It came down to Collin Morikawa bursting from that bustling pack in TPC Harding Park’s debut major and elevating a career only 14 months long that already registered as deeply impressive. What looked all day like a probable playoff featuring so many people they would clog up the tee like a morning on the nearby Bay Bridge wound up — somehow — as an homage to one.
“I mean, I don’t even know” what to think, he said, even if his confidence suggests he rather does.
Of course, he’s one who shot a holy-mercy 64 on the stunning par-70 course, following up on his 65 of Saturday with a par save on No. 1, four birdies, an eagle and zero bogeys for a two-shot win at 13 under par. He’s one with a classical-music kind of game who joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as 23-year-old winners of the PGA Championship, one who has had one lofty summer, one who saw his number of major titles in 29 lifetime tour events match his number of missed cuts, and one who will land at No. 5 in the world once the rankings computers get done assessing him Monday.
And he’s one who eluded a tie at 10 under par he shared with — inhale, please — 21-year-old Matthew Wolff, major winner Jason Day, chronic contender Tony Finau, major frequenter Paul Casey, major winner Dustin Johnson and 24-year-old Scottie Scheffler. That’s not to mention those who sometimes graced the logjam, including Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Champ.
He outdistanced them with a chip-in that didn’t seem to need a lot of luck on No. 14, a wow, and a 293-yard drive to the green on the par-4 No. 16 to arrange a seven-foot eagle, a larger wow.
For the former, Morikawa overcame a clunky approach where he left himself off the green to the left, 54 yards away, then recovered with a one-shot parade of confidence directly into the cup. “I think that was a huge turning point,” he said. “That separated me.”
For the latter, well. Experts and onlookers both on site and at TVs figure to recollect it utterly. “It just fit my eye,” Morikawa said, and onto the green it bounded and stopped obediently. One witness stood at the No. 17 tee just up ahead. “Nothing I can do except tip my hat,” said Casey, the charming 43-year-old playing his 64th major tournament and finishing second alongside Johnson. “It was a phenomenal shot.”
“Yeah, by Wednesday night,” Morikawa said, “I had no plans for going for 16 at all. I told [fellow player] Colt Knost, he saw me Wednesday afternoon practicing on there, and he asked me if I was ever going to go for it. I told him a quick no, it’s too much into the wind, why go for it? I didn’t think the pin was going to be where it was.
“You know, my caddie [J.J. Jakovac], it was like 278 to the front, and just a good drive for me. It was going to land just short of that in this [chilly, damp] weather; it’s going to bounce on up. He looked at me, he counted off and asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him, ‘Let’s hit a good drive.’ ”
And then: “This is the one time I really wish there were crowds right there,” Morikawa said of the latest event without galleries because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Somehow, a day with so many contending golfers and so many young contenders had produced that singular story, about one golfer with outsized pluck and such a lavish horizon.
“He’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” said Finau, who joined a group of five in third place at 10 under par. “… He doesn’t have a weakness in his game. He doesn’t have a weakness mentally.”
“Instant maturity was probably the one thing that stood out,” Casey said of first encountering Morikawa, who joined the PGA Tour only at the Canadian Open of early June of last year. “I mean, you’ve heard him talk. Very mature in the words he chooses, the way he speaks, the way he plays golf.”
“Well, first off, he’s an incredible ball-striker, great human being, too,” DeChambeau said from age 26, later adding, “But he’s clearly an unbelievable ball-striker, and that’s something that I envy and hopefully I can get there one day.”
And on a day filled with 20-something golfers playing like the seasoned, the youngest of them all, Wolff, who joined that clot at 10 under par, said of Morikawa: “I think it’s just amateur golf now. It’s so good. In college I was competing [for Oklahoma State] against [Morikawa] and Viktor [Hovland] and Scottie [Scheffler], Cameron Champ.”
Such specific assessments had stemmed from such general commotion. There had been Brooks Koepka, the two-time defending champion and four-time major winner who rode a wildly uncharacteristic day from the thick of contention to the wheels off at 74. There had been Johnson, still straining for that second major win after so much near-miss agony, stringing together nine straight pars at one point to show his experience. There had been Casey, so astute and steady. Scheffler, Champ, Finau, the oncoming DeChambeau, a resurgent Day … all mattered.
