How one swing changed Collin Morikawa’s life

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SAN FRANCISCO — The shot elicited barely a whimper, a smattering of cheers and claps harking back to his school days at close by Cal, however it was one that deserved the form of delirium you anticipate in such moments on golf’s largest stage.

Collin Morikawa must accept the shot seen — however not heard — world wide, an epic driver to the 16th inexperienced Sunday at TPC Harding Park that arrange an eagle putt and a 2-shot victory on the PGA Championship.

There won’t have been any noise, however Morikawa loudly introduced himself to the plenty with that shot whereas forging forward of a packed leaderboard to change into a winner at golf’s first main championship of the pandemic-plagued 2021 season.

Think about the scene in regular instances.

“That is the one time I actually want there have been crowds proper there,” Morikawa mentioned. “I used to be simply praying for a straight bounce in need of the inexperienced on to the inexperienced, after which after it bounced, it form of bought behind a tree that we could not see across the nook. So as soon as it bounced, I used to be like, ‘OK, I’ll take it anyplace it’s as a result of it’s on the inexperienced, whether or not it is brief, lengthy,’ and I glanced round proper on the tee and appeared across the tree, and it appeared actually, actually good.

“So I heard some claps however not a ton. They may imply I used to be on the inexperienced and 50 toes.”

Consider the large galleries at Bellerive two years in the past or all of the bellowing New Yorkers a 12 months in the past at Bethpage Black. Morikawa would have gone deaf. The decibels would’ve been ear-shattering.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports activities

As an alternative, there was no method that he may know that the ball cozied up 7 toes from the cup, as spectators weren’t permitted due to the coronavirus pandemic, and just a few dozen volunteers and media individuals had been on the course.

Morikawa, 23, completed 2 pictures forward of England’s Paul Casey, who is 20 years older and was bidding to become the third-oldest player to win his first major championship. Casey had nothing to be ashamed of, shooting a final-round 66 that was better than that of all but one player.

Standing on the 17th tee tied for the lead, Casey turned around to see Morikawa’s tee shot from 294 yards at the par-4 16th land short of the green, bound up onto the putting surface and run ever-so-slowly toward the hole.

“What a glorious shot,” Casey said. “He thoroughly deserves it. Nothing you can do but tip your cap to that. When he popped up on tour not that long ago, those guys who were paying attention like myself knew he was something special, and he’s proved it. He’s already sort of proved it, but he’s really stamped his authority of how good he is [Sunday].”

Fifteen months ago, Morikawa was still in college. As with many of his peers — such as Matthew Wolff, who tied for fourth, and Viktor Hovland, who joined him right out of school — there is no fear and no backing down.

He won an opposite-field tour event last fall, lost in a playoff to Daniel Berger at the Charles Schwab Challenge in June and beat Justin Thomas at the Workday Charity Open last month.

The PGA is Morikawa’s second major championship, making him one of just six players in the Masters era to win in his first or second major start.

Now he’s ranked fifth in the world, with a chance to go to No. 1 as early as the Northern Trust in two weeks.

“He’s a helluva player,” said Brooks Koepka, whose run at a third straight PGA ended with a 74. “You see guys coming out of college now, they are ready to win. Prime example I think of that group: him, Matt Wolff, Viktor Hovland. It’s impressive what they do. They come out of college, and they’re ready to play out here.”

Morikawa was among a group of seven players tied for the lead at 10 under par that included Wolff, Casey, Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, Jason Day and Scottie Scheffler.

He broke the tie by chipping in for a birdie from 50 feet at the 14th hole. Then came the drama at the 16th, where he vowed earlier in the week that he would not attempt to drive the green at the short par-4.

But conditions were favorable to make it worthwhile, and Morikawa knew that if he landed the ball in the 275-yard range, there was a good chance that it would hop onto the green to a pin that was 294 yards away. It could not have come off more perfectly. Casey had just tied Morikawa by birdieing the hole in front of him. Then he witnessed the incredible.

“When he hit it, it came off perfect, and you could see it was starting to float perfectly to the hole,” said Cameron Champ, who played with Morikawa and tied for 10th. “And we’re looking at it, and hopefully it got a straight bounce, and it did, and it just bounced right up there. I would definitely say that was the shot of the tournament and pretty awesome to watch.”

Champ led the field in driving distance for the week, but it was Morikawa — who was tied for 36th in that category — who hit the drive of the year. Of course, to then not make the putt would have been deflating.

Think Corey Pavin with the great 4-wood shot to the final green of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock in 1995. Or Phil Mickelson’s 6-iron shot through the pine trees at Augusta National at the 13th at the 2010 Masters. Both players missed the short putts, though they still won.

Not only did Morikawa pull off the great shot but he converted the putt, too.

“You had to make it,” he said. “I had to make that putt. Two strokes is a lot different than one coming down 18.”

Morikawa’s girlfriend, Kathryn Zhu, was there to witness his victory. A former college golfer at Pepperdine, Zhu was in town with Morikawa but unable to attend the tournament until Sunday because of the various coronavirus pandemic restrictions put in place.

“So glad I was able to come out [Sunday],” she said. “Feel so lucky that I got to watch. It was so much fun to be able to be here.”

No other family members were permitted, so Morikawa and Zhu were forced to FaceTime with his parents, Blaine and Debbie, and brother Garrett in Los Angeles as they waited for the trophy ceremony. Under the circumstances, it had to be that way.

If there is any justice, when Morikawa returns to defend his title next May at Kiawah Island, he will get the loudest, longest ovation — one that could be heard around the world.

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