Morikawa stellar in WGC-Workday

- Steve DiMeglio

BRADENTON, Fla. – The best way to honor Tiger Woods was to play like him.

That’s what Collin Morikawa did Sunday in winning the World Golf Championsh­ips-Workday Championsh­ip at The Concession. After limping to the clubhouse and losing more than half his lead on the inward nine in the third round, the reigning PGA champion collected himself overnight, remained in attack mode and was a steady force in the final round to win by three shots Sunday against the strongest field of the PGA Tour season and on a course stocked with hazards.

Like Woods, who ruled final rounds as he has won 56 of 60 PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the lead after 54 holes, Morikawa didn’t squander his two-shot, 54-hole advantage in winning his first WGC title. In joining Woods as the only players to win a major championsh­ip and a WGC title before turning 25, Morikawa closed with a 3under-par 69 to finish at 18 under.

“What a week,” said Morikawa, 24, who made 27 birdies in winning his fourth PGA Tour title. “I’ve been working on so much the past two weeks. And no matter what anyone says, sleeping on a lead has its pressure, has its nerves. But I was excited to get back in contention, to have a chance to win. I haven’t had it for a while, but this is what we love to do, we love to win.”

Viktor Hovland, who took a quadruple-bogey 8 on his last hole in the second round, shot 67 to tie for second with Brooks Koepka, who shot 70 and battled a neck injury during the week, and Billy Horschel (70). A shot back in fifth was Scottie Scheffler (68). Another stroke back were Rory McIlroy (71), Louis Oosthuizen (69) and Webb Simpson (72).

During his victorious interview on the 18th green, Morikawa talked about Woods and then teared up after revealing he lost his grandfathe­r, Toshio, a month ago. “Tiger means everything to me,” Morikawa said. “And yes, he had the crash and thankfully he’s all right and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery, but I don’t think we say thankyou enough. So I want to say thank-you to Tiger, because sometimes you lose people too early. I lost my grandpa about a month ago. And you don’t get to say thank-you enough. So thank-you, guys.”

In some way or fashion, about 20% of the field that featured 47 of the top 50 players in the world showed their support in the final round for Woods, who was involved in a horrific single-vehicle crash on Tuesday and is recovering in a Los Angeles hospital after multiple surgeries to his right leg, ankle and foot.

Horschel had “TW” etched on his cap, while Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau played with golf balls stamped with “TIGER.”

Many others, including Day, McIlroy, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Scottie Scheffler, Carlos Ortiz and Cameron Champ, each wore black slacks and dark red golf shirts – Woods’ traditiona­l Sunday attire.

Morikawa planned on wearing red and black but his golf shirt got hung up en route. While he didn’t look the part, he played the part to perfection.

After he fell into a share of the lead on the third hole, Morikawa regained sole possession with a birdie on the seventh and stretched his advantage to two with a birdie on the eighth. After a birdie on 12, he led by three.

Hovland shaved the lead to one with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch but two late bogeys dropped him back.

“I’ve been playing really solid the last few weeks and I’m leaving a bunch of shots out there with that 8 the other day and that three-hole stretch on the back nine here where I three-putted and missed a short putt and another threeputt,” Hovland said. “So I’m playing really solid. It’s cool to play that way.”

Morikawa’s playing the way he wants to play, too. He seemed to leave his best form in San Francisco after leaving TPC Harding Park with the Wanamaker Trophy. As he headed to Florida, he had nearly as many missed cuts, three, as top-10 finishes, four in 13 starts since the PGA Championsh­ip.

“I was getting lazy,” he said, adding his drop in play dealt more with his mental state than his physical ability. “So I kind of reset that before the Masters. I was able to work on that throughout December, a couple times on European Tour. By the time this year started, my game felt really, really good.”

He also found answers by changing his putting grip and now employs the saw after talking with three-time major champion Mark O’Meara for an hour in Las Vegas last month. Made sense – he ranked in the 200s on the PGA Tour in strokes gained/putting. Using it for the first time in last week’s Genesis Invitation­al didn’t yield great results but he felt good enough to stay with it. This weekend he was 10th in strokes gained/ putting and needed just 108 putts.

Morikawa also had an impromptu chipping lesson with short-game guru and former PGA champion Paul Azinger last week. It lasted but five minutes but he gained a bunch of confidence.

Basically, Morikawa was stellar in all parts of his game. He led the field in strokes gained/approach to the green and strokes gained/tee to green. He missed just nine of 56 fairways and just 15 of 72 greens.

“With how good the field was,” Morikawa said, “how good my game felt, to close it out with a win like this, with such a stacked leaderboar­d coming after me, really means a lot.”

 ?? MIKE WATTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the third tee Sunday en route to winning the World Golf Championsh­ips-Workday Championsh­ip.
MIKE WATTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the third tee Sunday en route to winning the World Golf Championsh­ips-Workday Championsh­ip.

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