At one point, the board bustled with four guys at 10 under par, four at 9 under par and four at 8 under par, with eight of the 12 operating from ages between 21 and 26. “Yeah, there was a lot of a kind of whiplash,” Day said. “Everything was coming and going.”
Then at another point, seven led. “I saw [the leader board] at 12, when we were all having a party at 10 under,” Morikawa said.
Then it all came to the 23-year-old who led the field during the week in fairways hit, strokes gained putting and proximity to the hole, and who drilled his approach to No. 18 like somebody who had frequented majors instead of playing just one, a suitable tie for 35th at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. This whole constellation of talent at a merciless game gave way to somebody who graduated from a tough business curriculum at Cal only 14 months ago, won a tournament last summer, won another this summer in a playoff over Justin Thomas and gained even from losing a playoff in June in Fort Worth where he botched a near-gimme putt to end a playoff with Daniel Berger.
An indecipherable day went clear in that way all sports relish: a budded star. “Yeah, I feel very comfortable in this spot,” Morikawa said. “When I woke up today, I was like, ‘This was meant to be.’ This is where I want to be, and I’m not scared from it.” Yeah, no kidding.
Chuck Culpepper reported this story from San Francisco. The live updates below were reported by Cindy Boren and Des Bieler from Washington.
August 9, 2020 at 8:51 PM EDT
Collin Morikawa is your winner
Collin Morikawa’s approach at the 18th hole may have taken a riskier trajectory than he would have liked, but when it’s your day, well, those kinds of things just tend to work out. His shot flew over bunkers in front but not the back of the green, leaving him an easy two-putt for par and the PGA Championship on Sunday.
Just 23, Morikawa outlasted a packed group of contenders atop the leader board for much of the day. He shot a 4-under 66 for a total of 13 under, good for a win by two shots over England’s Paul Casey.
Morikawa may be in his first full season on the PGA Tour, but he had a bit of a local advantage, having played in college at California-Berkeley. He had also shown the kind of steadiness that can eventually be rewarded in a big way, as he made the cut in the first 22 tournaments of his career, the second longest streak in at least the past 30 years (Tiger Woods, 25).
At one point on the back nine Sunday, seven players shared the lead at 10 under. Morikawa then broke out of the pack with a birdie at 14 to go to 11 under, and after Casey tied him at that mark, Morikawa blistered the 16th for an eagle that all but iced the event.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 8:28 PM EDT
Collin Morikawa takes two-shot lead with eagle
Collin Morikawa saw Paul Casey’s birdie at 16 and raised him one. Morikawa’s eagle at 16 a few minutes later gave the 23-year-old a two-shot lead as time began running out for other contenders.
Morikawa hit a superb drive on the 16th that rolled up onto the green and stopped seven feet from the hole. He calmly drained the putt for a lead that could well hold up after a wild day on the leader board. Casey remained alone in second at 11 under.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 8:17 PM EDT
Playoff would be 16 through 18 in one group
PGA official Brad Gregory said on CBS’s telecast that if there’s a playoff, it would be on holes 16 through 18 — and it would involve one group.
That group could be very large, if we get a couple more birdies down the stretch. As it is, Paul Casey birdied the 16th hole to tie Collin Morikawa for the lead at 11 under. Four players are tied at 10 under.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 8:09 PM EDT
Collin Morikawa takes outright lead
We have our first player at 11 under, and now Collin Morikawa has the outright lead.
The 23-year-old, who played collegiate golf at nearby California-Berkeley, birdied the 14th hole, pushing him just ahead of a large group that had been tied at 10 under. Still one shot back were clubhouse leader Matthew Wolff, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Tony Finau and Dustin Johnson. Scottie Scheffler had been tied for the lead, as well, but he fell one shot back, with Bryson DeChambeau.
Morikawa is in his first full season on the PGA Tour. He won the Workday Charity Open in July, and finished second at the Charles Schwab Challenge in June.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 7:46 PM EDT
Matthew Wolff in the clubhouse with a share of the lead
The new clubhouse leader also happens to have a share of the outright lead. And “share” is truly the word there.
Matthew Wolff finished his round Sunday at 10 under for the PGA Championship, after shooting a 5-under 65. At that point, a whopping five other players were still on the course at 10 under, and they were soon joined by another for a total of seven sharing the lead.
