BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — 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.
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.”