Morikawa ral­lies to win Work­day Open in play­off vs. Thomas

The News Tribune - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

Collin Morikawa fig­ured his tour­na­ment was over if he didn’t make a 5-foot par putt on the 15th hole at Muir­field Vil­lage.

He couldn’t have imag­ined all the fun was just start­ing.

Still three shots be­hind Justin Thomas with three holes to play, Morikawa made only one birdie and it was enough for a 6-under 66 to force a play­off.

The three times he played the 18th hole, he twice could only watch as Thomas had 10-foot putts for the win.

The other time, Morikawa had to make a 25-foot putt to keep play­ing.

The only dull mo­ment Sun­day at the Work­day Char­ity Open was the end, when Morikawa took two putts for par from just in­side 10 feet to beat Thomas on the third play­off hole and win for the sec­ond time in his ca­reer.

“Amazing,” Morikawa said when asked how he would sum up the day to some­one who only saw the re­sult.

That cov­ered a lot of ter­ri­tory. Morikawa never looked like the win­ner un­til it was over.

Thomas had 10 straight oneputt greens, the last one a 25foot ea­gle putt on the par-5 15th for the three-shot lead with three holes to play. And while he made two bo­geys for a 69 that al­lowed for a play­off, he had rea­son to think it was over when he made a 50-foot birdie putt from the back of the 18th green.

“I never as­sumed it was over,” Thomas said. “Per­cent­ages would say that it heav­ily is close to be­ing that way. ... I just tried to keep my head down and think he’s go­ing to make it, but hop­ing he’s not, self­ishly, but he did.”

Thomas missed a 10-footer for par in reg­u­la­tion, and a putt close to that same line for birdie on the sec­ond ex­tra hole. He was done in by a tee shot on No. 10 that wound up in the rough be­hind a tree, forc­ing him to pitch out 102 yards short of the green. He missed his 15-foot par putt, lead­ing to Morikawa’s two-putt par and the win.

It was a wild ride for Thomas, too. He started with a two-shot lead, trailed by three af­ter just five holes, made four straight birdies and was ahead by three shots 10 holes later, and ul­ti­mately lost in a play­off.

“It’s com­pletely un­ac­cept­able to give up a three-shot lead with three to go,” Thomas said. “I’m up­set, I’m dis­ap­pointed in my­self. But at the end of the day it’s over with now, and I just need to take some time this af­ter­noon and tonight to build on it and fig­ure out what I can do bet­ter go­ing into next week.”

They re­turn in four days for the Me­mo­rial on a Muir­field Vil­lage course ex­pected to be as fast as a U.S. Open.

This was a big win for the 23-year-old Morikawa, who in his 13 months since grad­u­at­ing from Cal al­ready has es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for a high level of con­sis­tency. His only vic­tory was at an op­po­site-field event last sum­mer. He beat a field at the Work­day Char­ity Open that fea­tured five of the top 10 in the world.

“This is a huge kind of step­ping stone,” said Morikawa, who goes to No. 13 in the world, one spot ahead of Tiger Woods. “We got No. 1 out of the way. We got No. 2. Let the gates just open and let’s keep go­ing.”

It was his sec­ond play­off since the PGA Tour re­turned June 11 from the COVID-19 pan­demic. Morikawa lost on the first ex­tra hole at Colo­nial by miss­ing a 3-foot putt. He had a 2-foot putt in reg­u­la­tion on Sun­day that caught the left edge of the cup and swirled in. “My heart­beat must have skipped a bil­lion times,” he said.

The only thing miss­ing was a hand­shake from Jack Nicklaus. He’ll be there next week for the Me­mo­rial, as the PGA Tour stays at Muir­field Vil­lage.

Vik­tor Hov­land of Nor­way had a 71 and fin­ished alone in third. He was in the fi­nal group of three young stars, all of whom had the lead at some point dur­ing the fi­nal round.

Hov­land’s hopes ended with two shots — find­ing a bunker from the 10th fair­way for bo­gey, and a driver on the reach­able 14 that only missed by about 5 feet, enough to slowly tum­ble down the bank and into the wa­ter.

Morikawa also hit driver on the 14th that rolled 12 feet away. He nar­rowly missed the ea­gle putt, while Thomas hit a splen­did wedge with side spin to 3 feet for birdie to stay one ahead. That’s when it ap­peared the tour­na­ment turned in Thomas’ fa­vor.

Morikawa was in thick rough right of the fair­way on the par-5 15th, un­sure he could get over the slope to the next sec­tion of fair­way. It came out heavy, just through the fair­way into light rough 190 yards away. By then, Thomas hit 3-wood to 25 feet. Morikawa went through a bunker to the steep slope by the green, and did well to chop that chip high in the air to 5 feet. Thomas made his ea­gle putt. Morikawa made his par to stay alive.

“A three-shot cush­ion with three to go is a lot dif­fer­ent than four with three to go,” Morikawa said. “And then him hit­ting some­what of a poor tee shot on 16, I knew this was my win­dow of op­por­tu­nity.”

Thomas missed a 10foot par putt. Morikawa caught a good bounce with an or­di­nary 8-iron to the 17th and made a 10-foot birdie. Thomas found the fair­way bunker off the tee at the 18th, played short of the green and couldn’t make his par.

The start­ing times were moved up to avoid a forecast of thun­der­storms, so the fi­nal round was broad­cast on a de­lay, avail­able live only on stream­ing.

With no fans on the course, it was the wildest fin­ish that hardly any­one saw.

IT’S COM­PLETELY UN­AC­CEPT­ABLE TO GIVE UP A THREE-SHOT LEAD WITH THREE TO GO. I’M UP­SET, I’M DIS­AP­POINTED IN MY­SELF. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY IT’S OVER WITH NOW, AND I JUST NEED TO TAKE SOME TIME THIS AF­TER­NOON AND TONIGHT TO BUILD ON IT AND FIG­URE OUT WHAT I CAN DO BET­TER.

Justin Thomas

DARRON CUM­MINGS AP

Collin Morikawa holds his tro­phy Sun­day af­ter win­ning the Work­day Char­ity Open in Dublin, Ohio.

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