Roll On You Golden Bear: Collin Morikawa wins for second time on PGA TOUR

The California Golden Bear wins on a course designed by the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus

A little over a year ago, Collin Morikawa graduated from Cal with not only a degree from the Haas Undergraduate School of Business, but also as one of the most accomplished players in the history of the Bears’ men’s golf program. Since that time, Morikawa has taken the PGA TOUR by storm. On Sunday, he added another chapter to his meteoric rise as a professional, outlasting FedEx Cup points leader Justin Thomas to win the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Morikawa shot a final-round 66 (-6) to forge a first-place tie, then outlasted Thomas to take the win on the third sudden-death playoff hole. It is Morikawa’s second PGA TOUR win in just 24 starts as a professional.

(Photo credit: @PGATOUR)

The win at Muirfield Village comes just two weeks after Morikawa missed the cut at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, which broke Morikawa’s streak of making 22 consecutive cuts to start his professional career (just 3 short of the PGA TOUR record held by Tiger Woods). And the playoff win may have been extra sweet for Morikawa after he lost to Daniel Berger in heartbreaking fashion in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial last month.

After taking a three-shot lead into the weekend, Morikawa shot a lackluster 72 in Saturday’s third round and began the final round three shots behind Thomas. But Morikawa made up ground quickly. An eagle at the par-5 5th hole pulled Morikawa into a first-place tie with Viktor Hovland (the third member of the final group), three shots ahead of Thomas, who bogeyed two of the first three holes.

“I had to get off to a good start. I didn’t do that yesterday,” said Morikawa. “But I knew that front nine was where I could make a few birdies and I did that for the most part.”

Hovland eventually dropped out of contention, but Thomas’s slow start would not last. He heated up at the turn, stockpiling birdies at the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th to take a one-shot lead over Morikawa. And then it appeared that Thomas would hoist the winner’s trophy after he rolled in an eagle putt at the 15th hole to take a three-shot lead over Morikawa with three holes left in regulation.

But Thomas gave Morikawa an opening at the very next hole, the tricky par-3 16th. Thomas missed his tee shot into the right rough, leading to a bogey. Morikawa made par to cut the gap to two shots, then pulled to within one with a clutch birdie at the 17th.

“I knew that was the opportunity I needed to at least give myself a shot going into that 18th hole,” said Morikawa.

Thomas then helped Morikawa even more at the 18th, finding a fairway bunker off the tee and missing the green with his second shot. Meanwhile, Morikawa found the 18th green in regulation and had a 19-foot birdie chance. He missed that, but earned his way into the playoff with a testy par after Thomas made bogey. After losing a playoff last month on a putt that went around and out, Morikawa this time got the around and in.

And then it was playoff time. And what a playoff it was. On the first playoff hole, playing the 18th hole again, Thomas drained a 50-foot birdie putt to put the pressure squarely on Morikawa’s shoulders. But the former Pac-12 Player of the Year answered with a dandy 24-footer for birdie to force a second playoff hole.

Both players made par on 18 again, sending matters to a third playoff hole. This time moving to the 10th hole, it was Thomas who flinched. The 2017 PGA champion missed to the right off the tee and had the misfortune of having his ball lie behind one of the smallest trees on the Muirfield Village course. That opened the door for Morikawa, who made it look easy: tee shot to the fairway, approach to the green, two putts, and his second career PGA TOUR victory.

With the victory, Morikawa earned the $1,116,000 winner’s share of the prize money and moved to 6th place in the PGA TOUR’s FedEx Cup standings. The victory also showed that Morikawa clearly likes the Muirfield Village course, designed by Jack Nicklaus. And with the PGA TOUR staying in Dublin, Ohio for the Memorial Tournament next week — on this same course — look out for Morikawa to contend again.

UPDATE (7/13/2020): In the updated Official World Golf Rankings, Morikawa climbed 16 places to number 13 in the world, one spot ahead of one Tiger Woods. Both Woods and Morikawa are in the field for this week’s Memorial Tournament.