The Bay Area is a sweet spot for Collin Morikawa. The PGA Tour golfer, who was on the Cal men’s golf team until he graduated in 2019, made a historic statement in his PGA Championship debut just across the Bay from Berkeley. On Aug. 9 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, he captured his first major victory and the first major victory for any former Bear.
Not only did Morikawa set Cal records, but he also became the third-youngest winner of the PGA Championship at just 23 years old — capturing the title at the same age Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus did.
It took Morikawa a home-field advantage and a whole lot of guts to nab the title.
After finishing just 2-under through the first two days, Morikawa made the cut by three strokes. The former Bear took advantage of moving day, catapulting up the leaderboard to two strokes back from 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson after carding a 5-under 65.
A historic 6-under 64 performance cruised the Cal alum to a two-stroke victory over Johnson and Paul Casey, with Morikawa and Casey sharing the lead through 15 holes. It was Morikawa’s drive on the 16th and his subsequent putt that sent him to the solo lead at 13-under and all but sealed the deal.
Approaching the green from the tee on a drivable par 4 is a big risk to take with a co-lead in a major — and Morikawa was faced with a difficult decision in this situation with three holes to play. Nonetheless, he remained composed and pulled out his driver to go for the green 294 yards away. He produced one of the most eclectic tee shots in PGA Championship history, dropping his ball just 7 feet from the pin before sinking an eagle and earning a two-stroke lead, which ultimately led him to his first major.
In normal circumstances, Morikawa would’ve left a hometown hero, carried away by droves of local fans from his collegiate career, during which he was a four-time All-American. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans celebrated from home.
“The California kid is the new star in the game of golf,” said PGA Tour telecaster Jim Nantz of Morikawa’s performance. And need he say any more?