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Collin Morikawa salutes Tiger Woods in a winning way

Collin Morikawa wins 2021 WGC Workday Championship
Collin Morikawa, with caddie J.J. Jakovac, celebrates victory at the WGC Workday Championship on Sunday at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla.

With 3-stroke victory at WGC Workday, Californian pulls off a Woodsian career double: a major title and a WGC before age 25

On a week when all of golf was thinking about Tiger Woods, Collin Morikawa found a way to honor the injured champion in a way that Woods surely would appreciate.

Morikawa, who slept on a two-stroke lead through 54 holes of the WGC Workday Championship, stretched the winning margin to three shots Sunday in Bradenton, Fla.

In the process, Morikawa joined Woods, perhaps the game’s greatest closer, in the PGA Tour record books as the only men to win a major championship and a World Golf Championships title before age 25.

“No matter what anyone says, sleeping on a lead has its pressure, has its nerves,” said Morikawa, who shot 3-under 69 in the final round to cap an 18-under 270 total at The Concession Golf Club. “But I was excited to get back in contention, to have a chance to win. It's something that I miss. Obviously, I haven't had it for a while, but this is what we love to do. We love to win.”

And win, he does.

Morikawa, 24, has won four times in only 41 career starts on the PGA Tour, including the 2020 PGA Championship. At Concession, he held off an all-star cast of opponents that included 47 of the top 50 players in the world ranking.

“It's a tough thing out here, but this tournament means so much,” Morikawa said. “With how good the field was, how good my game felt, to close it out like this, with such a stacked leaderboard coming after me, really means a lot.”

Norway’s Viktor Hovland shot 67 for a 15-under 273 total and share of second place with Americans Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel, both of whom closed with 70s (scores).

After winning the PGA Championship in August for his third victory in 12 months, Morikawa knew that he had arrived on the PGA Tour.

Within two months, he endured a stunning reality check. Morikawa had missed three cuts in five starts after that triumph at Harding Park, and he realized that, though only 24, he couldn’t stand on the reputation of that lone major title.

“It wasn't like, Oh, man, I should be winning every single week, but it just, almost in that kind of fall portion, it was like, Oh, I should be playing good golf, or on my bad days, I should still be contending. It's not the case. These guys are way too good. And I know that.”

After a pedestrian T-44 at the Masters, Morikawa took an honest self-appraisal.

“I got complacent,” he said. “I was getting lazy. I was getting a sense of where I didn't want to just be the best every single week. And that doesn't mean I wasn't practicing right or it doesn't mean all this. It was just a mental state of, you know, coming out, being ready to play great golf Thursday through Sunday.”

Three consecutive top-10s – in Dubai on the European Tour and then back-to-back T-7s to open the new year in Hawaii – gave him a taste of what was to come on the southwest Florida coast.

“By the time this year started,” he said, “my game felt really, really good. I just need to put four good rounds together.”

Consider it done.

Morikawa made a tournament-best 27 birdies, and he led the field in strokes gained approach the green (9.544) and strokes gained tee to green (12.526).

Translation: He’s striping it.

Morikawa, like Woods a native of southern California who played college golf in the Bay Area – Woods at Stanford, Morikawa at rival Cal – began his PGA Tour career in 2019 with a Woodsian run of his own: 22 consecutive made cuts, including his first victory, at the Barracuda Championship. It’s a feat that only Woods has bettered, with 25 consecutive made cuts to start his PGA Tour career.

Woods, who is recovering in a Los Angeles hospital from multiple surgeries on his broken right leg and foot after a car crash last week, was with Morikawa and his colleagues in spirit. Many wore Woods’ traditional Sunday red-and-black colors for the final round.

Morikawa, who said his apparel maker ran into delivery problems, was able only to halve the outfit: black pants.

Nonetheless, knowing what Woods has meant to golf and the PGA Tour in the past quarter century, Morikawa delivered a verbal get-well card in his post-round TV interview.

“I don’t think we say ‘Thank you’ enough,” Morikawa said, “so I want to say ‘Thank you’ to Tiger.”

From one WGC/major champion to another.

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