Lightning-bolt shot wins PGA

MGN

Remember the name, Collin Morikawa! He’s the only four-time All-American golfer at the University of California. Morikawa played in his first PGA Championship in his home state of California in San Francisco August 3-9 at the TPC Harding Park, a course he has played on many times while pursuing a business degree at the University of California campus about 24 miles away.

Morikawa, in the final round on Sunday, had to overcome some humble pie. While being introduced at the first tee Sunday by one of the PGA of America vice presidents, he heard his name pronounced incorrectly. “Collin Morakama,” the announcer blurted out. In his prideful highlight moment, the mistake startled Morikawa. In fact, he hit a bad drive and took two shots to get to the green. He held together, made a huge 30-foot putt, and saved par on the first hole.

Professional golf has now returned successfully for 10 consecutive weeks without fans during this pandemic that has taken the lives of 163,000 Americans so far. The PGA Championship was the biggest sporting event in the world since March 11, when the sports world stopped playing games because of the invisible terror called the novel coronavirus.

Harding Park, named after one of America’s presidents, opened in 1916 as a public golf course. But over time it had taken an urban beating. In 1998, when the last Major golf tournament, the United States Open, was held at the nearby Olympic Club course, Harding Park was used as a parking lot for thousands of spectators and patrons.

Hard times had taken their toll. It took the vision of San Francisco’s first Black mayor, Willie Brown, to work with community leaders and pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into restoring the historic course.

Golf is a gentleman’s game, but professionally, like all sports, it is dependent on fans’ support. The great Tiger Woods is the most dominant force in sports in terms of moving the VU meter. Before Tiger, it was the late Arnold Palmer and his famous army of fans. Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to see Woods play.

His greatness and ability to perform, winning 82 times, the most in history, has him tied with Sam Snead. He has delivered for golf with the ability to produce spectacular shots with huge crowds reacting, which can reverberate through the course and affect the ability of other players. Wood’s had a final round 67 Sunday and finished tied for 37th. He struggled with his putter throughout the tournament.

With no fans, golf is just a walk in the park for these young stars on tour like Matthew Wolff, who won the 3M Open last year and beat Morakawa. They starred in college with virtually no one watching. Playing in big tournaments like the PGA Championship with no fans has helped these young guns around superstars like Woods, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson.

Sunday’s PGA Championship delivered great theater. Several times during the final round as many as seven players were tied for the lead. Koepka was trying to win his record third-straight PGA Championship. He finished in a tie for 29th.

Dustin Johnson had a one shot lead starting Sunday’s final round when as many as 16 players were within three shots of the lead. Rarely do you see so many players bunched that closely all playing well.

Johnson’s final round of 68 got him a share of second, tied with Paul Casey playing in his 64th career Major, who shot 66. Johnson has now finished second five times in Major Championships. He has won one Major, the U.S Open.

Wolff had a final round of 65, Jason Day 66, Bryson DeChambeau a 66, and tough-luck Tony Finau a 66 that tied him for fourth, his 31st top-10 finish in the last four years, by far the best on the PGA tour.

But it was Morikawa’s brilliant tournament-tying low round of 64, including a spectacular eagle on the par-four 16th that won the day. Morikawa drove the green on the 294-yard hole and made an eight-foot putt to win his first Major Championship at age 23. He joins Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and McIlroy as the youngest-ever first-time Major winners.

Morikawa shot the lowest score ever in a Major the final two rounds, 65-64-129. He is now ranked number five in the world. He gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, including invites to play in the Masters, Open Championship, and the U.S Open.
And a check for $1,980,000.

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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