Last night, American Collin Morikawa scored a six-under par 64 at TPC Harding Park to win the US PGA Championship by two shots. So, how did he do it? When did he burst onto the scene? And are comparisons with Tiger Woods justified?
How did he win?
In style. At one stage during the back nine, six players were tied at the top.
Among them was England’s Paul Casey, the last of the British challengers after Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, and Tommy Fleetwood had either drifted or fallen away. US-based Casey was surely thinking Sunday was the time to finally break his major duck.
But then Morikawa hit a contender for shot of the week with his pin-point drive on the par-four 16th. Coolly rolling in his eagle putt from seven feet, the young American was clear of the pack. And from there, he did not falter.
Unsurprisingly, he led the field in driving accuracy and was also first in proximity to the hole stats. As if this wasn’t enough, Morikawa gained the most strokes compared to the field from his putting. It’s no wonder he topped the leaderboard.
Where did he come from?
Born in Los Angeles in 1997, Morikawa turned heads last year by arriving on tour and immediately challenging the record books.
He made the cut in his first 22 consecutive tournaments. Such sizzling starts to a professional career are rare; only Tiger Woods can boast a longer run with his debut 25 tournaments from 1996. That is, of course, before Morikawa was born.
Form is only temporary, but the young American had already proven his class by reaching the summit of the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 2018, prior to joining the PGA Tour.
With this, his first major win in only his second outing at one of the four biggest golfing events, he joins an elite company. After Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and, more recently, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa is the fourth man to win the US PGA Championship before their 24th birthday.
So, is he the next Tiger Woods?
In short, there will never be another Tiger Woods. But that doesn’t stop Morikawa from being the next big thing.
Whilst Morikawa pushed Tiger’s cut-making record, in other areas, he has a dizzyingly long way to go before earning comparisons. Woods had six victories during his debut cut-making streak, including blitzing the field at the 1997 Masters. Morikawa had two with no majors, until now.
Shortly after missing his first cut at the 1997 Bell Canadien Open, Tiger went on an unheralded run of 142 tournaments without missing a cut. Morikawa has a lot more golf to play before thinking about Woods’ stratospheric standards.
Still, despite not yet playing at the Masters or the Open Championship, Morikawa leaves his second major outing with both the trophy and an impressive rewriting of the history books. By shooting 65 on Saturday and 64 on Sunday, his 129 is the lowest weekend score by a major winner, ever.
More to come
Morikawa attended college less than 20 miles from his first major win, studying business administration alongside competing for the University of California, Berkeley. To match Tiger for majors, he still has 14 wins to go. (For context, that’s as many as Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, and Nick Faldo’s totals combined.)
But Morikawa seems at ease with being in the spotlight. Speaking with the trophy, (which caused him his only fluster of the day when the top fell off), he said “I felt very comfortable from the start… to finally close it off and come out here in San Francisco, pretty much my second home where I spent the last four years, it’s pretty special.”
“Pretty special” seems a fitting description of the game of this young American. Like McIlroy, Spieth and Koepka before him, Morikawa will no doubt aspire to be a little more like Tiger, the most special golfer the modern game has seen.
For now, his next challenge is to reproduce his golf from this week onward. After this win, for the first time at big events, all eyes will be on him.
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