Collin Morikawa Produces Sparkling Golf to Beat Justin Thomas in Thriller
COLLIN MORIKAWA produced some sparkling golf to beat Justin Thomas in a playoff and win the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village. But Thomas will be left wondering how on earth he managed to lose this tournament. Going for his 13th PGA Tour victory, he led by three with three holes left to play but was caught by his young American rival on the final hole as both men finished tied on 19 under par.
Thomas thought he had won it when he holed a 50-foot birdie putt at the first playoff hole, letting out a huge roar before watching Collin Morikawa follow him in from half the distance. The second time around, Thomas nearly holed his second but the ball finished eight feet beyond the hole, leaving him a downhill putt. Morikawa barely made the green in two but came within half an inch of holing his putt. And when Thomas failed to convert they headed off to the 10th. Hitting a three wood, Thomas put his tee shot right behind a tree and had to chip out sideways after watching Morikawa put his approach 10 feet from the hole. When Thomas failed to make par, it left Morikawa with two putts to win, and he took them.
And he was thrilled. “That was crazy,” he said. “I got off to a really good start. I knew I had to go low and that Justin wasn’t going to hand it to me. I am excited and so happy right now."
This win sees Morikawa overtake Tiger Woods in 13th place in the world rankings - and he is only going one way. It was the second time since the restart that Morikawa had found himself in a playoff. He lost to Daniel Berger at Colonial after missing a tiny putt.
With the threat of a storm, play began early in threeballs. Thomas went into the final round leading 22-year-old Viktor Hovland by two and 23-year-old Morikawa by three.
Thomas was going for his third victory of the season, having won the CJ Cup and Tournament of Champions. He missed the cut at the Travelers Championship.
He had gone into the final round leading on 12 occasions and on eight of those he had come out on top. So Hovland and Morikawa knew that they were going to have their work cut out for them. Many people believe that Morikawa could well be the next big thing. He began his career by making 22 successive cuts and it is a mark of the man that, after failing to make the weekend at the Travelers Championship he bounced straight back. He led after 36 holes but struggled to a 72 in the third round
Rory Sabbatini made an extraordinary start. He birdied the first, hit his tee shot into a hazard at the second, took a penalty drop and then holed his approach for another birdie to move to 12 under - four behind Thomas. Ian Poulter also made a good early move, a birdie at the second taking him to 11 under.
Thomas, who had gone 55 holes without dropping a shot, found the bunker with his approach to the second, barely got the ball out of the sand and very nearly chipped in but he recorded his first bogey of the tournament to fall back to 15 under. Morikawa birdied the same hole and so Thomas went to the third leading his two young rivals by one shot. We had a tournament on our hands. When they walked off the third Hovland led by one after a birdie as Thomas dropped another shot.
Patrick Cantlay, winner of the Memorial last year at this venue, was producing the round of the day. He birdied the second, third and fourth, picked up an eagle at the fifth, dropped a shot at the eighth but bounced straight back with a birdie at the ninth to each the turn in 31. He then picked up further birdies at the 11th and 12th to move to seven under for the day and 11 under for the week.
Morikawa came within a whisker of holing his tee shot at the par-three fourth, his ball kissing the flag for a kick-in birdie as he also moved to 15 under. But Hovland also birdied the hole and led the way on 16 under. In the blink of an eyelid, Thomas had gone from leading by two to trailing Hovland by the same margin. What a strange game this is.
Morikawa struck a sensational approach to the par-five fifth. Moments later, Hovland did precisely the same thing. We were witnessing some sensational play from these two young gladiators, both with one PGA Tour title tucked under their belts at restricted field events. This is a whole different ball game. Hovland had to settle for a birdie as he moved to 17 under, where he was joined by Morikawa when the American holed his eagle putt. Thomas trailed the pair by three after he could only par the hole.
At this point there was a six-way tie for fourth place on 11 under par, and it was beginning to look like a two-horse race between Hovland and Morikawa.
Hovland missed the sixth green and was unable to get up and down and dropped his first shot of the day. All of a sudden, Morikawa, who had started the day three adrift, found himself leading on his own. Up ahead, Cantlay moved to 12 under with a birdie at the 15th, where he was joined by Chase Seiffert. But not for long - Seiffert holed a chip at the ninth to move to 13 under and claim fourth place on his own. He found water at the 11th, dropped under penalty and then holed his approach for the unlikeliest of birdies.
Thomas finally got things going in the right direction with a birdie two at the eighth after a glorious tee shot. On 15 under, he trailed by two..
Morikawa and Hovland both lipped out for birdies at the ninth but Thomas played another glorious approach and picked up another shot. He was tied for second on 16 under with Hovland.
Cantlay bogeyed the 18th as he signed for a 65 and 11 under. Seiffert nearly holed in one at the 12th and was now 15 under. He would eventually finish on 14 under after a round of 67.
Thomas had his mojo back and made his third birdie on the trot at the 10th to tie Morikawa for the lead at 17 under as Hovland dropped a shot. But the Norwegian birdied the next to move back to 16 under and, incredibly, Thomas picked up his fourth successive birdie. He was now 18 under and back in the lead all on his own.
Morikawa is building himself a reputation as one of the best iron players on tour and he very nearly holed his tee shot at the par three 12th for another birdie to draw level with Thomas again. And when Morikawa failed to get up and down at the 13th to drop his first shot of the day, Thomas led on his own again.
In Morikawa's Bag...
- SIM 8.0 driver Tensei White 70TX
- SIM 14.0 fairway Diamana D+ 80TX
- SIM Max Rescue Tensei White 100TX
- P750 4-5 DG X100
- P730 6-PW DG X100
- MG2 52° and 60°
- TP Juno
- TP5 #5
Hovland decided to take on the 308-yard 14th but found the water. Thomas took an iron while Morikawa also took a driver and found the green to set up an eagle opportunity. He missed but birdied the hole, as did Thomas.
Hovland is the only player to have made the cut in all five tournaments since the restart and has been driving from venue to venue - and it was beginning to look like he was running out of steam. A bogey at the 14th saw him fall back to 15 under, his challenge effectively over.
And Thomas seemed to have closed the door when he played the par-five 15th in magnificent fashion, hitting the green in two and then holing the putt for an eagle that took him to 21 under par. He now led by three. What a turnaround. Except that it still wasn’t quite over, with Thomas dropping a shot at the 16th and Morikawa picking up a birdie at the 17th, which meant they went to the tricky 18th hole with Thomas leading by one.
Thomas found a fairway bunker and left his second short of the green. Morikawa split the fairway and found the green, leaving himself a 20-footer for a birdie and the most unlikely of wins. Thomas knew that he simply had to get up and down in two but hit a poor pitch, leaving himself a downhill putt of about eight feet. Could Morikawa find a birdie and put the pressure on Thomas? It slide by the hole. So Thomas had a putt to win and when he missed it we had a playoff, Thomas and Morikawa finishing 72 holes on 19 under par.
Hovland finished third on his own on 15 under. Poulter holed a birdie putt at the 18th to secure a share of fifth on 12 under with US Open champion Gary Woodland.
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