SAN FRANCISCO – A wild afternoon that included nine different players holding at least a share of the lead had been whittled away to just two, with Collin Morikawa tied with Paul Casey at 11 under par.
“I knew someone was going to have to break out,” Morikawa said.
If, as Phil Mickelson contends, winning major championships requires a heroic moment, for Morikawa that moment came at the par-4 16th hole that had been trimmed to 294 yards for the final round. Ironically, it was a shot Morikawa said he wouldn’t hit.
“I told [CBS analyst] Colt Knost, he saw me Wednesday afternoon practicing on there, and he asked me if I was ever going to go for it. I told him a quick no, it’s too much into the wind, why go for it,” Morikawa said.
The combination of an accessible hole location, favorable wind conditions and the need to “break out” from the pack prompted Morikawa to change his plan.
“[Caddie J.J. Jackovac] looked at me and asked me what I wanted to do and I told him, let’s hit a good drive,” Morikawa said. “I counted back from 14 at Muirfield. What’s different from 14 at Muirfield and this shot, similar numbers, wind was a little left, kind of into me, but I knew I had to hit a good one.”
At last month’s Workday Charity Open he hit a similar drive in the final round at the short, par-4 14th hole and won the event in a playoff, but Sunday’s attempt was much more dramatic.
“We were both screaming at it to get a good bounce, and we obviously got a very good bounce, and you just have to capitalize on those shots,” Morikawa said.
Morikawa’s tee shot bounded just short of the green, rolled to within 7 feet of the hole and he converted the eagle putt to move to 13 under par on his way to a two-stroke victory.