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‘It was 100 percent the right play’: Collin Morikawa’s 2020 PGA Championship title hinged on his drive at No. 16

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Here’s the deal.

Collin Morikawa is not of the mindset that a plaque should be planted on the tee box of the shortish par-4 16th hole at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco to memorialize his ‘Shot Heard ’Round the World’ in the 2020 PGA Championship.

This despite the drive on the hole that read 294 yards on the scorecard coming to rest just 7 feet from the flagstick. Despite the pressure considering he hit the drive when he was tied for the lead on an August Sunday in the first major championship played in the silence of a COVID-19 world. Despite the subsequent successful eagle putt all but cementing ownership of the Wanamaker Trophy and giving the Kid from Cal, a pup of 23 years at the time, his first major triumph and third PGA Tour title in just 29 starts.

And despite many in golf’s biosphere hailing the drive as one of the best shots ever hit not only in the history of the PGA Championship but in the lengthy record of all major championships.

It’s not that the extremely intelligent Morikawa, who has a degree in business administration, is belittling the magnitude of the drive. For one thing, he isn’t the bragging type, nor does he thirst for idolization. For another, he just thinks it shouldn’t be excessively saluted seeing as there were other shots during the round that proved as pivotal.

And as he said, “I didn’t have to do anything special.”

In other words, Morikawa made the ordinary look and feel extraordinary.

“It was 100 percent the right play,” Morikawa said. “We had practiced not going for it. But we never thought the tees would be up that far, that the pin would be that accessible. Normally on drivable par 4s you have to cut something in, or hit it really high, or bust a 3-wood.

“This was absolutely a stock driver for me. I teed it up and hit a great drive.”

Collin Morikawa reacts after putting on the 16th green during the final round of the 2020 PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park. (Photo: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Downplayed or not, the drive will forever be the defining moment of the 102nd edition of the PGA Championship, a tense contest that saw 10 players hold at least a share of the lead at one time or another in the final round. A group that included the star power of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau.

And the play on 16 proved the difference. Morikawa won his first major in just his second try, finishing two shots clear of Casey and Johnson. He signed for rounds of 69-69-65-64 to finish at 13 under; his 129 on the weekend a PGA Championship record previously held by Tiger Woods.

But neither the 8-degree TaylorMade SIM driver with a Mitsubishi Diamana D+ LTD 70 TX shaft nor the TaylorMade TP Collection Juno putter are part of a display in the World Golf Hall of Fame or the PGA of America headquarters.

“The clubs are at my house with a bunch of other clubs,” said Morikawa, who added that each isn’t anywhere near the Wanamaker Trophy that is prominently displayed in his Las Vegas abode. “Definitely not framed.”

Framed or not, the two clubs – and Morikawa – delivered a moment that will live on in the chronicles of golf. And Morikawa will forever remember every little detail about the 70th hole he played that week.

For instance, he was running hot as he headed to the tee, fuming that he had not converted for birdie on the 69th hole despite a superb drive, solid iron shot and fine putt. But as he took a few more steps, he saw the tees were way up.

That’s when he shifted gears inside his brain.

“I was so focused on what type of shot I needed to hit,” he said.

As was his caddie, J.J. Jakovac. He walked off the yardage – the tees were 28 yards from the back edge of the tee box – and became one with Morikawa.

“How far is it?” Morikawa asked.

“278 front, 292 hole,” Jakovac responded.

“And the wind’s off the left, a little hurt?”

“Yep.”

“It’s a perfect driver, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“And he just grabbed driver,” Jakovac said. “It literally could not have been a better distance for him. It’s cool, he’s jacked up, and he carries driver 275. He hit it. I ran out on the tee box to watch the first bounce and just started hoping for one straight bounce. I saw the ball come down and kick dead straight and then I said, ‘Go in the hole.’”

It did a few minutes later.

“At the tee box I couldn’t tell how close it was. As I walked up, I saw it was 7 feet and the pressure started to heat up,” Morikawa said. “But all I was focused on was the putt. I had to make the putt. A two-shot lead is so much bigger than a one-shot lead late on Sunday in a major.

“It didn’t look like it was breaking much. I brought J.J. in for a read. I wasn’t nervous about missing the putt. I just really wanted to make the putt. I knew the putt would change a lot of things, and the drive wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t make it. I will always remember our read. We played it 1/3 of the ball outside of the hole on the left edge. And I buried it.

“The putt is etched in my brain.”

PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2020 PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Taking in the drama-filled final round step for step with Morikawa were Rick Sessinghaus, Morikawa’s long-time swing and mental coach and mentor; Andrew Kipper, his agent; Katherine Zhu, his girlfriend; and a few members of the media and a few volunteers.

“It was an out-of-body experience, where you almost don’t realize what you just watched,” Kipper said. “(Swing coach) Sean Foley, who works with Cameron Champ who was paired with Collin, was with us. He turned to Rick and said, ‘He just hit one the best shots in major championship history.’ And to me, I think the shot is sort of underrated. Maybe if there would have been fans there it would be celebrated even more.”

Sessinghaus agreed, that the lack of spectators and the roars that would have ensued tempers the drive and putt. But Sessinghaus will never forget it.

“It’s the top moment of my career as a coach, watching my student do what he did on the 16th hole and win,” he said. “Top-10 moment of my life.”

For Morikawa, however, it was just one top-10 moment of the final round. Also on his list are the 25-foot putt he made for par on the first hole, the 35-footer he made for par on the sixth, and the 50-foot chip for birdie he made on the 14th hole.

“In my head, all I think about the drive was it was a good shot,” he said. “I’ve heard people say it’s one of the best in major championship history. But to me, the putt on the 16th was more important, the chip on 14 was more important, the two par putts I made on 1 and 6 were more important.

“Those shots will play in my head a lot more.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/19/pga-championship-collin-morikawa-tpc-harding-park-drive-16/

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