Collin Morikawa stands above the crowd
The future of championship golf was on full display at Harding Park in San Francisco this past weekend. Almost all the young rising stars had a chance at glory and older established players could have added to their resumes. But one player rose out of the crowd to take the trophy and he did it with resolve and the confidence of a gritty veteran that's been there before.
This 102nd addition of the PGA Championship should rank as one of the all-time best in the history of this event. The golf course provided a stern fair test that challenged all aspects of the game. The best players rose to the occasion and the outcome wasn't decided until the last 30 minutes. As many as 10 players could claim that they had victory in their sights, but couldn't pull it off. At one time seven players were tied for the lead in the back nine on Sunday. Could you ask for anything more!
Collin Morikawa emerged from the pack to take the championship in a defining statement of excellence. The first separation from the field took place on the 14th hole. At the time Collin was tied with six other players with Bryson DeChambeau about to join the group at 10 under par to make it 8 players. Facing what appeared to be a tough delicate pitch shot to save par, Collin was thinking he could hole the shot. Nerves usually start to show at this time in the afternoon, but Collin showed none of that and only centered on the positive and believed he could make this shot. He did just that and holed it. There was no luck, just a brilliant shot when it mattered most. He now was the sole leader.
When he stood on the 16th tee, he was tied for the lead. Paul Casey had birdied ahead of him and they both were at 11 under par. His tee shot will be remembered as one of the most memorable shots in major championship golf. The ball traveled 293 yards and ended up 7 feet from the hole. As good a shot as it was, there was an element of luck to the outcome. It can be said that a "Hole-in-One" is a good to superb shot with a great outcome. Collin's shot was a clutch shot under the pressure that resulted in a great outcome. After a shot like that you have to complete the achievement and sink the putt. His putt was pure and direct in the hole. The tournament now was his to grasp and showing his maturity he played solid shots to par the last two holes to win by two shots.
Future golf champions all had chances to win this tournament. Matthew Wolff, Bryson DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Champ, Xander Schauffele, and Tony Finau were serious contenders. While Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and Justin Rose were past major winners that could have stepped up. Paul Casey at age 43 has never truly been in the mix for a major, but his play on Saturday and Sunday was that of a fierce competitor that can't be counted out in future championships. In major championships there is drama down the stretch. Many times there are disasters that wreak contenders' hopes, but in this case there was consistent good play from all the top 10 finishers. This should give the young stars added confidence that they can compete and succeed on a grand stage.
Brooks Koepka talked and acted like the man to beat all week. He has four major titles, so he is entitled to be confident. Starting only two shots behind on Sunday, he was poised to grab the lead and never look back. To make your presence felt, you need to start fast and get noticed. He did nothing to cause the leaders to be aware for his existence. He was an afterthought after going four over par in his first 8 holes. He has displayed this superior confidence in other tournaments only not to be able to back it up. The intimidation factor might have worked to some extent in the past, but now the other players can see he can be had.
Collin Morikawa hit the shot of the tournament on the 16th hole. Others came to that hole with similar goals, but they didn't hit the shot that they needed. Collin was up to the task and got a fantastic result for his effort. In victory there was no surprise in his accomplishment, no braggadocious statements, just a clinical recap of a very rewarding accomplishment. What you saw was a champion that is far more mature then his 23 years, a person that you can see is a genuine person and someone that you can't help but cheer for in the future.