Without the perks of a time machine, we have no idea of what Collin Morikawa will go on to achieve in golf.
But even now, at the age of 24, he could retire a happy man after achieving a number of impressive feats in the sport.
In 51 starts worldwide, Morikawa has already won five times – but, most eye-catching of all – two of those were in majors.
What’s more, both – the PGA Championship in 2020 and the Open Championship in July – both came in his maiden attempt at the tournament.
Winning the PGA on home turf was one thing, but lifting the Claret Jug in alien conditions on the Links course of Royal St Georges in Kent is quite another.
Already, Morikawa’s legacy in golf is assured, but in whose footsteps is he following as a first-time major winner?
Debut Major Winners in Golf
*Denotes player in their first ever major championship
Fred Herd (US Open, 1898)
Some golfers from the sport’s origin years have back stories that somehow surpass their moment of glory.
Fred Herd was a Scotsman that was invited to play in the US Open in 1898. He had emigrated to the United States two years earlier, and been employed as a club pro in Washington.
Herd had a reputation as a notorious drinker, and so much so that he was forced to pay a deposit before he was allowed to take home the trophy – officials were worried he would sell it to raise some drinking money!
Surely no major sporting champion has experienced that since….
Harry Vardon (US Open, 1900)
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Harry Vardon was regarded as the greatest golf player on the planet, with – at that point – three Open Championship titles to his name.
He was amongst the first Brits to ever be invited to play in the US Open, and when he touched down in America he was treated like a celebrity.
Vardon, keen to prove himself as the finest in the world, practised hard at the Chicago Golf Club, and he made it count – winning the Stateside major by two shots.
Francis Ouimet (US Open, 1913)
Francis Ouimet made history in 1913 when he won the US Open – the first time he had ever played in a major.
In an amazing tale, Ouimet – an amateur – was originally refused permission to play by his employer, but eventually persuaded them to let him take part. The only caddie he could get in time was a 10-year-old boy.
Even so, Ouimet made his way into a play-off with Harry Vardon, a former US Open champion and five-time Open Championship winner, and Ted Ray, who won the 1912 Open.
In an extraordinary upset, Ouimet and his youthful caddie defeated the more experienced pair to his sole major – all the more impressive given that he remained an amateur throughout his career.
Gene Sarazen (The Masters, 1935)
This was the scene of the infamous ‘shot heard around the world’.
Gene Sarazen was making his Masters debut in 1935, with the event itself only enjoying its first outing the year before.
But he took to Augusta National with aplomb, keeping pace with the leaders before his extraordinary albatross two at the Par 5 second hole in the final round.
That powered Sarazen up the leaderboard, and ensured he would take his place in a play-off against Craig Wood, which in those days was a 36-hole marathon.
Sarazen won, and in doing so completed the career ‘grand slam’ of major victories – a feat still only achieved by five players to this day.
Fuzzy Zoeller (The Masters, 1979)
In January 1979, Fuzzy Zoeller won the San Diego Open – his first elite-level victory.
He might not have realised it at the time, but that would set the scene for what was to follow in March, where Zoeller won The Masters at the first time of asking.
His score of -8 at Augusta was enough to force a play-off with Tom Watson and Ed Sneed – the first to be decided by a sudden death format. Zoeller won after posting a birdie on the second extra hole, landing the first major of his career (he would also triumph in the US Open five years later).
Ben Curtis (The Open Championship, 2003)
Not only did Ben Curtis win the Open Championship in his first attempt back in 2003, it was also the first professional victory of his career….and his first ever top-10 finish!
A fairly spectacular debut season on the PGA TOUR meant that optimistic punters could get 300/1 on Curtis to win the Open – a tournament he only qualified for a fortnight prior with a T13 finish back home in America.
But at Royal St Georges – the same venue as Morikawa’s triumph in 2021 – Curtis felt immediately at home, and he ground his way into contention in the final round, where a slip up from Thomas Bjorn allowed him to clinch the unlikeliest of major victories.
At the time, Curtis was the lowest ranked player in history to win a major, and he climbed from 394th in the world to 35th with this triumph!
Shaun Micheel (PGA Championship, 2003)
If you thought Ben Curtis’ win at the Open Championship was a surprise, what about Shaun Micheel’s triumph in the PGA Championship the very same year?
His PGA Championship victory was his first anywhere as a professional, and he would incredibly never win another event either….
But for that fateful weekend in New York at the Oak Hill Country Club, Micheel played like the best in the world – belying his true world ranking of 164 – to win the PGA by two strokes from Chad Campbell.
Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship, 2011)
Bradley is the third and last player in history to win a major in their first ever appearance.
He was playing in his rookie season on the PGA TOUR in 2011, and despite qualifying for the PGA Championship he was considered no more than an outsider at betting odds of 150/1.
But an incredible conclusion at the Atlanta Athletic Club, where Bradley found himself five shots behind leader Jason Dufner with three holes to play, unfolded. Dufner made three bogeys in a row as he got finishing line jitters, and with Bradley birdieing two of his three remaining holes he was able to force a play-off.
Given how the 72 holes had ended, it was no great shock when it was Bradley who prevailed in the play-off, and he became just the third man to win a major in his first go.