San Francisco, US, Aug 10: Collin Morikawa has spent a fair bit of time in California, and not too far from the TPC Harding. In fact it was as recent as last year, when he was still completing his degree in college while being an All-American golf star. And he did play at TPC Harding, but not enough to give him any considerable edge and certainly not in the condition that the course was in this week in San Francisco.
It was also the first Major without spectators, who would have loved to welcome the prodigy, who finished at 13-under 267.
Just 23 years six months and three days old, Morikawa in his previous 28 starts had won twice and come close a few times, but not in a Major. For the record, the PGA Championship was only his second Major – he was T-35 at the 2019 US Open and The Open 2020, for which he was eligible, was not held.
Starting the final day, two shots off the lead, Morikawa was among the many – actually nine – who had the lead during the final day of 2020’s first Major. The Masters and the US Open were postponed as was the PGA, while The Open, the only Major outside of the United States, was cancelled for 2020.
Morikawa had a dream Sunday – a chip-in on 14th, an eagle-2 on the 294-yard drivable Par-4 16th for a bogey-free 64 that handed him the Wannamaker Trophy, the heaviest of the four Majors.
Brooks Koepka didn’t make a birdie until the 12th hole. He went from two shots behind to a 74, tying for 29th. Attempting a three-peat for the second time in his career he did not make it yet again. He had a chance at US Open year and finished runner-up, but this time was way down in T-29.
“It’s my first bad round in a while in a major… wasn’t meant to be. Three in a row, you’re not really supposed to do two in a row looking at history, but that’s all right. Got two more the rest of the season and we’ll figure it out from there,” Koepka said after dropping to a tie for 29th with a 4-over 74.
Tiger Woods was T-37 after a round of 67, his best of the week. Most importantly his back and body held up, which was good news for him and his fans ahead of FedExCup play-offs, the US Open and Masters and the Hero World Challenge.
Shot to remember
The shot that will be remembered for a long, long time, was the drive on Par-4 16th. Not many witnessed it or see it land, but Casey, playing a group ahead was on 17th and saw it land and roll to seven feet, which Morikawa converted for an eagle-2. Morikawa’s drive was perfect and it was the shot that clinched the title.
Morikawa was among seven players tied for the lead on a wildly swinging Sunday. Morikawa said, “I was hoping for a really good bounce and got it,” he said. “I hit a really good putt, and now we’re here.” Earlier, he chipped in on 14th and it gave him the momentum at the right time on the back nine.
The lead was finally with Morikawa when he chipped in for birdie while being 40 feet short of the 14th green.
Morikawa earned his first major on his PGA Championship debut and only the second start in a major. It also made him the third-youngest player since WWII to win the PGA Championship, behind only Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus. He became the first player to win the PGA Championship on a tournament debut since Keegan Bradley in 2011.
The third PGA Tour win of his career also moved Morikawa to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings and Wyndham Rewards Top 10. His closing 36-hole score (129) was a record lowest and it which included a tie for the low final-round score by a winner (64). He also moves to No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
And yes, Morikawa’s eagle at the par-4 16th, made him the first player to make an eagle in the final round and go on to win the PGA Championship since Rory McIlroy in 2014.
For Dustin Johnson, the sop was that he became the first player to finish runner-up at the PGA Championship in consecutive years since Jack Nicklaus (1964, 1965). It was also his fifth runner-up finish in a Major.
Dustin Johnson runner-up at a Major for fifth
While Morikawa was hogging the headlines tied with Dustin Johnson in second was Paul Casey, 43, and 20 years older than Morikawa. He finished runner-up in his 64th career major start, the most by any player since 2002 without a victory. It was his best career finish in a major championship.
While Jon Rahm finished only T-13, he returned to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings. He spent two weeks in the top spot before losing it to Justin Thomas following last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
But the consolation for Justin Thomas (T37) was he still lead in the FedExCup standings and Wyndham Rewards Top 10 with one week remaining in the Regular Season
Bryson DeChambeau making headlines for his bulk and long-hitting logged his first Top-10 in a Major, by finishing T4. It was ninth top-10 of the season, the same as Justin Thomas.
Matthew Wolff, who grew up in golf with Morikawa in Southern California and turned pro last summer with him, shot a 65 and ended T-4 with Day, DeChambeau, Tony Finau and PGA TOUR rookie Scottie Scheffler at 10-under 270.
The top three players, not otherwise exempt, in the top 10 and ties earned U.S. Open exemptions. Wolff (T4) and Cameron Champ (T10) earned the exemptions as all others in top 10 were otherwise exempt.
It took some time for a Major to come around in these Covid-19 times, but it sure was an exciting one, even though we couldn’t be there to cheer Morikawa and the rest. But the good news is that there is two more in 2020 and four in 2021, so it is six more in the next 11 months or so.