WATCH: Why Collin Morikawa’s epic drive on No. 16 will be an all-time moment in PGA Championship history

Collin Morikawa is 23 years old and just getting started with his professional career, yet he’s already a major champion. And in winning the 2020 PGA Championship, he lived up to his reputation as one of the elite ball-strikers on the PGA Tour with a relatively limited number of events under his belt.

Hole No. 16 at TPC Harding Park was one of two drivable par-4s on the par-70 track this week, and Sunday’s pin placement on the right side of the green just beyond the greenside bunker provided the ultimate risk-reward calculation. Stretching to 294 yards, players had to feel confident not only in their distance but their accuracy in order to set themselves up for an eagle opportunity. With the wrong line, one could end up clipping the trees on the right; with the wrong distance, one could end up in the sand or the thick and penal rough surrounding the green. 

Bryson Dechambeau took aim just before Morikawa reached the No. 16 tee, burning the edge of the green and hanging on to the top lip of the bunker. DeChambeau’s putt from the fringe didn’t drop, but he tapped in for birdie to join a five-way tie for the lead at 10-under par, one shot back of Morikawa. 

So here’s the setup. You’re 23 years old, tied for the lead up one stroke over five players — a group that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau — with three holes to go at the PGA Championship. Morikawa could have played it safe with a layup, leaning on the same kind of wedge shot he holed at No. 14 to take the lead, but he took aim at the pin one of the greatest shots in major championship history.

Morikawa pulled his driver and landed the ball just short of the green. After a favorable bounce, it wound up snug, 7 feet from the pin.

“It just fit my eye. We were just hoping for a really good bounce,” Morikawa said after the round. “We got it, hit a really good putt, and now we’re here.” 

One of the few spots of concern in Morikawa’s scouting report has been his putting. When he fell short of Tiger Woods’ record of made cuts after joining the PGA Tour, it was his work on the green that contributed to missing out on history. Morikawa always argued that made cuts streak wasn’t a big deal, and maybe after it was broken we’ve seen him take the next step in his professional evolution. He bested Justin Thomas in a playoff at Muirfield Village with confidence in his swing and his putter, and when the championship was on the line with that 7-foot eagle putt, there as no hesitation or doubt from the newly-crowned major champion. 

A big theme of Sunday was recognizing how the golf’s newest stars were right there with established winners like Day, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose. But while Matthew Wolff, Cameron Champ and even DeChambeau have gotten more headlines prior to this week, none of them are a major champion like Collin Morikawa.

When we talk about the youth movement and the future of golf, the conversation should start with Morikawa and moments like his epic shot at No. 16 in the 2020 PGA Championship.

And when the PGA of America rolls back reels of the best shots ever made at its major championship, you can bet Morikawa’s drive on No. 16 will be in the highlight package.

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