Collin Morikawa Produces Big Finish to Claim Race to Dubai Title
COLLIN MORIKAWA shot a final round of 66 to win the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai. For much of the final round it looked like Rory McIlroy was going to win the tournament, but he suffered an astonishing piece of bad luck at the 14th. After hitting a perfect drive to the par four, he was left with a 55-yard approach. He struck it perfectly, but the ball hit the flag and ended up in a bunker, costing him a bogey.
Morikawa, meanwhile, birdied five of the last seven holes to finish three clear of England's defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Alexander Bjork. Clearly stunned by his misfortune at the 14th, McIlroy faded and finished the week in a tie for sixth place. Morikawa becomes the first American to win the European Tour's money list.
It caps a stunning season for the 24-year-old, who secured his second major title at the Open Championship in July after winning the WGC-Workday Championship in February.
"It's very special and an honour,” he said. "To be the first American to do that [win the money list], to put my name against many greats, hall of famers, it's special. To have this chance and close it out with a win in the DP World Tour Championship, what a great way to finish that.”
"I just kept telling myself to focus. I was excited for this moment, I've been telling everyone that the nerves are there but I'm excited. I channelled that energy into excitement and wanted to keep hitting good shot after good shot. Putts started dropping and that's always fun.”
Despite managing only two birdies in his first 13 holes, McIlroy was in a strong position to win the tournament for a third time, holding a one-stroke lead with five holes left.
But after Morikawa birdied the 15th to tie, the Northern Irishman bogeyed the 14th and dropped two more shots in his last three holes.
Morikawa, who started the final round three adrift of McIlroy, admitted that he had been keeping track of Fitzpatrick's charge up the leaderboard as the seven-time European Tour winner surged into contention with six birdies in his first 10 holes.
A birdie at the 15th briefly gave Fitzpatrick the outright lead, but his chances suffered a major blow when he found water at the 16th, leading to a bogey. Fitzpatrick, who came into the week with an outside chance of winning the Race to Dubai title, also dropped a shot at the 17th but closed with a birdie for a round of 66 to finish alongside Sweden's Bjork on 14 under following a stout defence of his title.
A further shot back was Scotland's Robert MacIntyre, who had moved into contention before dropping three shots in the space of two holes at the 12th and 13th. The 25-year-old birdied three of his final four holes - bogeying the 17th - to claim a share of fourth place alongside Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard.
But while the other contenders stumbled down the stretch, Morikawa produced a superb run over the final seven holes to close out the tournament - and his season - in style with birdies at the 12th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th.
An emotional Morikawa paid tribute to his late grandfather. "I lost my grandfather earlier this year, and recently my girlfriend and I were thinking about him," he said. "We're just so lucky to be with the people we have around us. That's about it, just say thank you and enjoy the time you have with people because you don't know how much time you will have."
The tournament marked the end of the European Tour as it will become the DP World Tour from the start of the 2022 season - which begins at the Joburg Open on Thursday - and features a total prize fund in excess of $200m across 47 events in 27 countries.
ANOTHER week, another first-time winner on the PGA Tour. This time it is 30-year-old Talor Gooch, who claimed his maiden title at the RSM Classic, shooting a magnificent 64 to win by three shots.
His total of 22 under par - 260 - tied the tournament scoring record. This was the final regular PGA Tour of the year and victory means that Gooch will start 2022 in the top 50 in the world rankings. It was his third top-five finish in six starts. He finished 11th or better in all but one of those events and he now leads the FedEx Cup standings.
Gooch hit 16 greens in regulation and didn’t make a single bogey. And he joins a pretty illustrious group. He became just the seventh player in the past four seasons to hold a 54-hole lead and then shoot 64 or lower to win. The others? Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Joaquin Niemann and Si Woo Kim.
He was fifth at this year’s Players Championship behind only Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood, Bryson DeChambeau and Brian Harman. And more recently, he shot a final-round 62 in the CJ Cup to get in the mix with McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Rickie Fowler.
“As a sportsman, if you don't have that little bit of grit to go prove people wrong, you're not going to make it long,” he said. “I want to be the best and I want to compete against the best.
“I had to learn how to believe in myself in some tough times."
A coaching change in March also has contributed to Gooch’s success. He started working with Boyd Summerhays, best known as Tony Finau’s coach, in March.
Gooch entered this week ranked 10th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. He was second in that stat this week. His ability to control his ball in the wind came in handy during difficult conditions on both Friday and Saturday along the Atlantic coast. He built a three-stroke lead entering the final round.
He didn’t play like someone entering Sunday with a lead for the first time, however. He hit the first 13 greens in regulation, making birdie on five of those holes to build a five-stroke advantage. When his lead dwindled to two shots at the turn, he made birdies on three of the next four holes.
“I always kind of keep an eye on things,” Gooch said, “but it doesn't change what you're doing.”
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