The kid took advantage of his elder’s stumble.
Locked in a sudden death playoff with 27-year-old “old man” Justin Thomas, 23-year-old Collin Morikawa matched his playing partner long putt for long putt, then tapped in for par on the third extra hole on Sunday to win the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
“It was crazy. Seventy-five holes (felt) a lot more than 72 for sure, especially in sudden death,” said Morikawa, who made up three shots on the last three holes of regulation to force the playoff. “Justin wasn’t giving it to me. He was fighting all day.”
Morikawa now has more wins (two) than missed cuts (one) in only one year on the PGA Tour.
The final 40 minutes were as dramatic as golf gets — or at least as dramatic as it gets without fans in attendance. The Workday event, like all others since the tour restarted after a three-month hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, was contested without spectators.
After Thomas bogeyed No. 18 in regulation to force a playoff, he seemed to settle things by sinking a 51-foot putt on the first playoff hole, also at the 18th.
The world’s No. 5-ranked player walked in the putt as it broke down the hill toward the cup.
As the ball disappeared in the cup, he yelled “Come on” to a smattering of applause provided by tournament volunteers.
Undaunted, Morikawa stepped up and matched Thomas’ birdie by draining his downhill 24-footer, following his make with an arm pump in the direction of Thomas.
And that was just the first playoff hole. The two players barely missed winning putts on the second playoff hole, again at No. 18, before heading to No. 10 for the third hole of sudden death.
Thomas led off the finale by pushing his drive right — his third push off the tee in his previous four drives — and it was not a pretty sight when he arrived at the ball, which was behind a tree.
He pitched onto the fairway and wedged onto the green in three. But Morikawa was already on the green in two, and when Thomas missed his par putt, Morikawa needed only two putts to win.
“I had to keep putting pressure on him to make shots,” said Morikawa, a graduate of California-Berkeley who lives in Las Vegas with his girlfriend and foster dogs. He’ll be able to help more canines with the $1.116 million he earned Sunday. “These finishing holes are not easy.”
They were even more difficult for Thomas, who was trying to become the first player to win three times on tour this year.
“It was quite the bizarre day,” said Thomas, who entered the round with a two-shot lead over 22-year-old Viktor Hovland and three on Morikawa.
But he struggled early, falling behind by three shots through seven holes before flipping the switch and retaking a three-shot lead with an eagle at No. 15.
“It would have been fun to have some fans,” Thomas said. “I got off to a bad start and really fought hard and grinded hard and hit a lot of tough shots.”
It was Morikawa’s first win in stroke play; he won in a Stableford format last year, but he has been on the “one to watch” list for a while.
Next up is the Memorial Tournament on Thursday, or as Morikawa might want to call it, the Ernie Banks Open: “Let’s win two.”
Thomas appeared a lock to win with three holes to play in regulation, but suddenly his game turned shaky.
After making 11 straight one-putts he two-putted No. 16 for a bogey that felt ominous. He also came in without having made a bogey through the first 54 holes, but that changed Sunday with a bogey at No. 2.
“It’s completely unacceptable to give up three-shot lead with three to go,” he said, adding, that he has no idea how long it will take to get over the stunning loss. “I hope it’s only three or four days because I’ve got to start another tournament Thursday. But I’m playing great.”
Just not as great as the kid who buried the putt on top of him.