PGA CHAMPIONSHIP Harding Park: Cal product Morikawa captures title

Collin Morikawa holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Jeremy Harness

Collin Morikawa is a rookie on the PGA Tour. But the only rookie move he pulled this week came when he nearly dropped the championship trophy after his triumph at TPC Harding Park.

The 23-year-old from the University of California started Sunday’s final round two shots behind leader Dustin Johnson but came up with the shots and the putts when he needed them, as he fired a bogey-free, six-under round of 64 to claim the PGA Championship crown in only his second-career major start.

“It’s amazing,” Morikawa said. “It’s been a life goal, obviously as a little kid, kind of watching everyone grow up, all these professionals, and this is always what I’ve wanted to do. I felt very comfortable from the start. As an amateur, junior golfer, turning professional last year, but to finally close it off and come out here in San Francisco, pretty much my second home where I spent the last four years, is pretty special.”

On the back nine, he had a chip-in for birdie at the par-4 14th, and two holes later, he drove the green at the driveable par-4 16th and then sank the ensuing six-footer for eagle, and that proved to be the difference.

“It just fit my eye,” Morikawa said. “We were just hoping for a really good bounce, and we got it, hit a really good putt, and now we’re here.”

Johnson, who held the 54-hole lead, got off to a nice start by birdieing the first hole on Sunday, but he traded a birdie for a bogey at the third and fourth holes and could not get any real momentum going.

He suffered a damaging bogey at the par-4 14th but he got some rhythm back with a birdie at the 16th and another at the 18th, but by then, it was too late.

Paul Casey made a bit of a charge, but like Johnson, came up a little short and finished tied for second, two shots behind Morikawa.

He birdied both the fourth and fifth holes, and then ran off three more birdies on the back nine. His only blemish is a bogey at the par-4 13th, where he failed to get it up and down.

“I played phenomenal golf and there’s nothing I would change,” Casey said. “I’m very, very happy with how I played. Great attitude. Stayed very calm and stayed in the present. Wasn’t enough. The glorious shots Collin hit like on 16 to make eagle, you have to tip your cap. When he popped up on Tour not that long ago, those guys who were paying attention like myself knew that this was something special, and he’s proved it today.

“He’s already sort of proved it but he’s really stamped his authority of how good he is today.”

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: DJ takes lead, but Koepka still in the hunt

Dustin Johnson hits from the fairway on the 18th hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By Jeremy Harness

Dustin Johnson grabbed the 54-hole lead on Saturday, shaking off a damaging double bogey with an impressive back nine in the hopes of winning the second major title of his career.

Johnson, who won the U.S Open in 2016, dropped two shots at the par-four ninth hole while having trouble around the green but rallied very quickly thereafter. He birdied the 10th and picked up three more shots in a four-hole stretch to card a five-under round of 65.

“I putted really well,” Johnson said. “That was key. But I hit a lot of good shots to give myself some good looks because the flags are tucked. The greens are firm and fast. So I did hit a lot of quality iron shots.

“Tomorrow I think I need to go — I definitely need to hit some more fairways, because it’s really tough playing this golf course from the rough. Obviously the bunkers, too, are very tough. A couple — had a few nice up-and-downs out of the bunkers, but also a few poor ones.”

One shot behind him, however, is another long hitter in Sacramento native Cameron Champ, who has made a steady climb toward the top of the leaderboard after a first-round score of 71.

He rallied the next day with a 64 and finished Saturday’s round at TPC Harding Park with a three-under 67 that featured six birdies against three bogeys.

“I’ve been really feeding off my driver,” said Champ, who won last year’s Safeway Open in Napa. “That’s been the key for me. Obviously today, I missed a few more fairways than I did yesterday, but I still was able to manage it from the rough. The drives I did hit well and I did hit in the fairway, I was able to take advantage of and make some putts.”

Among those a shot behind Champ is Brooks Koepka, who has won the PGA Championship twice in a row and is in the hunt for a third.

He was two-under for the first 12 holes but got on a bogey train on holes 13 through 15 before hopping off with a birdie at the par-4 16th. He finished his round with a birdie at the 18th to finish with a one-under 69 and well within striking distance.

“I thought I played a lot better than my score reflected,” Koepka said. “Really made one bad swing. But I left it in a good spot and just hit a poor chip. The other ones I was in the semi a lot, and I think sometimes in the semi, it can come out without spin or it can come with spin, and if you’re going to do that in the wind, it’s kind of tough to judge.”

“Maybe took a little bit too aggressive of lines on those out of the semi, but I just missed them in the worst spot possible, but they were good shots, so I felt like I played really well, putted really well, and the driver I hit great. It’s just sometimes they didn’t move with the wind, hit them too good.”

