A star is born: Collin Morikawa impresses at PGA Championship

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Collin Morikawa won his third PGA Tour title and first major in just 29 starts. What impressed you most about Morikawa from his victory at Harding Park?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): His demeanour of calm, good humour, and concentration… Lordy, I wish I had all three — even in a casual game!  I would love to see this young man really emerge as a great player and stay at the top.  He seems like a mature guy, not self-inflated (like newer stars such as Koepka, DeChambeau, Reed, Rahm), and will be a great role model, especially for Asians who are taking up the game in record numbers.  (Yes, I know he’s American.)  The drive he made on 16, and the putt, may be a career-defining moment for him, if he becomes a longstanding dominant player, much like Tiger and his 6-iron on #18 at Glen Abbey.  I hope so.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Impressive young man. He seemed very composed coming down the stretch, and seemed to be enjoying the hunt. He clearly embraced the moment, you could see it, with his smirks and smiles. He didn’t look like a man that was uncomfortable with the leaderboard or the moment, that’s the biggest thing that stood out for me because he’s only 23, and 29 starts into his big circuit career. As I said, impressive.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: EVERYTHING! Some kids just get it all. They are smart, responsible, handsome, work hard, care about others. Collin is one of them. He graduated with a degree in business. He spoke like a 40-year-old in the post-game interviews. He has a great smile and can he ever play all at the age of 23. Most of all I love how he plays what Nick Faldo calls “old school”. He isn’t a bomber, he isn’t glitzy, he maneuvers his ball and he actually plays ‘bump and run’ shots.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I was impressed by his ability to rise to the top in such a huge moment. That tournament was there for the taking and Morikawa was up to the challenge with that chip-in on 14 and eagle on 16. The kid is a killer.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Very impressive performance from the young phenom, who kind of came out of nowhere to escape the pack and cruise to victory following that tee shot on 16.  He is so poised, and doesn’t make mistakes, which is what impresses me most.  He obviously pulled that second shot on 18, but even his misses only miss his target by maybe 15 feet!  The drives he hit on 14 at Muirfield Village on Sunday and 16 at Harding Park just show how much confidence he has in his driving, despite not being the longest player on tour.  He’s the real deal and should win many more majors, and should be in contention next month at Winged Foot.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): If the kid has a weakness, I haven’t seen it yet. He has every aspect of his game under control, which is remarkable for such a young player. Already comparisons are being drawn to elite players of the past based on comparable records and milestones. That same kind of discussion derailed several blond Nicklaus copies in the 70’s and 80’s so it will be something to watch for as Morikawa moves on to the next challenge. He looks like he can handle it though.

Harding Park is not long by PGA Tour standards but firm fairways and greens, thick rough and plenty of natural trouble effectively negated any excessive distance from the bomb and gouge crowd. Did the PGA of America get it right or did they make it so penal it lacked some excitement?

Deeks: I’d say they got it right.  13 under is a fair score for a major.  And the fact that the leaderboard was so packed until Morikawa sealed the deal with a miracle drive on 16, validates the fact that everyone was playing the same course, and finding the right degree of difficulty.  It sounds like the level of sand in the bunkers was a bit of a problem, but again, they ALL had to adapt their sand games.  Normally I don’t pay as much attention to the PGA as the other majors, but I’d say this one was a great test on a very interesting golf course.

Loughry: The rough was a beautiful inconsistent throughout the course (graduated around fairways and especially around the greens). You didn’t know what to expect, and that for me we need to see more of. The PGA of America really did get it right, that leaderboard was peppered with top players all weekend, and none knew of the 15 or so players within two shots of the lead who would pull it out in the end, and it wasn’t really apparent until the 16-17th hole. It was great drama, and all you could ask for in a Major.

Schurman: Anyone who thinks the event lacked excitement wasn’t paying attention. The lead went from one to six tied to 2, back and forth. Since I watch most golf by PVR, at 5:00 PM I went and set-up the next program in case there was a play-off. With one hour to play anyone of about 6 or 7 players could have done something special and won. It had Koepka in contention all week. DJ leading the last day. Jason Day, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, Cameron Champ, DeChambeau all in a massive free-for-all. It even had Tiger in the field.

