Something about Workday, Inc. appears to bring out the best in 24-year-old PGA Tour phenom Collin Morikawa.
For the second time in seven months, an event that had to be moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic picked up the successful software vendor as its sponsor, and in both events, the winner was Morikawa.
The winner of last July’s Workday Charity Open went into the final round of the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession, moved from Mexico to The Concession Club in Bradenton, Florida, with a two-stroke lead, survived an early hiccup on the second hole, and gave no ground to a surging field down the back nine, winning his first WGC event by three strokes over the trio of Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka, and Billy Horschel.
With his fourth career victory in just 38 Tour starts as a professional, Morikawa joined Tiger Woods as the only players in Tour history to win both a major and a WGC event before the age of 25. Many players in the Sunday field at The Concession wore red shirts to honor Woods, who was badly injured in a single-car accident earlier in the week. The 45-year-old legend boasts 15 major championships and 18 WGC triumphs among his 82 career Tour wins.
Morikawa’s victory could also be considered a win for the Cal University golf program. For the second consecutive week, one of their own has claimed a PGA Tour win, with this WGC being followed seven days ago by Max Homa, who won the Genesis Invitational in a two-hole playoff.
Morikawa won last August’s PGA Championship, just his second career major start and first in the PGA, with an absolutely immaculate approach game. While the young star was thought to be a good bet to be an exception, Morikawa hit a slight lull in his game after his breakthrough major. However, a top 10 in a December European Tour event in Dubai was followed by a pair of T7s back in the U.S, which seemed to get him back in form, even with a disappointing T43 at last week’s Genesis Invitational.
A second round 8-under 64, which tied the Friday round of reigning U.S. Open Champ Bryson DeChambeau for the low round of the week, rocketed Morikawa into contention, and a Saturday 67 put him two strokes out front at the 54-hole mark. He knew he would have to keep his foot on the gas for Sunday though, as players who were nipping at his heels included a pair of Florida natives in former FedExCup Champion Horschel and four-time major winner Koepka, the latter of who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier in the month.
In a rare “one of us” moment, Morikawa showed some nerves on the second hole with a chunked chip shot that traveled just eight inches, carding what would be his only bogey of the day. A Horschel birdie on No. 3 created a tie on the leaderboard, but Morikawa would never fall completely off the top line. A birdie on the par-5 7th put him back into the solo lead, and by executing one spectacular approach after another, he was able to hold off a late front-nine rally by Koepka, and an early back-nine charge from Hovland – a 23-year-old from Norway who had come into the week with six top-6 finishes, including a win, in his last seven starts.
A birdie on 9 helped Morikawa turn on 2-under. On the back nine of the difficult course, which was hosting its first PGA Tour event, a birdie on 12, along with eight pars was all he needed to finish three ahead. With a final-day 3-under 69, he finished 18-under for the week.
The win rose Morikawa from 6th to 4th in the Official World Golf Rankings, tying his career high position.
Pos-Player-Score (Final Rd)
1. Collin Morikawa -18 (-3)
2. Viktor Hovland -15 (-6)
2. Brooks Koepka -15 (-2)
2. Billy Horschel -15 (-2)
5. Scottie Scheffler -14 (-4)
6. Louis Oosthuizen -12 (-3)
6. Rory McIlroy -12 (-1)
6. Webb Simpson -12 (E)
9. Jason Kokrak -11 (-3)
9. Patrick Reed -11 (E)
11. Cameron Smith -10
11. Kevin Na -10
14. Tony Finau -9
15. Justin Thomas -8
15. Hideki Matsuyama -8
18. Jason Day -7
18. Abraham Ancer -7
22. Bryson DeChambeau -6
22. Tyrrell Hatton -6
28. Joaquin Niemann -5
28. Sungjae Im -5
32. Jon Rahm -4
32. Sergio Garcia -4
35. Daniel Berger -3
39. Xander Schauffle -1
44. Tommy Fleetwood +2
54. Justin Rose +5
54. Bubba Watson +5
54. Adam Scott +5
54. Dustin Johnson +5
61. Lee Westwood +8
How Collin Morikawa Won The WGC-Workday Championship
The big news for Collin Morikawa was that he finished 10th for the week in strokes gained: putting. It was unsurprising that Morikawa got into a rhythm with his irons again – he was second on Tour last season in strokes gained: approach-the-green and fifth in strokes gained: tee-to-green. But having ranked outside the top 200 on Tour this current season in strokes gained: putting, it was surprising that he was phenomenal on the greens this week, an improvement he credited to a lesson from two-time major champion Mark O’Meara.