Koepka certainly has experience on his side going into Sunday’s final round. Of those who are currently in the top-six, only Koepka and Johnson have won majors, as Koepka also has two U.S Open titles to his credit.

Also at seven-under for the tournament is Cal product Collin Morikawa, who played TPC Harding Park numerous times during his tenure as Golden Bear and has a little local knowledge going for him.

“I felt really good,” Morikawa said. “I didn’t practice yesterday after the round, but I kind of had some thought of what I wanted to do before the round. Obviously playing with Adam Scott, great ball-striker, great swing, and it kind of helps when you play with someone like that just to kind of get the momentum.

“I hit some really good shots off the first few holes and had a little stumble on 12 and 13, but knew I had to regroup especially with 15 coming up, or 14 coming up. It’s not an easy hole. So definitely want to get out with at least a par. But overall, I felt really good. Rolled the putter really well, and keep that into tomorrow.”

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Li takes lead, but former champs in hot pursuit

Haotong Li chips to the green on the seventh hole during the second round of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on Friday. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

By Jeremy Harness

The PGA Championship has a new leader, and it is not one of the usual suspects, and not a name that one would expect to be atop the leaderboard of a major championship.

Haotong Li shot a bogey-free round of 65 to take the 36-hole lead by two strokes. He got off to a hot start on Friday, birdieing three of his first five holes before knocking down a birdie at the par-4 ninth. He followed that up with a birdie at the par-5 10th and then parred out the rest of the way to maintain that two-shot lead.

“Well, I’ve got no expectation actually,” Li said. “Because you know, (for the) last few months, (I’ve) stayed at home doing nothing. I just want to go out here and have fun.”

Li is being closely followed by a pair of former PGA champs, Jason Day and defending champion Brooks Koepka, as they are tied for second trailing by two shots at six-under overall.

Starting on the 10th hole on Friday, Koepka got the momentum going with a birdie at the par-5 10th but gave it back with a bogey at the 13th. He picked up a little steam with a birdie at the par-4 18th and quickly followed that with a birdie at the par-4 first.

He then played the remaining eight holes even-par with a birdie and a bogey to finish the second round with a two-under round of 68.

“I’m pretty happy,” Koepka said. “I felt like I probably could be ten right now. Hit a lot of good putts, just didn’t go in. A couple of them, if I just hit them, they’re in. But driving it pretty well. Iron play, I’m pretty pleased with. You know, I like where I’m at.”

Day also had an erratic Friday round, which was marred by a double bogey at the par-4 12th. He picked things up considerably with a stretch of three birdies over four holes. However, Day gave some momentum back with a bogey at his final hole, the ninth, for a one-under round of 69.

“I definitely feel good,” Day said. “I’m to the point now where I’m nitpicking my round and before I really wasn’t. Before I was just happy to get inside the cut, you know, and get on to the weekend, and sometimes you need those weeks to just make it and get some confidence. Certainly have gained a lot of confidence over the last three times I’ve played, and you know, I’m just going to try and tidy up the putting for this weekend hopefully and hit it a little better off the tee.”

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Day, Todd tied atop lead at Harding Park

At the PGA Championship golf Tournament at Harding Park in San Francisco Tiger Woods launches a tee shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the tournament on Thu Aug 6, 2020 (AP photo)

By Jeremy Harness

It has been very weird watching sports for these past few months, with teams playing without any spectators in attendance, with the exception of a few essential employees.

The PGA Championship, the first golf major or the 2020 season that kicked off Thursday at TPC Harding Park, is no different. The eerie silence, which has been commonplace without the authentic crowd noise that typically accompanies big events such as this, was just as prevalent in the first round.

But hey, at least the PGA Tour had enough sense to not include the cheesy fake crowd noise that has plagued MLB games over the past month.

As for the golf, Jason Day and Brendon Todd finished Thursday’s opening round tied for the lead after firing five-under rounds of 65.

Todd, who has been brilliant for the first 54 holes for many of the tournaments this season but has faltered in the final round, got off to a great start, going three-under on his front nine. On the back nine, he thwarted two bogeys with four birdies.

Day, on the other hand, was bogey-free on his round, recording three birdies on his front nine and a two more birdies on the back side.

There are nine players that are tied for second, including defending champion Brooks Koepka and former Masters winner Zach Johnson.

Tiger Woods is in the mix as well, after his two-under round of 68 on Thursday, as he is currently tied for 20th. He was one-under for the first nine, with three birdies against two bogies, and turned in a one-under second nine with two birdies and a single bogey.