We’re going to have to get used to the beaming smile of Collin Morikawa for many years to come after the American brilliantly earned his first major championship title on his PGA Championship debut and second major start.
At 23-years young, Morikawa became the third-youngest player since WWII to win the PGA Championship, behind only Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus.
A brilliant six-under par round of 64 got the job done by two strokes from Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson – neither player in the runner-up positions could hardly do much more than rounds of 66 and 68 to close off their respective challenges.
But Morikawa proved too good with his stunning eagle two at the par-4 16th, having driven the ball to just seven feet, proving the decisive shot in his title charge.
“I had no plans on going for 16 at all,” Morikawa revealed. “I told Colt Knost, he saw me Wednesday afternoon practicing on there, and he asked me if I was ever going to go for it. I told him a quick no, it’s too much into the wind, why go for it. I didn’t think the pin was going to be where it was.
“You know, my caddie, it was like 278 to the front, and just a good drive for me. It was going to land just short of that in this weather; it’s going to bounce on up. He looked at me, he counted off and asked me what I wanted to do and I told him, let’s hit a good drive. And I counted back from 14 at Muirfield. What’s different from 14 at Muirfield and this shot, similar numbers, wind was a little left, kind of into me, but I knew I had to hit a good one.
“And stepped up, you know, and those are moments I’m always going to remember. Hit it, J.J. actually walked in the tee and he never does that and he was talking to the ball a bunch. I don’t really talk to it too much, but we were both screaming at it to get a good bounce, and we obviously got a very good bounce, and you just have to capitalise on those shots.”
Capitalise he did, like a seasoned pro and with the win, his third career PGA Tour victory in his 29th start, Morikawa moves to No.2 in the FedExCup standings and to number 5 in the world rankings.
He set the PGA Championship record for lowest closing 36-hole score (129) and tied the low final-round score by a winner (64). Oh, and Collin collected a cheque worth almost $2million – not bad work if you can get it.
“It’s amazing,” Morikawa added. “It’s been a life goal, obviously as a little kid, kind of watching everyone grow up, all these professionals, and this is always what I’ve 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.”
As for the rest of the field, two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka fell well short of his three-peat attempt on Sunday. Koepka, who entered the final round in a tie for fourth, closed with a surprising four-over par round of 74 but far from avoid the cameras post-round, he fronted up to give a typically frank assessment of his play.
“Yeah, to be honest, the bogey on 2 was not good,” Koepka said.
“But to make the turn at 4-over was disappointing, to say the least. You know, you knew you had to be under par, at least one, to have a good chance on the back side.
“I mean, it’s my first bad round in a while in a major. You know, I was just there to cheer Paul on. That was it. Just try to help him get it in the house and see how well he could finish, because I had put myself out of it already.
“You know, hey, wasn’t meant to be. Three in a row, you’re not really supposed to do two in a row looking at history, but that’s all right. Got two more the rest of the season and we’ll figure it out from there.”
Dustin Johnson became the first player to finish runner-up at the PGA Championship in consecutive years since Jack Nicklaus (1964, 1965) while Paul Casey was full of class after his final round efforts only fell short to the best man on the day.
“Look, I played phenomenal golf and there’s nothing I would change,” said Casey. “I’m very, very happy with how I played. Great attitude. Stayed very calm and stayed in the present. Wasn’t enough. The glorious shots Collin hit like on 16 to make eagle, you have to tip your cap.
“When he popped up on Tour not that long ago, those guys who were paying attention like myself knew that this was something special, and he’s proved it today. He’s already sort of proved it but he’s really stamped his authority of how good he is today.”
From an Irish perspective, Rory McIlroy saved his best round for last in a two-under par round of 68 to move up 10 places on the board to a share of 33rd. The opposite was true for Shane Lowry whose four-over par round of 74 saw him fall 32 places to a tie for 66th at three-over par.
Full scoring HERE