With the final Sunday pairing playing the 13th hole, the 102nd PGA Championship saw a seven-way tie for the lead. It was a situation that very heavily favored the competitors with major championship experience.
Collin Morikawa won anyway.
The 23-year-old California wunderkind, making his PGA Championship debut, and just second ever start in a major, emerged from the logjam late, precluding what would have been an epic, unprecedented playoff, shooting a final round bogey-free 6-under 64 to win 2020’s first major by two strokes over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson.
Typically by now – at least in the new FedExCup era, all four majors have been played, but the coronavirus pandemic eviscerated the sports world, and forced a Tour reschedule that has seven majors being played in an 11-month span. Also due to COVID-19, there were no fans on hand at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, meaning nobody to rally the golfers down the stretch; nobody to yell about mashed potatoes and will the ball “in the hole” as players stand on par-5 tee boxes.
It was something never seen before. Yet, the guy with just 25 professional starts coming into the week was the one to get the job done.
Morikawa, who, in 25 starts, owned more wins (2) than missed-cuts (1), was just 2-under par through two rounds, but a stellar Saturday round of 65 moved him up to fourth place, and firmly into the championship mix – just two shots behind Johnson’s 54-hole lead.
That 65, combined with the final-round 64, was the lowest closing 36 holes in major championship history.
Paired in the penultimate twosome with similarly inexperienced Cameron Champ (3rd career major start), Morikawa never looked unprepared for the moment, carding early birdies on Nos. 3 and 4 to turn in 2-under par.
When reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler, making his major championship debut, birdied the 12th while paired in the final group with Johnson, there were suddenly seven players tied for the lead at 10-under, with Morikawa being the youngest of the group. The previous PGA Championship record for most playoff participants was just three (1978).
Morikawa apparently had no intention of playing extra holes, regardless of how exciting that would have been for the absurdly large television audience. On the par-4 14th hole, Morikawa saw his approach land just short of the green, which CBS analyst Nick Faldo called “a mishit right at the wrong time”. He responded by holing his chip for birdie from 54 feet away. Despite all the motivated competitors and all the golf left to be played, Morikawa would never relinquish that lead.
Moments after Casey birdied the drivable par-4 16th in the group ahead of Morikawa to tie him at 11-under, Collin hit the shot of the tournament – the shot of his life, from the tee box of that same hole.
Armed with a driver, he stuck his tee shot to just seven feet. He then sunk his eagle putt, effectively shutting the door on the field. He calmly clinched the Wanamaker Trophy with pars on Nos. 17 and 18.
Morikawa joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy as players to win their first PGA Championship at the age of 23. Those three have combined for 37 major championships.
The second biggest story at Harding Park was the player who quietly fell out of the championship mix: Brooks Koepka.
Attempting to become the first player to win the same major three years in a row since Peter Thomson took the 1954-56 Open Championships, the big-game hunter – who in his past 10 major starts owned three wins, two runner-ups, a T4, and a T6 – began the day tied with Morikawa in the fourth place, but for the first time in his career, he collapsed on the biggest stage with a dismal 4-over 74, tumbling to a T29. It snapped a streak of six straight top-15s at the PGA Championship.
The only time Morikawa looked like he didn’t know what he was doing was when he first held the Wanamaker Trophy, underestimating its weight and gasping as the lid fell off. With three wins already in his young career (26 starts), contrasted with only one missed cut, the budding superstar looks primed to lift many more.
Final Top-10 Finishers
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Collin Morikawa -13 (-6)
2. Paul Casey -11 (-4)
2. Dustin Johnson -11 (-2)
4. Matthew Wolff -10 (-5)
4. Jason Day -10 (-4)
4. Bryson DeChambeau -10 (-4)
4. Tony Finau -10 (-4)
4. Scottie Scheffler -10 (-2)
9. Justin Rose -9 (-3)
10. Xander Schauffele -8 (-3)
10. Joel Dahmen -8 (-3)
10. Cameron Champ -8 (E)
Final Stat Leaders
Driving: Cameron Champ (321.1) (T10)
Fairways: Collin Morikawa (39/56, 69.6%) (1st)
Greens: Matthew Wolff (56/72, 77.8%) (T4)
Putts/GIR: Bryson DeChambeau (1.583) (T4)
Birdies: Bryson DeChambeau (23) (T4)
How Collin Morikawa Won the PGA Championship
In spite of his inexperience, Morikawa was a popular dark horse pick to win the year’s first major. He exploded onto the PGA Tour scene a year ago with an incredible July stretch that culminated with a victory at the Barracuda Championship. He had looked even better since the Tour returned from the three-month pandemic layoff, finishing runner-up and reaching a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge (the first event held when play resumed), and then chasing down Tour heavyweight Justin Thomas over the final holes at famed Muirfield Village to win the Workday Charity Open less than a month ago.
In that respect, the win was not a complete surprise, but landing in the winner’s circle of a major so early in a professional career is very rare. Only three players in Tour history had won their first major in fewer starts than Morikawa’s two: Francis Ouimet (1913 U.S. Open), Ben Curtis (2003 Open Championship), and Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship), who all won their first major start. Morikawa is the 10th player to win his PGA Championship debut.
His 18 birdies, including seven in the third round, was the ninth most in the field for the week, and his seven bogeys (only two on the weekend) was seventh. Statistically, he is not an outstanding putter, ranking 164th on the season in strokes gained: putting, but his flatstick was his best club this week, as he led the field in that same statistic. He also led the field in driving accuracy (39/56 fairways hit), strokes gained: total, and was seventh in greens in regulation.
