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PGA Weekly Countdown: Is Morikawa Golf’s Future Star?

“FORE” Questions from the PGA Championship

1. Is Collin Morikawa the New Face of Golf?

Cue back to the movie “42” about Jackie Robinson coming up to the Major Leagues. Coach Leo Durocher told his team in a meeting about Robinson playing: “And think about this when your heads hit the pillow tonight. He’s only the first, boys. Only the first. There’re more comin’ every day and they have got talent and they want to play. “

This is exactly how to put it with Morikawa and where the game is going. He alone is not the new face of golf…he’s just one of them. They’re coming. A lot of them. First it was Rory. Then it was Jason Day. Then Jordan Spieth. Next, Brooks Koepka. Now Morikawa is the flavor of the month. More of them are on their way. You saw it playing out at the PGA Championship. There was Matthew Wolff. There was Scottie Scheffler. There was Cameron Champ. And just wait until Victor Hovland starts to peak. Oh yeah, let’s not forget Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm who just happen to be in their 20s and ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world. Add Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele to the list of 20-something year olds rising. And there’s more coming, folks. We’ll be adding several more on this list at this time next year.

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are two of the greatest to ever play, and what gets overlooked sometimes is how they grew the game. Jack helped bring out a new era, an era in which Tiger and Phil played in. The game got deeper and more international. Now, Tiger has helped bring out the current era developing. It’s even deeper than the era of 20 years ago, even more international, and even younger and hungrier. There is new and young talent coming up every day. Twenty years from now, guys like Morikawa and Wolff will have inspired the next era.

There will never probably be another Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods who dominate their generation. There will be a bunch of them competing against each other. Morikawa is probably going to win a few more majors. So, too, will Matthew Wolff and Victor Hovland. Morikawa’s face is part of a bigger face of golf which includes a lot of young growing stars.

2. What odds would you put at Tiger Woods catching Jack Nicklaus in Majors?

The hourglass is getting thin. Very thin. Time is running out. It shot up from about 1% to 50% after his Masters win last year, but given how the last 15 months have transpired, I’d put it around 10% now. A lot has happened since April 2019. For starters, he lost a major this year with The Open. Secondly, his body seems to be stiffening up way too much and it’s cost him playing time. Third, father time is not on his side. I don’t expect him to contend at Winged Foot where he missed the cut in 2006. I don’t even know if there’s going to be a Masters in November. And in December, he’ll be turning 45 years old. Not to mention he only plays part-time nowadays.

Which brings me to the next point: I don’t know if the drive is still there. He seems content resting his back and spending time with his family, and in his own words, he’s changed his priorities in life. Getting to 18 is not the obsession like it used to be, nor should it be. In order for him to play into his 50s, he is going to have to take a step back from how he used to play. The procedure he had done on his back saved his career, but it would end it just as quickly if he went at it too hard and overdid it.

All that said, Tiger didn’t play all that bad at Harding Park. A final round 67 gave him a top-30 finish and some confidence moving forward as he enters the FedEx Cup Playoffs. What was missing at the PGA? The putter. It was a mess. Tee to green he played well, but he couldn’t convert the birdie putts he needed to contend.

3. Who was the Biggest Surprise and Biggest Disappointment?

Surprise: Matthew Wolff. I expected Collin Morikawa to contend. I didn’t think fellow young superstar and future rival Wolff would. For the most part of the tournament, Wolff was out of contention. He stook at just 1-under par through two rounds but then shot 66-65 on the weekend. What’s even more mesmerizing is really how close Wolff was to shooting a much lower score on Sunday. He missed three putts under five feet on the back 9. If he makes those, he would have gotten it to 13-under.

Wolff may be closer to breaking out and winning a major than we think and Morikawa’s win will likely only motivate him more. He and Morikawa would make the perfect rivalry given their styles. Wolff has the crazy swing, the more vibrant temperament and long-hitting power. Morikawa has the iconic and traditional swing, calm temperament, and isn’t as long as the others. A Wolff major at the U.S. Open or Masters would be great for the game and definitely start the rivalry earlier than we thought.

Disappointment: Rickie Fowler. There was hope after three rounds last week where he was in contention to win the WGC-St. Jude Invitational, but instead, he missed the cut and exited the PGA Championship early. For Fowler, this is unfortunately the new story for him. His best finish thus far this season is a T10, his only top-10, and he’s missed five cuts in his last nine events. Once ranked in the top-10 in the world a year ago, he’s fallen out of the top-30 and will likely only continue to drop if his play doesn’t improve. What once seemed like an automatic that he would win a major has all of a sudden turned into a big question mark.

