Winner: Collin Morikawa
The college kids are getting their golf degrees faster and faster. Next, late in July, it was Collin Morikawa, just a month after getting his business degree at the University of California-Berkeley, winning the Barracuda Championship. And this in only his sixth start on the PGA Tour.
It was just three weeks earlier that Matthew Wolff, after leaving Oklahoma State, won the 3M Championship in his fourth start. Said Morikawa, in a masterpiece of youthful impatience: “It was something really special to finally get the win.”
The Barracuda, at the par-72 Montreux Golf and Country Club, was played under the modified-Stableford scoring system, based on points instead of strokes: zero for a par, two for a birdie, five for an eagle, eight for a double eagle, and deducting one for a bogey and three for a double bogey and worse.
And Morikawa’s finish, by whatever system, was sensational. He birdied his last three holes, closing with seven birdies against no bogeys for 14 points in the final round and a total of 47 for a three-point victory over Troy Merritt in the tournament played opposite the WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Morikawa, never more than four points off the lead, scored 13-7-13-14 points for his 47 total. In stroke play at the par-72 Montreux, that would read 66-69-66-65–266, 22 under.
That was no rookie-type performance Morikawa put on. He made only three bogeys in the entire tournament, one in each of the first three rounds. And he posted some impressive high points in each round. In the first round, he made six birdies over the last 11 holes. In the second, three birdies in four holes from the 10th, and in the third, five over seven holes from No. 7 And in the fourth, he made all seven over the last 13, and the last three in succession.
Morikawa was still playing catch-up in the final round. He birdied No. 6 from 17 feet, the par-five No. 8 on two putts from 21 feet and the 10th on a two-footer. The par-five 13th was deflating. He missed a birdie from five feet and the par left him three points behind Merritt. The tide started to turn at the par-four 14th. He birdied from seven feet. Then came his closing spurt. At the par-three 16th, he challenged a back pin into the wind and put his ball 10 feet away. He holed the putt. At the par-four 17th, he rolled in a 30-footer for another birdie. And at the par-five 18th, his four-iron second was just short of the green but close enough that he could putt at the pin some 30 feet away. His first went three feet by and he tapped in coming back for a third straight birdie, locking up his first win. “I think I’m ready,” the ex-college kid said. “This proves that I am ready. To get this first win off my back means a lot.”