INZAI CITY, Japan — Collin Morikawa called winning the Zozo Championship in Japan “incredible,” a special finish to the golfing year for an American player whose great-grandparents emigrated from the island nation.
Most important, though, was that it was a victory — any win, anywhere would have sufficed — after a 27-month winless streak on the PGA Tour that started prompting questions about the two-time major champion’s game.
The 26-year-old Californian answered Sunday, when he closed with a 7-under-par 63 for a six-shot victory at Narashino Country Club just outside Tokyo. Morikawa finished the 72-hole tournament at 14-under 266.
“It feels so good, I can’t even explain it,” Morikawa said of his sixth career victory on the PGA Tour. “I knew I was going to get here at some point. It’s like getting your first win, your first major.”
Morikawa said he realized that people were asking questions about why he had not won for so long, and that the victory was extra special because his wife, Katherine Zhu, was in the gallery and gave him a kiss as he walked off the 18th green.
“She hasn’t been to a win since — it’s been a long time since she’s actually been at the tournament since we won. So it’s nice to have her here,” he said.
Morikawa, known as one of the best iron players in the sport, added that he hadn’t done much to change his game but acknowledged “the thoughts in your head start piling up.” He said part of the challenge was not to overreact to losing.
This was his first PGA Tour victory since winning the British Open in July 2021 for his second major title — his first was at the 2020 PGA Championship — and he became the first American to finish as the European circuit’s No. 1 player when he won the DP World Tour Championship that November. Since then, he had not been able to close out another win.
“I had to really look back and ask myself what’s wrong,” he said. “What’s the reasoning behind finishing second — that versus a win. This win means the world, being in Japan and being half-Japanese. A lot has come through over the past week.”
Fellow American players Beau Hossler and Eric Cole shared second after each closed with a 70. Another player from the United States, Robby Shelton (65), tied for fourth with Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa (67) at 7 under, while four players were at 6 under: American golfer J.J. Spaun (68), Australia’s Min Woo Lee (65) and Japan’s Kensei Hirata (66) and Ryo Hisatsune (66).
American player Justin Suh had a one-stroke lead after 54 holes but closedwith a 74 and tied for 10th at 5 under with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (71).
Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell, the only one of the four Baylor School graduates on the PGA Tour who ventured to Japan to compete, closed with a 70 to share 21st place at par.
Morikawa is cleary at home in Japan. Though his connections are distant, local fans almost claim him as their own. He doesn’t speak the language, his mother’s roots are in Hong Kong, but he does carry a Japanese family name and an interest in learning more.
“I knew at the beginning of the week that the fans out here are obviously rooting for the Japanese players,” he said. “But I like to count myself as a part-Japanese player — so I felt the love.”
Crushers take LIV team title
DORAL, Fla. — Anirban Lahiri shot a 7-under 65 and Bryson DeChambeau delivered the theatrics on the back nine of the Blue Monster to lead the Crushers to a two-shot victory over the RangeGoats in the LIV Golf League’s team championship event at Trump National Doral Miami.
The scores from all four players on every team counted in the final event of LIV’s second season, and the Crushers were in control for almost all of the back nine Sunday, leading by four shots as the final group reached the 18th hole.
DeChambeau made only one par on the back nine and shot a 67. Charles Howell III had a 72 and Paul Casey had a 73.
Bubba Watson birdied the 18th for a 67 to lead the RangeGoats. Talor Gooch, who won the individual points title this season, and Thomas Pieters each had a 70, while Harold Varner III shot a 72.
The RangeGoats were still only two behind until Gooch put his tee shot on the 18th into the water, making a bogey and leaving the Crushers in a solid position. DeChambeau made his most remarkable birdie on the reachable 16th, where he hit long and left near the second green. He hit a high wedge over a concession area to about 18 feet and made the putt.
Lahiri played bogey-free for the low round among the four teams playing for the title.
The 4 Aces, last year’s champions, never had a chance, with Dustin Johnson closing with a 75 and only one player on their team breaking 70 as Peter Uihlein shot a 69. They finished last among the four teams, with Torque third.
Frazar wins Champions playoff
RICHMOND, Va. — Harrison Frazar earned his first PGA Tour Champions victory when he birdied the 18th hole for a 3-under 69 to force a playoff with Richard Green, then made an eight-foot birdie on the first extra hole at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.
Frazar wasn’t the only winner. Steve Stricker clinched his first Charles Schwab Cup title with two postseason events still to be played, even though he skipped the tournament.
Green also closed with a 69, helped by a 10-foot par putt on the 15th and an eight-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole. But he failed to birdie the 516-yard closing hole at Country Club of Richmond, opening the door for Frazar and Brett Quigley in the final group.
Quigley birdied the 16th and 17th, and he had a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole that he left inches short for a 71 to finish alone in third, one shot behind.
Frazar didn’t make his first birdie until the 11th hole, but he hit a superb wedge from 75 yards to short range for birdie on the 16th, and he two-putted for birdie from 40 feet on the 18th. Frazar and Green finished at 11-under 205.
Returning to the 18th for the playoff, both players missed the fairway. Green whiffed on his fairway metal, but it caromed out of the trees into the fairway and he hit his third to 30 feet. Frazar cleared the cross bunkers, and his long pitch spun back to eight feet below the hole.
The 52-year-old Texan clenched his fist when he saw it drop for birdie. His first PGA Tour Champions victory came 12 years after his lone win on the PGA Tour at the St. Jude Classic.
Meronk makes it a trio
SAN ROQUE, Spain — Adrian Meronk wanted to show his worth after not making Europe’s roster for last month’s Ryder Cup.
The 30-year-old from Poland proved some of his doubters wrong by winning the Andalucia Masters for his third DP World Tour victory of the season and the fourth of his career. Now he will move to third in the season-long Race to Dubai standings.
After the disappointment of not being picked for the team that defeated the United States in Italy, Meronk overcame two bogeys in his first three holes of the final round to close with a 6-under 66. He finished at 16-under 272 in the 72-hole tournament to earn a one-stroke win over Germany’s Matti Schmid (71) at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande.
Meronk followed up the slow start by making two eagles on the front nine, including a hole-out from 121 yards on the par-4 ninth. He then had four birdies on the back nine, including one on the par-3 17th to take the lead for good.
Lee vs. Lee on LPGA
SEOUL, South Korea — Australia’s Minjee Lee weathered a late rally by Alison Lee to eventually defeat the American on the first playoff hole and win the LPGA Tour’s BMW Ladies Championship.
Both players finished at 16-under 272 on the Seowon Valley Country Club course outside Seoul, forcing a playoff. Minjee Lee made a birdie at the par-4 18th after Alison Lee narrowly missed a birdie putt.
It was the 27-year-old’s 10th tour title and second win in her past three starts; she won the Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati in July.
Alison Lee is still searching for her first tour victory after mounting a strong comeback to force what had appeared to be an unlikely playoff after she made a bogey at the 16th to trail by two shots. Clutch birdie putts at the 17th and 18th, to go with five other birdies and two bogeys, helped her finish with a 67 and draw level with the Australian, who had five birdies and a lone bogey in her round of 68.
They finished at 16-under 272.