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How Collin Morikawa Won the 2020 PGA Championship

By: | Mon 17 May 2021 | Comments


IN A year that was devastated by Covid-19, golf’s majors also fell victim, with The Open Championship at Royal St George’s being scrapped for 12 months. The remaining three were rescheduled, with the PGA Championship being the first to be staged, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, from August 6-9.

It was a major like no other, played with no spectators in attendance. It was also the first to be played at Harding Park, which had previously hosted WGC events in 2005 and 2015 and the 2019 Presidents Cup. And it turned out to be a huge week for Collin Morikawa.

The American was playing in the tournament for the first time and it was just his second major appearance. With a devastating display of iron play he finished two shots ahead of Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson.

It was only after making a birdie at the 14th and an eagle at short par-four 16th that Morikawa was able to break away from the field. At age 23, he became the third youngest winner since the Second World War, behind Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus, and rose from 12th to fifth in the world rankings as a result. He also set a new PGA Championship scoring record for the final 36-holes with 129 strokes (65-64).

Casey's runner-up finish was his best in his 64 starts, the most by any player since 2002 without a victory. Johnson repeated his second place from 2019. Brooks Koepka entered the tournament as two-time defending champion and looking to become the second player after Walter Hagen to win three straight titles. Tied for fourth place after round three, and only two behind the leader, he was expected to challenge for the title, but struggled in the final round and finished in a tie for 29th place. 

Jason Day, the 2015 champion, opened the tournament with a round of 65 (five under par). He was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Brendon Todd, who was playing in his first PGA Championship in five years after falling to as low as 2,043rd in the world rankings two years earlier. Koepka was one of nine players tied for third place at four under par; former major champions Zach Johnson, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose were also in the group alongside Koepka.

Bryson DeChambeau got to four under through 10 holes, but dropped strokes over his last eight holes to finish at two under par. On the same score was 15-time major champion Tiger Woods.

The scoring average for the first round was 71.12, the lowest for an opening-round in PGA Championship history. 

Li Haotong, the 114th-ranked player in the world, shot a bogey-free round of 65 to take a two stroke lead after 36 holes. Li became the first player from China to lead a major championship after any round. The lowest rounds of the day came from Tommy Fleetwood and Cameron Champ, who returned six under par rounds of 64. Fleetwood finished in a group of six players tied for second place that included Koepka, Day and Rose. Champ ended the day a further stroke behind, in a tie for eighth place with Casey and Todd.

The cut came at one over par, with 79 players making it through to the final two rounds over the weekend. Among those who missed the cut was Rickie Fowler, who whiffed a short putt on his 16th hole and went on to finish just one stroke outside the cut-line, ending a run of 14 cuts made in major championships.

In the third round Johnson shot a 65, which featured eight birdies. Scottie Scheffler and Morikawa matched Johnson's score to also make their way into the top five. Scheffler made three straight birdies on holes 15, 16 and 17 to get into a tie for second place with Champ, one behind Johnson. Morikawa finished a further stroke behind alongside Casey and Koepka, who was tied for the lead before making three straight bogeys on the back nine; he rebounded with birdies on two of his final three holes.

Six players finished the day tied for seventh place, three strokes off the lead. They were first round leader Day, Daniel Berger, Rose, Fleetwood, Tony Finau and DeChambeau. Overnight leader Li Haotong was still at the head of affairs through 12 holes. He ran up a double-bogey on the 13th hole after losing his ball and two further bogeys to return a three over par round of 73 and finish four strokes off the lead.

Seventeen players were within four shots of the lead going into the final round, the most at the PGA Championship since 1993.

With the last groups all playing the final nine holes, seven players were tied for the lead at 10 under par – Johnson, Casey, Scheffler, Morikawa, Finau, Day and Matthew Wolff, who held the lead in the clubhouse. 

Morikawa was the first to reach 11 under par with a chip-in for birdie from 54 feet off the front of the green at the 14th hole. He was soon joined by Casey, with a birdie at the 16th. Playing in the group behind Casey, Morikawa found the green with his tee shot at the 16th and holed his putt from seven feet for eagle to open up a two-stroke lead. He parred the final two holes for a round of 64 and finished at 13 under par for the tournament, two ahead of Casey, who also finished with two pars for a round of 66.

Johnson, the 54-hole leader, was even par for his round through 15 holes before chipping in for birdie at the 16th and holing a 17-foot birdie putt at the 18th to finish at 11 under par, alongside Casey and two behind Morikawa. It was Johnson's fifth runner-up finish in a major and second consecutive second-place at the PGA Championship.

DeChambeau birdied four of his first seven holes to jump into a tie for the lead, before consecutive bogeys on the eighth and ninth saw him drop back; he made two more birdies on the back nine for a round of 66 and finished tied for fourth, his first top-10 in a major championship. Wolff, playing in his first major, shared fourth place, having held the clubhouse lead at 10 under par after a round of 65. Day, Finau and Scheffler also finished tied for fourth place.

Morikawa's score of 129 on the weekend was a new PGA Championship record, one shot better than Tiger Woods in 2018. His final-round score of 64 tied Steve Elkington in 1995 for best by a champion. He was also the ninth player in PGA Championship history to win the tournament at their first attempt, the most recent being Keegan Bradley in 2011.


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