While we’re at it, let’s add Brooks Koepka to the disappointment list, although maybe not so much for his play. He was tied for the lead at 9-under after 48 holes. He then played the final 24 holes in 6-over par and plummeted down the leaderboard. Koepka’s comments after round 3 drew a lot of ire from fellow players and he failed to back up his talk. Koepka seemed to take a shot at Dustin Johnson for having just one major and the other players at the top, saying they didn’t have the experience he does in winning them.

While his comments may have been true, they came across as cocky and arrogant and it led Rory McIlroy to call him out. To Koepka, if you’re going to make that statement, that’s fine. But you better back it up come Sunday. You didn’t.

4. Who is on the outside looking in this week?

A stronger than normal field is set up at The Wyndham Championship this week where players will try and not only get inside the top-125 to qualify for The FedEx Cup Playoffs next week, they will also try and get closer to the top-70 and top-30 so they can advance after the first and second week. Traditionally, the playoffs are four weeks, but it was cut to three last year. Therefore, some of the players further back in the standings are playing this week in North Carolina.

On the outside looking in right now? Zach Johnson (129), Shane Lowry (131), Sergio Garcia (134), Danny Willett (143), Jason Dufner (172), and Jim Furyk (179). All these players will need to have strong finishes to make the top-125 and qualify for The Northern Trust Open. Justin Rose (103), Jordan Spieth (94), Brooks Koepka (92), and Tommy Fleetwood (88) currently sit outside the top-70 and would currently not qualify for the second week of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Three Foods for Thought

1. What a Return

There may be no fans, but since the return from the coronavirus, golf has seen some of the most incredible finishes. We’ve seen champions such as Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Collin Morikawa. We’ve had fantastic finishes with incredible drama on the back 9. Then a major championship where seven guys were tied for the lead with just a few holes to go, only to be broken open by a 23-year old who chipped in from the fairway and then hit the drive of his life, landing to five-feet and resulting in an eagle.

You couldn’t really ask for much more than what we’ve gotten, and as a result, even without Tiger Woods on the front page, golf’s ratings are as high as they’ve ever been. Last week, it showed more people were watching The FedEx St. Jude Invitational over the weekend than the NBA and Major League Baseball. This past weekend, the PGA Championship topped the NBA and MLB again. With finishes like these, we shouldn’t be shocked.

2. Winged Foot is no Harding Park

The U.S. Open will be played at Winged Foot Country Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. While the PGA Championship did a great job of featuring a mix of birdie opportunities and par-grinding par-4s, the U.S. Open will be quite different. There really aren’t many birdie opportunities at Winged Foot. The last time the U.S. Open was played there, the winning score was 5-over par. It is most remembered as the Open that slipped away from Phil Mickelson. Going to the 18th hole with a one-shot lead, Mickelson sliced his drive far to the left and into the trees. Instead of laying up, Phil went for the gusto. His second shot proceeded to hit a tree and bounced backwards. He ended with a double-bogey, losing by a shot to Geoff Ogilvy. It is very likely the most painful of the five runners-up Mickelson has in the Championship.

It’s not quite sure what the setup will be like next month, but after last year’s birdie barrage at Pebble Beach, I would expect the USGA to make it a challenge. This is after all the course that got nicknamed “The Massacre at Winged Foot” in 1974 when the winning score was +7 and just three players ended up with a score better than +12.

3. Dustin Johnson’s Streak Continues

Dustin Johnson has a major championship, but it was one when he won from behind and outside the final pairing. When playing in the final group of a major on Sunday, Johnson is now 0-6. He is 0-4 when having the 54-hole lead in a major. There wasn’t a penalty that cost him a playoff this time or a three-putt on the 18th that took the trophy out of his hands or a trainwreck 82 at Pebble Beach. This time, it was just the fact that he got nothing going on Sunday and somebody simply played better. He still shot a 68 filled with 15 pars. The birdies just weren’t there like they were on Saturday.

Two Picks for the Wyndham Championship

Webb Simpson

Simpson is from North Carolina and already won in South Carolina earlier this year. He finished second a year ago at the Wyndham Championship. He also has six top-10s and two wins in his last 13 starts. He had put himself in contention on Saturday at the PGA Championship only to stall out and hit the reverse pedal on Sunday. He still should have a great chance to win close to home.

Brendon Todd

The two-time winner this year has been as consistent as anyone. He has contended multiple times over the last month, including at the PGA Championship last week. However, he couldn’t get anything going on the weekend to thrust himself with the others at the top. Todd should play well in a field like this and looks to improve his FedEx Cup Standing.

One Final Word

What a PGA!

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