebrates with his caddie Shota Hayafuji on the 18th green after winning the 2021 Masters Tournament. (Photo: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)
The Masters in April just felt better than the Masters played in November 2020 because of the pandemic. And this Masters produced a first, a Japanese winner of a men’s major. Hideki Matsuyama had always been a threat to breakthrough in a big way in the United States, but he hadn’t won a tournament since 2017, when he won three times on the PGA Tour including two World Golf Championships. At the Masters, a third-round 65 gave him the lead and he managed to hold on to win by a single stroke over Will Zalatoris. The win vaulted Matsuyama to superstardom in his native county, and you can expect to see him a few times during the Summer Olympics in Tokyo starting this weekend.