The shot will be remembered as one of the best under pressure that hardly anyone witnessed. It made Collin Morikawa a major champion Sunday in a thrill-a-minute PGA Championship that not many will forget.
Morikawa hit a driver on the 294-yard 16th hole that was perfect in flight and even better when it landed, hopping onto the green and rolling to 7 feet for an eagle that all but clinched victory on a most quiet Sunday afternoon at Harding Park.
As the leader in a major with all the pressure, Collin Morikawa dials up this drive? Unreal. pic.twitter.com/dy7VUdCwAc
In the first major without spectators, the 23-year-old Californian finished with a bang.
“I was hoping for a really good bounce and got it,” he said. “I hit a really good putt, and now we’re here.”
He closed with a 6-under 64, the lowest final round by a PGA champion in 25 years, for a two-shot victory over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson, two of 10 players who had a chance on the back nine. Morikawa joins Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as 23-year-olds to win the PGA.
Morikawa was among seven players tied for the lead, as wild as any Sunday in a major. He took the lead when he chipped in for birdie from 40 feet short of the 14th green. And then he delivered the knockout with one swing along the shores of Lake Merced.
MORIKAWA!!! CHIPS IT IN FOR THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/5KPm6tkW5Z
The COVID-19 pandemic that moved the PGA Championship from May to August was allowed to be played only if spectators were not allowed. But there was one person who won’t forget what he saw.
Casey, with his first good shot at winning a major, birdied the 16th to tie Morikawa for the lead. Standing on the tee at the par-3 17th, he looked back and saw the ball roll toward the cup.
“What a shot,” was all Casey could say. “Nothing you can do but tip you cap to that. Collin had taken on that challenge and pulled it off. That’s what champions do.”
Golf’s latest major champion was still in the vicinity of Harding Park just over a year ago, finishing up his degree at California and his All-American career, part of a new cast of young stars in a sport filled with them.
He only played Harding Park about a dozen times while in college, but never set up with rough like this or with the tees all the way back.
Now he has three PGA Tour victories and is No. 5 in the world, taking his place among the young stars by beating a cast of world-class players on the public course in San Francisco.
For Johnson, it was another major that got away. He had a one-shot lead and didn’t do too much wrong on the day except for not keeping it in the fairway for better chances of birdie. He drove into the hazard on the 16th and chipped in for birdie when it was too late, and a birdie on the 18th gave him a 68 and a tie for second.
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