Collin Morikawa’s PGA Championship title gives glimpse of promising future

Collin Morikawa celebrates after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Just about the only thing that went wrong for Collin Morikawa on Sunday was when, during the winner’s ceremony, the lid of the PGA Championship trophy went flying off as he lifted it for the first time.

Because everything else came easy – and that’s not supposed to happen for a 23-year-old playing just his second major championship ever, a mere 15 months after he was still a college student.

“I’m on cloud nine,” said Morikawa, a California native, of his PGA Championship win at TPC Harding Park. “I’ve believed in myself (and) I haven’t let up from that.”

Morikawa captured his first major title by two shots over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson. He finished at 13-under after shooting 65-64 on the weekend. He missed the cut at last year’s U.S. Open – his first major – but came into this week at the PGA Championship having won the Workday Charity Open, a new event added onto the PGA Tour’s schedule after the COVID-19 break.

The PGA Championship was moved to August due to the impact on the schedule due to COVID-19, and will be one of three majors contested in 2020, with the U.S. Open coming in September and the Masters in November.

His 64 tied the lowest final-round score by a PGA Championship winner, and his 129 (65-64) was the lowest 36-hole weekend at a major championship ever.

He also joined Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as first-time PGA Champions at 23.

“It’s been crazy, because this entire start of my professional career, I see all the things comparing to Tiger and doing all this and then Tiger is on a completely different level. I think we all know that,” Morikawa said. “But any time you’re in the conversation of the greats, Jack, Rory, Tiger, no matter who it is, if you’re in that conversation, you’re doing something well.”

The words from his playing competitors backed up how much admiration they have for this young man, and why it’s going to be very hard to ignore him for the next two decades – especially since he owns the nicest golf swing on the PGA Tour.

“There’s always a bunch of guys that rock up on the scene and (Morikawa) didn’t necessarily get the most publicity out of the group he was in but you know, I can consider myself a veteran; I’ve been around the block, so I know talent when I see it,” Casey said. “I don’t like the word ‘talent’ but you know when somebody is good and Collin was good. We could just tell.”

Morikawa’s performance at TPC Harding Park this weekend — and especially Sunday, when he was one of nine players to hold a piece of the lead in the final round — was clinical from tee-to-green. He was first on the week in Fairways Hit, Proximity to the Hole, and Strokes Gained: Putting.

Add that all up and he proved why he’s the complete package.

During his time at UC Berkeley, Morikawa did a testing session with a TrackMan machine (a digital launch monitor) and, according to equipment guru Jonathan Wall, Morikawa landed a collection of shots with his 6-iron as close together as most elite players do with their pitching wedges.

“He doesn’t have a weakness in his game,” said Tony Finau, who finished tied for fourth. “He doesn’t have a weakness mentally. So when you’re dealing with that type of talent, he’s going to be somebody to beat in major championships for a lot of these things. This isn’t a guy that’s just going to pop up and disappear for the next five years.”

Morikawa’s victory was punctuated by an epic drive on the short par-four 16th. The hole was playing less than 300 yards on Sunday and Morikawa, despite the mid-summer San Franciscan chill, hit driver to about 15 feet and made the eagle putt. That put him ahead for good.

“I stepped up and those are moments I’m always going to remember,” Morikawa said. “Once (the tee shot) bounced I was like, ‘OK, I will take it anywhere it is, because it is on the green, whether it’s short, long … and I peeked around right at the tee and it looked around the tree and it looked really, really good.”

It wasn’t just Morikawa’s game that was “really, really good” this week – he’s got a quiet confidence that will be beneficial moving forward. He knows he’s good, but he’ll tell you with a big smile and you can’t help but like him.

“I think when I play my best, I’m able to compete and if not beat these guys when I’m playing really well,” Morikawa said of the elite golfers on the PGA Tour, a group he’s now a part of – as he’s projected to be No. 5 in the world come Monday.

To try to put a bow on how good Morikawa is and how good he can be, I reached out to Max Homa, a PGA Tour winner himself and a fellow Cal Golden Bear, to describe Morikawa in one word.

His reply? “Great.”

Sometimes that’s all that can be said.

A great finish, a great champion, and a great future – and now all you can do is stay tuned for more. He’s not going anywhere.

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