If you didn’t see it coming, you haven’t been paying attention as American goes toe-to-toe with compatriot Justin Thomas to win the Workday Charity Open for his 2nd victory since joining the PGA Tour in mid-2019
It takes more than two tournament victories on the PGA Tour legitimately to be called a star, but you’d be forgiven if you already see Collin Morikawa that way. If you look like a star, walk like a star and, more importantly, play like a star against an established star, well, how can you be anything else?
Decide for yourself after Morikawa’s takedown of world No. 5 Justin Thomas in overtime at the Workday Charity Open on Sunday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. It’s the second victory on Tour for Morikawa in his first 24 events as a professional, and he’s only 23 (scores).
If you had an investment choice among Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Morikawa, Wolff or Hovland might be flashier short-term plays, but you’d want to go long on Morikawa. He’s built for the future, poised to pay big dividends.
Coming out of the University of California last spring, Morikawa made the cut in his first 22 events on Tour, breaking the streak two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship. Only Tiger Woods has made more consecutive cuts – 25 – to start his career.
The MC came the week after an unlucky horseshoe on a 3-footer cost him a playoff loss to Daniel Berger at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. Morikawa took the next week off to prepare for the two weeks at Muirfield Village, which will host this week's Memorial Tournament.
He’s in the infancy of his career, but he already has developed the reputation for steady, dependable consistency. But that’s not the end goal.
“I’m obviously trying to be very consistent, but I also want to give myself a chance to win,” said Morikawa, who won the Barracuda Championship a little less than a year ago. “And then, you have to close it out. Then pile more on top.
“If I finished 10th every single week, no one would be talking about me. [Winning today] is a huge steppingstone. It was a tough loss at Colonial, but I learned a lot after that and after the missed cut at Travelers.”
He began his education as a Tour player last June at the RBC Canadian Open, his first event as a Tour rookie. He wanted to pick the brain of a top player, and he chose Thomas. The two had dinner in Canada.
“[Thomas was] making things easier and telling me that if you’re good enough, you’re going to get here,” Morikawa said. “[He said] everyone’s path is different, but if you’re good enough, it will happen. In my mind, I thought I was ready.”
He elevated to graduate level at the Workday, especially in navigating the extreme ups and downs between a week ago Thursday and Sunday afternoon. Morikawa led Thomas and Kevin Streelman by three shots after 36 holes, thanks to 65-66. He could manage only a 72 in the third round and trailed Thomas by three.
Thomas, paired with Morikawa and Hovland in a rare three-ball ahead of forecast storms, gave up the lead early on Sunday with two bogeys in his first three holes. Morikawa made two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes to pull even with Hovland.
Thomas soon found his game, and with an eagle on the 15th, he was back up by three strokes with three holes to play. Just as quickly, he stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18 to allow Morikawa to force the playoff. On the first extra hole, the par-4 18th, Thomas holed a 50-footer for birdie, and Morikawa followed with a 24-footer to tie. After they matched pars on the second replaying of the 18th, Morikawa won with a par on the third extra hole, the par-4 10th, after Thomas hit his 3-wood tee shot behind a tree.
Lost in the topsy-turvy nature of the final round and the tension of the playoff was the fact that Morikawa shot 6-under 66. “I knew I had to go low,” he said. “Justin wasn’t going to give it to me.”
But he sorta did. While Thomas laid this one gently in Morikawa’s lap, it’s a fundamental truth: If you’re handed something valuable, take care not to drop and break it.
It’s no less than amazing that Morikawa, Hovland and Wolff came out on Tour at the same time late last spring, and all three have won. While Hovland and Wolff, teammates at Oklahoma State, were touted as best in class, Morikawa, a Southern Californian by way of Cal-Berkeley, has now raised more eyebrows by climbing the next rung.
“It’s not a surprise,” Morikawa said. “It’s a lot of belief in myself. It’s getting as comfortable as I can, as quickly as I can. I wasn’t as comfortable in the playoff at Colonial, and I still wasn’t at the place [at the start of the playoff Sunday] where I could say I was perfectly fine. But by the second playoff hole today, I felt very comfortable. That’s where I want to be everywhere I am, no matter the situation.”
Thomas told Morikawa last June that he’d find out soon enough whether he belonged on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately for Thomas, it was at his expense. Let’s hope Morikawa picked up that dinner tab.
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