Kaplan: They got it exactly right. I loved watching those neat trajectories some of these guys were hitting to hit those itty-bitty fairways. Really makes you appreciate just how good these guys are.

Rule: Well, at a couple of points in time on Sunday, you had 6 guys tied for the lead and up to 15 guys within 2 shots.  And many holes provided opportunity for eagles and double bogeys, so there was lots of movement possible.  So by that measure, I think they did a great job setting up the course.  The rough was penal but fair, they moved some tees up for excitement on short par 4’s, the par 3’s were brutes, and all in all it led to as exciting a Sunday as you could hope for in a major championship.

Mumford: The PGA Championship never lacked for excitement, from a crowded leaderboard to challenging risk reward scenarios. There was plenty of trouble to find, which often led to terrific recovery shots. Harding Park was a perfect test, and a tribute to how courses can be set up to challenge and reward all types of players and shots. I’d love to see lots more tournaments set up the same way.

This PGA Championship will be remembered for many things but two shots in particular stand out. The first was a missed 6” putt by Rickie Fowler on Friday that caused him to miss the cut by one. The second was of course Collin Morikawa’s eagle 2 on the 16th hole Sunday that gave him the lead and the winning margin. What other great shots come to mind by relatively recent winners in a major? 

Deeks: Well, that chip shot Morikawa holed on 14 was pretty pivotal, too.  But honestly, after more than six decades of watching majors (starting with the 1958 Masters), there are so many great golf shots and great moments, I couldn’t begin to list them all.  The one that does stand out for me, though (as I mentioned on the Round Table a couple of weeks ago), was Nick Price’s monster 51-foot putt on the 71st hole at Turnberry in 1994, to widen his one-shot lead over Jesper Parnevik and win the Open.  I leapt out my chair, screamed, and scared a dog sleeping in the next yard.  (Also, for good measure, Mike Weir’s downhill 6-footer on 18 at Augusta in 2003, to force a playoff, and ultimate victory.  And Brooke Henderson’s amazing 7-iron to 3-feet on the first playoff hole, to beat Lydia Ko in the 2016 Women’s PGA… I also leapt out of my chair, screamed, and scared my wife who was in the kitchen.)

Loughry: Hmmm, those two shots certainly stick out at the PGA Championship. As far as recent shots in Majors, Tiger’s chip on the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters is arguably the most memorable/spectacular shot in Major Championship golf. I think that’s where I’ll lay my hat on this one.

Schurman: ‘Recent’ implies if older than 60 do not apply because the things you can remember best happened before the ‘Tiger’ era. So here goes regardless: Woods “Nike” chip on #16 at Augusta, Jones putt at Winged Foot on #18 in 1929 (which BTW over 100 members tried later that night and not one was made) and then two on the same hole, #17 at Pebble Beach. Watson chipped in and Jack hit the flag with a 1-iron. However, it is difficult to over-look Sarazen’s double eagle at Augusta.

Kaplan: Y.E. Yang’s approach with a 3-hybrid over a tree on the 18th hole at the 2009 PGA Championship to best Tiger stands out at #1 for me. One of the best shots I’ve ever seen, given the circumstance.

Rule: Shame that Rickie missed the cut by one after that missed stab of a putt.  Although he hasn’t played well at all since the restart, so maybe it was appropriate.  I hope he rebounds soon because he’s good for the game.  But that tee shot by Collin on 16 on Sunday was easily the most memorable shot of the week and will be remembered for years. There are a few individual shots that come to mind when I think of major championships, from Shaun Micheel at the PGA at Oak Hill to Phil from the pine straw on 13 at the Masters, to Jordan Spieth from the shadow of the TV trucks at Birkdale, but the most memorable for me is the 6-foot par save by Mike Weir on the 18th hole at the 2003 Masters.  It’s the most nervous I’ve been watching a tourney so that’s probably why it’s so etched in my memory.

Mumford: Lots of spectacular shots to draw on but the one that continues to stand out above the rest for me is the shot that Bubba Watson hit in the playoff on the 10th hole at Augusta to win the 2012 Masters. I can’t think of anybody, professional or amateur, that could come remotely close to duplicating that shot. Actually, I can’t imagine very many players that would have even considered trying it. And then to pull it off under the circumstances was simply magical.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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