By Frank Pingue
SAN FRANCISCO – Collin Morikawa displayed nerves of steel in the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday where the young American fended off a slew of big names to grab his first major and ensure he will no longer fly under the radar.
In only his second career major start, the 23-year-old Morikawa was a model of precision at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco where he finally pulled away from a tight leaderboard with a remarkable drive that set up a late eagle.
“In the strokes-gained era, this is the first time a player has ever led in fairways hit, proximity to the hole and strokes-gained putting,” said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.
“You put all that together and it’s just not fair that somebody after 29 events on the PGA Tour has all of those skills and has their whole career in front of them.”
Morikawa, who last month picked up his second career PGA Tour win, was not on anyone’s radar at the year’s first major until firing a 65 in the third round that left him two shots back of the leader.
In the final round he delivered the drive of his life at the par-four 16th which led to an eagle that all but clinched the Wanamaker Trophy and cemented his place among the cast of young standouts in the golfing world.
“There’s a maturity there that at 23, it shouldn’t exist,” former British Open champion Justin Leonard said of Morikawa. “The skillset that he has is a little different than what we see in a modern young player.”
PGA Championship runner-up Paul Casey, who finished two shots back, praised Morikawa’s maturity and said the previously unheralded American will remain a force.
“There’s always a lot of – there’s always kind of a new wave,” English Ryder Cup veteran Casey said.
“There’s always a bunch of guys that rock up on the scene, and he didn’t necessarily get the most publicity out of the group he was in, but you know, I can consider myself veteran; I’ve been around the block, so I know talent when I see it.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 10, 2020
Morikawa, who was 65th in the rankings at the end of 2019, shot up seven places to world number five after his win, is eager to relish the spotlight and anything but complacent after the biggest win of his career.
“When I woke up (on Sunday), I was like, this is meant to be. This is where I feel very comfortable. This is where I want to be, and I’m not scared from it,” said Morikawa.
“I think if I was scared from it, the last few holes would have been a little different, but you want to be in this position.
“It doesn’t stop here. I’ve got a very good taste of what this is like, what a major championship is like.”