SAN FRANCISCO — The best golf shot of his life, the swing that made Collin Morikawa a major champion, was never supposed to happen.
He knew the tee on the 16th hole at TPC Harding Park would be moved forward at the PGA Championship. He said during practice rounds that wouldn't tempt him to go for the green. This was Sunday afternoon, though, right after Morikawa had chipped in for a birdie to break out of a seven-way tie, and at the moment he was tied again with Paul Casey.
"I knew I had to hit a good one," Morikawa said.
The shot will be remembered as one of the best under pressure that hardly anyone was there to see in person. It made him the winner of a thrill-a-minute PGA Championship not many will forget.
Morikawa used his driver on the 294-yard hole to hit a shot that was perfect in flight and even better when it landed, with the ball hopping onto the green and rolling to seven feet away from the cup for an eagle that all but clinched victory on a most quiet afternoon.
In the first major tournament without spectators, two months after the PGA Tour returned to competition amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 23-year-old Californian finished with a bang.
"I was hoping for a really good bounce and got it," he said. "I hit a really good putt, and now we're here."
He closed with a 6-under-par 64, the lowest final round by a PGA Championship winner in 25 years, to finish at 13-under 267 and secure a two-shot victory over Paul Casey (66) and Dustin Johnson (68), two of 10 players who had a chance on the back nine.
The only regret for Morikawa was the lack of a roar this shot deserved. He had no idea how good it was until he got closer to the green.
"This is one time I really wish there were crowds," he said with a broad smile. "I was just praying for a straight bounce and then after it bounced, it kind of got behind a tree that we couldn't see around the corner. So once it bounced, I was like 'OK, I will take it anywhere.'
"I peeked around right and looked around the tree, and it looked really, really good."
Morikawa was among seven players tied for the lead, as wild as any Sunday in a major. He moved to the top of the board when he chipped in for birdie from 40 feet short of the 14th green, then delivered the knockout with one swing along the shores of Lake Merced.
The pandemic moved the PGA Championship from May to August, with the tournament allowed to be played in San Francisco only if spectators were not present. There was one person who won't forget what he saw, though.
Casey, in his first real chance at a major title, had birdied the 16th to tie Morikawa for the lead. Standing on the tee at the par-3 17th, he looked back and watched the ball roll toward the cup.
"What a shot," was all the Englishman could say. "Nothing you can do but tip your cap to that. Collin had taken on that challenge and pulled it off. That's what champions do."
Just more than a year ago, Morikawa was in the vicinity of Harding Park, finishing up his degree and his NCAA All-America career at California, part of a new cast of young stars in a sport filled with them. He played the course about a dozen times while in college, but never set up with rough like this, the tees all the way back or the globe's best golfers trying to beat him.
Now he has three PGA Tour victories and is No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"Those are moments I'm always going to remember," said Morikawa, who became the sixth player to capture this major before turning 24.
For Johnson, it was another major that got away. He had a one-shot lead and didn't do too much wrong in the final round except fail to keep the ball in the fairway for better chances of birdie. He drove into the hazard on the 16th and chipped in for birdie when it was too late, and a birdie on the 18th gave him a tie for second.
It was his fifth runner-up finish in one of golf's four biggest events — his only major title is the 2016 U.S. Open — and his second straight second-place showing in the PGA Championship.
Five players shared fourth: Australia's Jason Day (66), Bryson DeChambeau (66) — who dropped two shots at the turn and never caught up until it was too late — Tony Finau (66), Scottie Scheffler (68) and Matthew Wolff (65), who grew up with Morikawa in Southern California and turned pro last summer with him.
England's Justin Rose (67) was alone in ninth at 9 under. Cameron Champ, among eight players who had a share of the lead at some point, lost momentum with a double bogey at the turn, closed with a 70 and shared 10th place with Joel Dahmen and Xander Schauffele, who each shot a 67.
Harris English (66) tied for 19th at 5 under for the best finish of the three Baylor School graduates in the event, with Keith Mitchell (72) tied for 43rd at par and Luke List (70) tied for 51st at 1 over.
