By: Alex Oh
One of the greatest things about sports is that anyone can win, no matter where they are from or how well they are known. Over the past couple of years, sports has seen many underdogs that have defied the odds to win the game or the championship. And that is exactly what happened yesterday at the PGA Championship when golfer Collin Morikawa outdueled a stacked leaderboard to win his first major.
At just 23, Morikawa was already known as one of the tour’s most consistent players and for his maturity and professional demeanor on the course. Coming into the PGA Championship, he had made the most consecutive cuts since Tiger Woods himself. Still, like many others, I had my doubts on whether he could win against so many other experienced players. Brooks Koepka had finished tied for second a week earlier and was looking to win the PGA for the third consecutive year. Tony Finau was also playing well, coming off of a few top 10s. Regardless, I couldn’t wait for the tournament to start.
Watching the PGA Championship on Sunday was a blast. While I was only able to watch the last hour of the tournament, it seemed as if the tournament was saving the best for last. It all started when Collin made birdie on the par-5 10th. This put him in a tie for first with Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson, both veteran players on tour. Then, on holes 10 and 11, Jason Day made consecutive birdies that put him in contention. At that point, my eyes were glued to the leaderboard on my phone. A couple minutes later, Bryson DeChambeau, a player who had recently garnered attention for his weight transformation and added distance, birdied holes 14 and 16. With only a few holes left to play, a playoff seemed inevitable and I was all for it.
However, just as it seemed like things couldn’t get any more exciting, Morikawa made an unexpected chip-in on the 14th to take the outright lead. From that moment on, he never looked back. Just when everyone thought that veterans like Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson would take the lead and the younger players would falter, Morikawa did the exact opposite. The defining moment of the championship was on the driveable par-4 16th hole when Morikawa attempted to drive the green. Up until then, only a few players had successfully driven the green. I watched with bated breath as he took the club back. The shot was perfect. The ball landed hard on the fairway and just skirted by the greenside bunker to reach the green. Once the ball reached the green, it immediately slowed down and rolled softly, leaving Morikawa with a mid-range putt for eagle. If he could make this putt, it would give him a 3 stroke lead, practically sealing the championship.
Up until that point, Morikawa had been plagued with putting woes. During the Charles Schwab tournament earlier in the year, he had missed a 3 footer to miss a playoff with Daniel Berger. Even in this tournament, he had missed a 2 footer during the first round. Despite his consistent play and promising results at a young age, a question remained: Could he make a putt when it really mattered?
With one last glance of the hole, Morikawa hit the putt. The ball started out left, but slowly trickled towards the right, dropping in the center of the cup. It was then that I knew the tournament was over. While Dustin Johnson would chip in on the 16th moments later, it was Morikawa’s eagle that people would remember.
In a game that is so rich in tradition and seems to be dominated by experienced veteran players, Morikawa proved that sometimes having self-belief and heart is more important than experience and age.