Sunday's golf: Morikawa plays a steady hand to win Workday Championship

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Bradenton, Fla. — The plan was for PGA champion Collin Morikawa to wear a red shirt with his black pants Sunday to show support for Tiger Woods as he recovers from career-threatening leg injuries from a car crash.

The clothes shipped to him never arrived, so Morikawa did the next best thing at the Workday Championship.

He played like him.

Collin Morikawa celebrates after putting on the 18th green to win the Workday Championship golf tournament Sunday in Bradenton, Fla.

Staked to a two-shot lead, Morikawa shook off an early mistake, regained control around the turn, delivered two clutch putts and then played a steady hand on a Concession Golf Club course known for calamity.

Just like Woods has done so often, Morikawa forced everyone to catch him. No one did, and his 3-under 69 gave him a three-shot victory for his first World Golf Championship.

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

He became the 24th player to win a major and a World Golf Championship title, and the 24-year-old Californian joined Woods as the only players to win both before turning 25.

Woods was 23 when he won the first of his 18 World Golf Championships.

Morikawa, who finished at 18-under 270, won for the fourth time in his last 34 starts on the PGA Tour. He finished three ahead of Brooks Koepka (70), Viktor Hovland (67) and Billy Horschel (70), who played with Morikawa in the final group and witnessed the supreme iron play that made him so hard to catch.

As for that red shirt? Morikawa thinks it got stuck in Tennessee because of the weather. He even sent his caddie to the distribution center to see if it arrived.

Several other players wore the ensemble that Woods made famous, and Tony Finau took it an extra step by arriving at Concession with his cap turned backward.

Woods suffered serious injuries to his right leg and foot when his SUV crashed off a road and tumbled down a hill in the Los Angeles suburbs on Tuesday. After a prolonged surgery to put the shattered bones back together, he is recovering and was said to be in good spirits.

“Red and black, we know that’s what Tiger does on Sundays, so just to join in and just let Tiger know we’re supporting him in the best way we can,” Finau said. “We’re still playing and we miss him out here, but it was cool just to be a part of that.”

The inspiration came from Woods. The instruction came from a pair of major champions.

Morikawa was down on his putting a few weeks ago while at home in Las Vegas when he decided to try to the “saw” putting grip that Mark O’Meara perfected, He rotates his right hand so that his first two fingers extend down the grip. O’Meara recently moved to Las Vegas, and Morikawa sought him out.

And then at Concession, he asked club member Paul Azinger for help with his chipping on the Bermuda grass. Azinger said it took about 10 minutes, more about technique to get the bounce in the wedge more involved.

Both worked beautifully all week.

Rock solid with his game and his emotions, Morikawa choked up ever so slightly when it was over talking about Woods and what he has meant to the game, and his paternal grandfather, who died last month.

“You don’t get to say thank you enough,” Morikawa said. “So , ‘Thank you, guys.’”

Outside of a chunked chip on the second hole that made him scramble for bogey, Morikawa didn’t miss a fairway the rest of the way and was rarely out of position.

Horschel caught Morikawa after three holes and tried to stay with him. Koepka had the last good chance to catch him until, trailing by three with a 35-foot eagle chance on the 17th hole, he three-putted for par.

Hovland, who finished his second round with a quadruple bogey, might have had the best chance of all. Hovland someone managed to punch out of the wire grass and onto the green to make birdie on the par-5 13th, his seventh birdie of the round that pulled him with one shot.

His hopes effectively ended on the next hole. Just as Morikawa was pouring in an 8-foot birdie putt on the short par-4 12th hole, Hovland ran his 40-foot birdie putt some 15 feet past the hole on the par-3 14th, and missed the par putt.

Morikawa’s lead was back to three shots, and he never flinched the rest of the day.

Scottie Scheffler also was in the mix with six birdies in 12 holes. He drove into the water on the 16th and made double bogey, and shot 68 to finish fifth.

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, both dressed in red and black, never got anything going. McIlroy closed with a 71 to tie for sixth, while Reed shot a 72 and to finish another spot back.

“I think just for everyone to show their appreciation for what he means to us out here,” McIlroy said about the tribute. “If there was no Tiger Woods, I just the think the tour and the game of golf, in general, would be in a worse place. He’s meant a lot to us, he still does mean a lot to us and I think that was just a little way to show that.”

LPGA

Nelly Korda seized control with three early birdies and finished with 12 straight pars for a 3-under 69 to win the Gainbridge LPGA, giving the Korda family two victories to start the season in Orlando, Fla.

Her older sister, Jessica, won the season-opening Tournament of Champions last month in Orlando.

Korda won for the first time on American soil — her other three LPGA wins were in Australia and twice in Taiwan — and the first time with her parents watching. Her father, Petr Korda, is a former Australian Open tennis champion.

On the other side of the course, Annika Sorenstam wrapped up her return after more than 12 years of retirement with a par on the ninth hole for a 76, finishing last among the 74 players who made the cut. The 50-year-old Swede was making this one-time appearance because Lake Nona has been her home course for two decades.

Sorenstam finished 29 shots behind Korda, who won by three over Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko. Korda finished at 16-under 272.

PGA Tour

Branden Grace closed eagle-birdie to win the Puerto Rico Open, an emotional triumph following his father’s January death after a month-long fight with the coronavirus.

Grace holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle on the par-4 17th and birdied the par-5 18th for a one-stroke victory over Jhonattan Vegas at windy Grand Reserve.

“This morning I had a tear in the car when I was talking to my wife,” Grace said about father Peter. “It was an emotional day. I thought about him a hell of a lot out there, especially the last tee shot. I was really struggling the last hole, because I knew he was watching over me. I knew he was guiding me.”

The 32-year-old South African player won for the second time on the PGA Tour and 13th worldwide, closing with a 6-under 66 to finish at 19-under 269.

Vegas, from Venezuela, birdied the 18th in a 65. Puerto Rican player Rafael Campos and Grayson Murray, tied for the third-round lead, each shot 70 to tie for third at 16 under. Ryan Brehm (Traverse City) tied for 11th at 13 under.

Tour Champions

Kevin Sutherland chipped in for the only birdie of the final round on No. 16 and had a tap-in for another on the next hole, shooting a 4-under 69 to overtake Mike Weir in the Colorguard Classic in Tuscon, Ariz.

Sutherland trailed by two to start the day and was down four after Weir birdied the par-5 eighth in blustery conditions at Tucson National. Sutherland cut Weir’s lead in half with two birdies in his first three holes to start on the back nine and chipped in from short right of the 183-yard, par-3 16th.

The 56-year-old Sutherland tapped in on 17 after putting through the fringe on the par 5 and just missed another birdie on the difficult 18th to close out his second victory in his last three PGA Tour Champions starts and fifth overall. He won the Charles Schwab Championship in November in Phoenix.

Sutherland finished at 15 under, two ahead of Weir, three up on Steve Stricker and Scott Parel. Weir bogeyed two of the final three holes to 73.

Phil Mickelson’s bid to win his first three PGA Tour Champions starts came to a halt with a triple bogey on the par-4 ninth. He shot 73 to finish 11 shots back.