In addition to Wolff, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler were at 10 under. Bryson DeChambeau lurked just behind at 9 under, and three other players were at 8 under, setting up a potentially wild finish, not to mention a possible playoff.
“Not sure it’s going to hold up, but I did what I could,” Wolff said after his round.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 7:12 PM EDT
Dustin Johnson still atop the leader board after nine holes
The lead is not his alone anymore, but Dustin Johnson is still atop the field after his first nine holes of the final round. The 2016 U.S. Open winner, a runner-up in the PGA Championship last year, went out in 1 under to improve to 10 under for the tournament.
Johnson was tied with Paul Casey, the English veteran who was playing Sunday with two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, and youngster Collin Morikawa. A favorite to win his third title in a row and the fifth major of his career, Koepka stumbled out of the gate Sunday, shooting 4 over through 10 holes and falling seven shots off the pace.
Four players were tied at 9 under, including 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day, as well as Tony Finau, Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler. The latter three were all looking for the first major of their respective careers.
Johnson, 36, began the day in sole possession of the lead. At No. 5 in the World Golf Rankings, he has 21 PGA Tour wins, most recently at the Travelers Championship in June.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 6:51 PM EDT
Stephen Curry spotted in attendance
Most of us are not allowed to attend the PGA Championship, or most other sports events these days, but then again, most of us aren’t Stephen Curry. The Golden State Warriors star has all the more clout in San Francisco, where the tournament is being staged.
Curry was spotted near the green on the seventh hole, wearing a mask but reminding us that even relatively small NBA players tend to be bigger than average folks. An avid golf fan, Curry is the co-producer of an ABC game show based around the sport and, among other ventures, is sponsoring men’s and women’s golf teams at Howard University.
Curry, who was joined Sunday by Warriors teammate Damion Lee, won’t be spotted at the “bubble” near Orlando, where the NBA is playing out the rest of its 2019-20 season. The league left out the eight teams with the worst records, and the Warriors, crushed by major injuries to Curry and Klay Thompson and the departure of Kevin Durant, posted the poorest mark of them all.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT
Brooks Koepka not exactly walking the walk so far
When you have won four recent majors, including the past two PGA Championships, you can talk a little bit. Not every golfer would, of course, but Brooks Koepka has — to his credit, at least from the perspective of this sportswriter who appreciates it whenever a top athlete throws out a dig or two at rivals.
That was Koepka earlier this week, as he needled Bryson DeChambeau, a long-standing target, and Dustin Johnson. However, as Koepka neared the turn Sunday, he was sporting the worst score of anyone who teed off in the final pairings.
Koepka was 3 over on his round through eight holes. That left him at 4 under for the tournament and a whopping six shots behind the leaders, Johnson and Cameron Champ. At 9 under, just one shot off the pace and enjoying a very good front nine, was DeChambeau.
When the final round began, Koepka was just two shots back and was a popular pick to win the PGA Championship. But things have quickly started looking bleak, and it appears he will need a scorching back nine, plus a number of collapses from other contenders, to again lift the Wanamaker Trophy.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 6:07 PM EDT
Matthew Wolff makes a charge
As if the leader board were not stuffed at the top already, Matthew Wolff went on quite a run to join a large group just a shot behind the leaders, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
Wolff, who was 1 over for his round through six holes, birdied 7, 8 and 9, then made an eagle on the par-5 10th. Just like that, he was at 9 under, as were Paul Casey, Cameron Champ, Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler.
Just 21, Wolff is in his first full year on the PGA Tour, after quickly getting a win under his belt at the 2019 3M Open. His best result this year came at July’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he finished second.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT
What happens if there’s a tie after 72 holes?
With Dustin Johnson bogeying the third hole as others moved up the leader board, suddenly there was a six-way tie for the lead in the early going, also featuring Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Champ, Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler.
That gaggle, plus five players within two shots of the lead and five more within three, raised the question: What happens if there’s a tie after 72 holes?
The PGA Championship would then be decided by a three-hole playoff, with an aggregate score determining the winner. Should there still be a tie at that point, the tournament would go to sudden-death holes to winnow the field down to one.