Brooks Koepka, trying to win the tournament for the third straight year, proved to be all talk. He looked at the crowded leaderboard on Saturday night and didn't see anyone with his experience of four major championships, even dissing Johnson because he has "only won one."
Koepka didn't make a birdie until the 12th hole. He went from two shots behind to a 74 and tied for 29th.
"It's my first bad round in a major in a while," said Koepka, who said he spent the back nine mostly trying to cheer on Casey and his bid to win a first major at age 43.
Youth rules these days.
Morikawa, in only his 28th start as a pro and his second major, played bogey-free golf. His only mistake was at the end, when it was time to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy, the heaviest hardware among the four major prizes. The lid came off and tumbled to the grass as Morikawa's eyes bulged.
If that was his only mistake, consider it a successful day. A major success.
Emotional win in England
WARE, England — An emotional Andy Sullivan ended a wait of almost five years for his fourth European Tour title as he recorded a seven-shot victory Sunday at the English Championship.
After heading into the final round at Hanbury Manor with a five-shot advantage, the 33-year-old Englishman's lead shrank to just two as Spain's Adrian Otaegui moved into contention.
But while his challenger faltered over the closing stages on the way to a 5-under-par 66, Sullivan — who had an eagle on his second hole — recorded four birdies on the back nine to shoot a 65 and finish at 27-under 257 overall.
The victory was his first on the European Tour since the 2015 Portugal Masters and his first since the birth of his son and the deaths of both his 24-year-old brother-in-law as well as a close friend. Tears flowed as Sullivan was greeted by his family via video on a laptop set up off the 18th green after he finished the round.
"It means a lot to do that for them," Sullivan said of his brother-in-law and friend. "It's just nice for my family, to win for my little boy who's only 2 years old. It's just nice for him to see Daddy being successful. He hasn't quite seen that."
Denmark's Rasmus Hojgaard (64) was third at 19 under.
Ko falters, Kang triumphs
SYLVANIA, Ohio — Five shots behind with six holes to play, Danielle Kang won for the second straight week in the LPGA Tour's return to competition when Lydia Ko made a double bogey on the final hole in the Marathon Classic.
The 27-year-old American began her rally with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes at Highland Meadows Golf Club, and then all she needed were pars the rest of the way for a 3-under 68, all because of Ko's shocking collapse.
Ko, a 21-time winner on the LPGA Tour and a former world No. 1, was poised to end two years and 44 tournaments without a victory. The 23-year-old South Korean made a bogey on the 14th hole, and with Kang's birdies, the lead suddenly was down to two. Ko dropped another shot on the 16th, then caught a break when Kang was in position for birdie on the par-5 17th and had to settle for a par.
On the closing par 5, though, Ko fell apart as she missed the putt that would have forced a playoff and wound up with a 73.
Kang, who finished at 15-under 269, earned her fifth LPGA Tour win seven days after her fourth, the LPGA Drive On Championship at nearby Inverness Club in Toledo. England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff (67) shared second with Ko, and they were one shot ahead of Australia's Minjee Lee (68), who finished eagle-birdie.
American teen goes distance
ROCKVILLE, Md. — California teenager Rose Zhang won the longest U.S. Women's Amateur title match in 54 years, denying Gabriela Ruffels a repeat victory when the 20-year-old Australian missed a three-foot par putt on the 38th hole.
Neither player led by more than 2 up the entire 36-hole match, and they halved the last five holes of regulation with pars to force extra holes for the first time since 2001.
The 17-year-old Zhang, who has committed to play at Stanford, sent it to overtime with a clutch flop-and-run shot from the rough about 40 yards away on the 18th hole at Woodmont Country Club to tap-in range.
On the first extra hole, Zhang missed a 12-foot putt for the win. On the 38th hole, Ruffels went just beyond the green from the rough and hit a good pitch that put the ball about three feet from the cup. Zhang missed her birdie putt, and then Ruffels' par putt to extend the match spun around the cup.
Ruffels, who plays for the University of Southern California, was trying to become the first back-to-back winner of this United States Golf Association event since Kang in 2011.