SAN FRANCISCO – The best shot of his life, the shot that made Collin Morikawa a major champion, was never supposed to happen.
He knew the tee on the 16th at 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. But this was Sunday afternoon, right after Morikawa had chipped in for birdie to break out of a seven-way tie, and at this moment was tied again with Paul Casey.
“I knew I had to hit a good one,” he said.
The shot will be remembered as one of the best in a major that hardly anyone witnessed, not with spectators banned during the COVID-19 era for majors.
Morikawa hit driver on the 294-yard hole that was perfect in flight and even better when it landed, hopping onto the green and rolling to 7 feet for an eagle that all but clinched victory on a mostly quiet, chilly afternoon at Harding Park.
In the first major without spectators, the 23-year-old Californian finished with a bang. The chip-in for birdie, the tee shot for eagle, it added to a 6-under 64 and the best closing round by a PGA champion in 25 years, and a two-shot victory over Casey (66) and Dustin Johnson (68).
The only regret 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.'