Extra holes have not been needed to decide the PGA Championship since Keegan Bradley outlasted Jason Dufner in 2011. Bradley was a PGA Tour rookie playing in his first major then, which could bode well for Scheffler, a rookie this year.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT
Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau off to hot starts
If fans were allowed at the PGA Championship, one of the largest groups would likely be following the intriguing pair Sunday of Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau. Not just because they each started the day three shots off the lead, but also because of the prodigious feats of which they are capable with golf clubs.
The 6-foot-4 Finau and DeChambeau, who has been the talk of the PGA Tour after bulking up to lengthen his shots, put their advantages to good use in the early going. Each scored a birdie on the first two holes before parring the third, and they moved to 8 under, just one behind tournament leader Dustin Johnson as he began his final round.
Both DeChambeau and Finau are looking for their first win at a major. While Finau has come close, finishing third at last year’s British Open and fifth at last year’s Masters and the 2018 U.S. Open, DeChambeau’s best finish at a major was a tie for 15th at the 2016 U.S. Open.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 4:41 PM EDT
Justin Thomas has relatable reaction to missed putt
If you never utter a profanity after a frustrating moment on the links, well, you’re a better man (or woman) than me. Better than Justin Thomas, too.
After a putt he thought was destined for the bottom of the cup at the fifth hole Sunday barely missed to the right, Thomas could be clearly heard dropping an f-bomb on ESPN’s telecast.
“Dude, you’ve got to be [expletive] kidding me,” he muttered as his ball stopped about two inches past the hole.
That left ESPN announcer Scott Van Pelt offering an initial reaction of, “Well …” After a pause, Van Pelt added that “folks can relate” to the non-FCC-approved commentary by Thomas.
It’s hardly the first time a PGA golfer’s swear words have made their way to the ears of a national audience — right, Tiger Woods? — and the lack of galleries at tournaments these days only makes players’ comments more audible. In fact, one of the earliest moments of the first tournament after the PGA Tour returned from its four-month, coronavirus-related hiatus featured Jon Rahm dropping an f-bomb at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
“Well, we were hoping for better audio with no fans surrounding the course,” CBS’s Jim Nantz said at the time with a chuckle. “Apologize if anyone was offended by what they may have heard there.”
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 4:05 PM EDT
Spieth thinks we could have a high-scoring finish
If Jordan Spieth is correct, we could have some fireworks down the stretch. The three-time major winner — who will have to wait another year to complete a career Grand Slam with a triumph at the PGA Championship — said he thought the pin placements of the deciding holes at San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park were player-friendly.
“The back nine, other than No. 11, you have the most gettable pins on every single one of the greens,” Spieth said after shooting a 67 Sunday that included three birdies and a bogey coming in. He finished the tournament at 4 over, well behind Dustin Johnson’s leading score of 9 under after 54 holes.
Spieth was moved to make his comments after watching his good friend and playing partner Sunday, Ryan Palmer, play the final nine holes at a 4-under 31. That included an eagle at 16 and birdies at 17 and 18. If some of the leaders can author similarly hot finishes, we will be treated to plenty of late-evening excitement here on the East Coast.
By Des Bieler
August 9, 2020 at 3:41 PM EDT
Woods fires a 67 to finish at 1 under for the tournament
It was too little, too late to bring him into contention at the PGA Championship, but Tiger Woods can take some solace in playing fairly well in his final round. The 15-time major winner fired a 3-under 67 Sunday to get back into the red numbers at 1-under for the tournament.
That left Woods eight shots off Dustin Johnson’s lead well before the final groups teed off, but it was a major improvement over the previous two days, when consecutive rounds of 72 had Woods at 2 over after 54 holes. One thing that made a major difference Sunday was improved performance on the greens, as Woods played this tournament with a different Scotty Cameron putter than the one that had helped him win so many majors.
“I felt like I putted a little bit better today,” Woods said after his round. He thought the greens were “less crusty” Sunday, which helped them play a little slower.
As for his 44-year-old, surgically repaired body, Woods said it “held up pretty good this week, all things considered.” Although he was pleased with the way he “stayed pretty loose” this week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Woods said with a smile that “it’ll be nice when it is warmer,” as the PGA Tour heads back to the East Coast. Amid relatively chilly, damp weather this week, Woods said he “kept my layers up, made sure I was always sweating.”
As for when he will play next, Woods was noncommittal, but he said he was taking a week off. So even though it figures to be nicely balmy in Greensboro, N.C., next week, we won’t see him at the Wyndham Championship.
By Des Bieler