Collin Morikawa’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 290.5 (40th)
Fairways: 69.6%, 39/56 (1st)
Greens: 70.8%, 50/72 (7th)
Putts/Per GIR: 1.686 (8th)
Scores: 1 Eagle, 18 Birdies, 46 Pars, 7 Bogeys
Off the Tee: 6.76 (19th)
Approach the Green: 4.10 (18th)
Tee to Green: 6.81 (19th)
Putting: 8.27 (1st)
Total: 15.12 (1st)
What Winning the PGA Means For Collin Morikawa
Those who did not realize the legitimacy of Morikawa’s star status sure do now. Of his two previous Tour victories, one came at an event where the field was very weak (2019 Barracuda) and one where the field was thoroughly average (2020 Workday Charity Open). With a win against the strongest field in golf, his confidence likely goes through the roof, and his name will be uttered heavily in the pre-tournament conversations of every major in the foreseeable future. He appears destined to play for many U.S. Ryder Cup teams.
In the shorter term, Morikawa jumps from 12th to 5th in the world rankings, and has a path to No. 1 in Boston in two weeks, when he will tee up in the first round of the FedExCup Playoffs. Now ranking second in the FedExCup standings, he is a lock to play all three playoff events. Last year he finished 49th, despite only seven starts before the playoffs began.
Collin Morikawa’s 2020 Season
Cuts Made: 16
Wins: 2 (Workday Open, PGA Championship)
Additional Top 10: 4
Earnings: $5,144,088 (2)
FedExCup Pts: 1,902 (2)
World Rank Before/After: 12/4
Morikawa’s 64 tied for the low round of the day with Byeong Hun An, who moved from T59 to T22 on the final leaderboard, and the recently-hot Ryan Palmer, who propelled from T75 to T43. It also tied two others for the low round of the tournament. An and Palmer did not factor into the Sunday championship mix, but took large steps in their personal quests for their first career major.
Chief among the better Sunday rounds among those who did factor was the 65 shot by 21-year-old Matthew Wolff, who was making his major championship debut. The Oklahoma State product who burst onto the Tour scene when he barely outdueled Morikawa at the inaugural 3M Open, surged into the co-lead with a phenomenal mid-round stretch, following birdies on Nos. 7, 8, and 9 with an eagle on 10. Wolff posted the day’s only 5-under 65 to finish T4.
Paul Casey is on the other end of the Morikawa-Wolff spectrum, as the 40-year-old Englishman was making his 64th major start, with a previous high of T3 (2010 Open Championship, where he still finished eight strokes out of first).
Casey had not posted a top-10 in a major since the 2017 Masters, but was his best version all week, and flourished in a Sunday pairing with Koepka, shooting a 4-under 66 and finishing co-runner-up. He had just four holes of bogey or worse on the week.
Tying Casey’s Sunday 66 was former world No. 1 and 2015 PGA Champion Jason Day. Coming into the week hot with finishes of T7, T4, and T6 respectively, the 32-year-old Aussie was bogey-free on Sunday, and his T4 was his fifth top-10 in his last eight PGA Championship starts.
Among the other players to shoot 66 in round 4 was six-time Tour winner Bryson DeChambeau, who scored his best career major finish at T4, Tony Finau (also T4) who now has six top-10s in his last nine major starts, and Jon Rahm, who with a T13 climbed back to No. 1 in the world rankings, just two weeks after Justin Thomas unseated him with a victory at The Memorial Tournament.
Brooks Koepka’s Sunday collapse was absolutely stunning. He drew considerable criticism among media heads and fellow competitors with his comments following Saturday’s round, where he talked down the accomplishments of the other contenders – most notably Dustin Johnson.
On a day where the field scoring average was the lowest in tournament history, only one player out of the 79 to tee up shot worse than Koepka’s 4-over 74. The man who began 2020 at No. 1 in the world rankings did not card a birdie until the 12th hole, and fell from T4 to T29.
It was only his second major of worse than T13 in his last 16 starts. Last year, he finished in the top 4 in all four majors, including a victory at the PGA Championship and runner-up at both the Masters and U.S. Open.
Tommy Fleetwood used a second-round 64 to put himself in the final Saturday pairing, and was just three strokes behind Johnson heading into Sunday. Also looking for his first career major victory, Fleetwood saw his hopes effectively come to and end when his tee shot on the 6th went out of bounds, leading to a double bogey. The Englishman finished with a 3-over 73 to fall 22 spots, from T7 to T29.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera was a complete unknown coming into the week, but contended early, shooting 66-68 in the first two rounds. However, the 35-year-old from France was unable to stay in the mix, following up a third-round 2-over 72 with a fourth-round 4-over 74 to drop 25 spots into a tie for 43rd place.
Tiger Woods ended an 11-year major drought when he won at Augusta in the first major of the 2019 season. However, his chances for this week were anyone’s guess, as the 15-time major champion and four-time PGA Champion had teed up just once since February: a T40 at The Memorial.
Without the prodigious crowds that typically follow his every move at every event, Woods appeared less inspired, finishing T37 in his quest for his first PGA Championship since he held off Woody Austin and Ernie Els in the 2007 edition.
However, Tiger had his best round of the tournament on Sunday, carding five birdies to just two bogeys in a 3-under 67 that moved him 22 spots up the final leaderboard. Even more promising, his notoriously-troublesome back appeared to hold up fine in the cold San Francisco air.
Tiger failed to finish better than 25th in any of the six strokes gained categories though, and badly hurt his chances when he went 0 for 7 in converting from the sand over the first two days of the event.
“It’s amazing. It has been a life goal, obviously as a little kid, kind watching everyone grow up, all these professionals, and this is what I’ve always wanted to do.
“I felt very comfortable from the start. As an amateur, junior golfer, turning professional last year, but to finally close it off and come out here in San Francisco, pretty much my second home where I spent the last four years, is pretty special.”
– Collin Morikawa, 2020 PGA Champion