New US PGA champion Collin Morikawa savours 'crazy' start to pro career

Californian in ‘great company’ after lifting Wanamaker Trophy at just 23
Collin Morikawa joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in getting his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy at the age of 23 as a winner of the US PGA Championship. Picture: Getty ImagesCollin Morikawa joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in getting his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy at the age of 23 as a winner of the US PGA Championship. Picture: Getty Images
Collin Morikawa joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in getting his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy at the age of 23 as a winner of the US PGA Championship. Picture: Getty Images

Collin Morikawa said it was "crazy" to become a major winner in just his second attempt as he reflected on joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as winners of the US PGA Championship at the age of 23.

The Californian admitted he was on "Cloud Nine" after emerging from a thrilling final round in the first men's major for nearly 13 months at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco with the Wanamaker Trophy in his hands.

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Only McIlroy (2012) and Nicklaus (1963) were younger when they claimed this prize in the event's stroke-play era, with Woods being slightly older than Morikawa when he won in 1999.

"It's great company," admitted the new champion, who has now won three times on the PGA Tour in just 28 starts to move to world No 5. "You know, it's been crazy, because this entire start of my professional career, I see all the things comparing to Tiger and doing all this and then Tiger is on a completely different level. I think we all know that.

"But any time you're in the conversation of the greats, Jack, Rory, Tiger, no matter who it is, if you're in that conversation, you're doing something well."

On a day when seven players were tied for the lead at one point, Morikawa signed off with a brilliant six-under-par 64, tying the lowest final round by a winner in the PGA of America event. He also set a new record for the lowest closing 36-hole score of 129.

"I've believed in myself since day one," he declared. "I feel very comfortable in this position.

"When I woke up today, I was like, this is meant to be. This is where I want to be, and I'm not scared from it. I think if I was scared from it, the last few holes would have been a little different, but you want to be in this position.

"It doesn't stop here. I've got a very good taste of what this is like, what a major championship is like. The majors are going to be circled in, just like everyone else, but I'm trying to win every single week.

"I'm 23. This is my first full year and it hasn't even been a full year with everything going on."

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Morikawa, who led the week in strokes gained in putting, had well and truly recovered from a "shaky start" by the time he chipped in for a birdie at the par-4 14th to break out of the logjam at the top of the leaderboard.

Englishman Paul Casey had just moved level with him on 11-under when Morikawa stuck his tee shot at the 294-yard par-4 16th to seven feet and rolled in the putt for a title-winning eagle.

"I knew I had to hit a good one," he said. "It was 278 front, 294 hole. It just had to be a normal driver for me. I didn't have to do anything special.

"I really wish there were crowds right there. I heard some claps. Obviously not a ton. But the claps could mean I'm on the green and I've got 50 feet.

"But, walking up, I knew it was right above the tier, and I had to make that putt. Those are moments I'm always going to remember."

Morikawa won by two shots from compatriot Dustin Johnson, the overnight leader, and Englishman Paul Casey, who recorded his best finish in a major at the age of 43.

"I played phenomenal golf and there's nothing I would change," said Casey as he reflected on a closing effort that contained five birdies and a solitary bogey. "I'm very, very happy with how I played. Great attitude. Stayed very calm and stayed in the present. Just wasn't enough.

"The glorious shots Collin hit like on 16 to make eagle, you have to tip your cap. When he popped up on Tour not that long ago, those guys who were paying attention like myself knew that this was something special, and he's proved it today.

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"He's already sort of proved it but he's really stamped his authority of how good

he is today. But I'm very, very happy with everything. Kind of got my mojo back now."

In contrast, Brooks Koepka had his bubble burst as the American's bid to lift the title for the third year in a row ended on disappointing note as he slumped to a closing 74 in Casey's company to finish nine shots behind Morikawa.

"I mean, it's my first bad round in a while in a major," said Koepka. "I was just there to cheer Paul on. That was it because I had put myself out of it already.

"You know, hey, wasn't meant to be. Three in a row, you're not really supposed to do two in a row looking at history, but that's all right. Got two more the rest of the season and we'll figure it out from there."

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