His 27 birdies for the week led the field, and he had just seven bogeys and a double working against them. He led the field in strokes gained: approach-the-green, strokes gained: tee-to-green, was second in greens in regulation, and only missed one Sunday fairway.
Driving: 285.6 yards (58th)
Fairways: 47/56, 83.9% (5th)
Greens: 56/72, 77.78% (2nd)
Putts: 1.554 (2nd)
SG Approach Green: 9.544 (1st)
SG: Putting: 3.952 (10th)
SG: Tee to Green: 12.526 (1st)
SG: Total: 4.120 (2nd)
Scoring: 27 Birdies, 37 Pars, 7 Bogeys, 1 Double
What It Means For Morikawa
Morikawa is exempt for everything for the foreseeable future, so this win did not do anything for his job security, but adding a WGC could be a serious legacy booster. He just turned 24 this month, putting him in elite company among young players in Tour history.
This win also gets him in his best form for an upcoming stretch that sees THE PLAYERS, WGC Match Play, and The Masters contested in a four-week span from mid March through early April.
He finished T44 at the last 2020 Masters, held in November. This year he also will be playing in his first Open Championship, the last major he has yet to make a start.
Morikawa’s 2021 PGA TOUR Season
Cuts Made: 8
Wins: 1 (WGC-Workday Championship)
Additional Top 10s: 2
Money: $2,497,267 (9th)
Points: 808 (10th)
World Rank Before/After: 6th/4th
Sunday’s lowest round came from one of 2021’s best PGA Tour golfers that many still have not heard of: Carlos Ortiz. The native Mexican rose 20 spots in the 78-man field with a 6-under 66 consisting of an eagle-birdie finish. The winner of November’s Vivant Houston Open, Ortiz rebounded from a 73-72 start to the week to finish 8-under-par, in a share of 15th place. He currently holds the ninth spot in the FedExCup Standings.
Australia’s Cameron Smith kept a recent hot streak going, and was phenomenal for 75% of this week. A final round 5-under 67 jumped the Masters runner-up from T20 to T11, a week after he finished T4 at The Genesis Invitational.
The 27-year-old was in second place at the 36-hole mark after a 68-66 start, but two Saturday 7s led to a 5-over 77 and knocked him from contention. Smith led the field for the week in strokes gained: putting.
Viktor Hovland was the best golfer over the weekend, matching Smith’s Sunday 67 a day after shooting a 66. Hovland finished co-runner-up despite an odd Friday round where he played his first 17 holes in a bogey-free 7-under, only to quadruple-bogey the par-4 final hole (he started on the back nine). The only other Sunday 67 came from Kevin Na, who like Smith, moved from T20 to T11.
Tony Finau came into the week after finishing runner-up in three consecutive events worldwide, including a painful playoff loss to Max Homa in last week’s The Genesis Invitational. It was especially difficult given that he has 10 runner-ups among 31 top 10s since his solo Tour victory in 2016.
A 68-67 start had him in contention yet again, although a Saturday 72 had him just outside the top 10. His Sunday score matched his Saturday score. Oddly, Finau triple-bogeyed the par-4 second, added another front nine bogey, and STILL made the turn under par, as he combined those gaffes with three birdies and an eagle.
Finau’s back nine was less eventful, with eight pars and a bogey. He finished T14.
Sergio Garcia was at 8-under through three rounds, largely from 67s in rounds 1 and 3. However, he began Sunday as awful as one possibly could, with a triple-bogey on the first hole and a bogey on No. 2. He ended up shooting a 4-over 76 that dropped him 18 spots from T14 to T32.
In typical Sergio form, the 41-year-old Spaniard finished 67th in the field in strokes gained: putting.
Dustin Johnson is the current landslide world No. 1 and the reigning champion of The Masters, the FedExCup, and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award. Coming into the week, he was in an unconscious 11-start stretch with three wins, three runner-ups, and one third place.
That Dustin Johnson was nowhere to be found this week, especially on Sunday, as an uncharacteristic 6-over 78 dropped him from T42 to T54 for the week. Johnson, who had the most WGC victories of anyone in the field (6), birdied four holes on Sunday’s back nine, and still played that to 9-over par, with back-to-back double-bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15, and a bogey on 18.
Understatement of the Year
“It shows I can come out here and compete. What a week! I was working on so much the past couple weeks, and tips from Mark O’Meara and Paul Azinger got this week through, and my game felt so good.”
– Collin Morikawa, winner of four PGA Tour titles in his first 44 starts – with three coming in his most recent 17, including a WGC and Major Championship