Golf

Tiger Woods ends 2019 U.S. Open with birdie barrage at Pebble Beach

Tiger Woods ends 2019 U.S. Open with birdie barrage at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH -- Through six holes Sunday at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods had people doubting if he wanted to be there. If the achy back he mentioned Saturday could hold up when it's not 75 and humid. 

There he was, walking off the sixth green after tapping in for the fourth bogey in his first six holes. He looked like he would rather be anywhere else than at a course he toyed with half a lifetime ago. 

But Woods, who couldn't get anything going all week, finally gave the crowd something to cheer about. 

In his patented Sunday red and black, Woods poured in a 13-foot birdie putt at No. 7. He followed it with a birdie at No. 8 to make the turn at 2-over for the day and the championship. 

After making four straight pars, Woods drained a 42-foot putt for birdie on No. 13, and then he stuck his approach shot on No. 14 to five feet for another birdie.

He was back to even, but the birdie train wasn't done.

Woods added another birdie to his scorecard at No. 16 after he laced a 7 iron to five feet. Then, he punctuated his back-nine flurry by sticking his approach on 18 inside four feet. He sank the birdie to putt to finish the tournament at 2-under-par after playing his final 12 holes in 6-under. It was his best U.S. Open score in 10 years. 

"I wish I would have known because I would have turned it around a little earlier than that," Woods said after his round Sunday. "Again, got off to another crappy start and was able to fight it off. Turned back around and got it to under par for the week which is -- normally it's a good thing, but this week the guys are definitely taking to it." 

After winning The Masters in April, the 43-year-old only has played three times since, and he won't tee it up again until The British Open next month at Royal Portrush. 

When asked if he thought he was still capable of going on major runs as he did in the early 2000s, Woods noted it's all about managing everything not just how he feels physically. 

"As I said, it depends on what -- you've got to figure out what works best for you," Woods said. "Mr. Hogan figured out what worked best for him. Jack figured out what worked best for himself. And it's about a 72-hole grind. It's a long grind and trying to manage yourself over those 72 holes, trying to miss the ball in the correct spots. It all adds up. It's not just a hot streak here and there. It's about doing the right things mentally as well as physically."

[RELATED: U.S. Open prize continues to elude Mickelson]

It was a grind of a week for Woods. He never was able to get anything going on Pebble's scoring holes (Nos. 1-7) and never was a factor in the championship. 

There was no 2000-esque romp to be had. No 2010-like top 10 to be found. 

The next time Pebble Beach hosts the U.S. Open will be in 2027. Woods will be on the other side of 50. Maybe he'll be able to contend then. Maybe he won't. 

There's no telling what eight years will bring to any of us, let alone a guy who's had four major back surgeries. Time has its own plan. 

So if Sunday was Woods' final major moment at Pebble Beach, he made sure the Tiger roars echoed across Stillwater Cove one last time. 

2020 PGA Championship was welcome gift to weary souls amid virus struggle

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2020 PGA Championship was welcome gift to weary souls amid virus struggle

The beauty of sports lies in its escapism. In its ability to lift spirits and make souls soar even amid the most trying times.

That escapism is among the many things the coronavirus pandemic has robbed of us over the past few months. Title chases and milestones were put on hold as we as a society were given our own championship moment.

One we as a country did not meet.

Asked to socially distance and mask up to stamp out a once-in-a-generation public health crisis, we instead allowed our political divisions to exacerbate the threat, leaving us with no option but to desperately wait for a vaccine to arrive and return us to normalcy.

While that biological white knight has yet to arrive, we were given a gift this past week, a welcome break from the daily anxiety-filled slog of fighting an invisible foe.

After 13 months away, major championship golf returned with the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park as the first championship event of the COVID-19 era.

For decades, golf’s majors have been used to mark the passage of time. Like everything else, that tradition was scrapped this year as the coronavirus ravaged the world.

The Masters, an annual ceremony to welcome spring, will now take place in November to signal the end of Autumn. The U.S. Open, a Father’s Day tradition, won't arrive until well past Labor Day.

The British Open, golf’s oldest major, was canceled outright.

Time is yet another aspect of normal life that has been rendered almost meaningless by this global pandemic.

Since the American sports world shut down March 12 and our struggle began, time has been both paused and accelerated. One day has bled into the next as we’re left with only simple daily edicts to follow, making life mundane and deflating as the lives we knew creep farther away from recent memory.

For years, the PGA Championship was golf’s forgotten major. “Glory’s Last Chance” had no identity except as the final hurrah of the golf season. It moved from August to May last year, in an effort to elevate to the same level as its peers.

But the 2020 PGA Championship, which 23-year-old Collin Morikawa won by outdueling the world’s best on Lake Merced, forever will be linked to this moment in history.

For the dazzling display of golf, no doubt. But more for the reprieve it delivered to a country lost adrift in a crisis it lacks the unity, leadership and fortitude to triumph over.

The first major of 2020, which kicks off a string of seven major championships in 11 months, had an odd feel. It was eerie to not hear thunderous applause welcome Tiger Woods to the tee box, and unnatural that roars did not echo off the cypress trees as Morikawa, a Cal alum, made his back-nine charge into the history books.

It was jarring and strange at first, we should expect nothing else in a time characterized by never-before-seen challenges. But it also undoubtedly was a major championship, one that gave everyone sitting at home crowded around their televisions something they desperately had been searching for. Something to, at least momentarily, make our fears and problems melt away. 

The tension at Harding Park was palpable from the opening tee shot Thursday. It was welcome tension. The kind that comes not from a daily existential dread while fighting to keep an invisible foe at bay, but the pressure that comes from watching golf’s best tested both mentally and physically with their legacies on the line.

The week was stuffed with storylines and loaded with high drama. TPC Harding Park a perfect host to welcome back major championship golf.

But at the end of the day, the 2020 PGA Championship gave us more than the return of major championship golf.

It gave our exasperated minds the opportunity to look toward the future, to see a path forward. It was a reminder that this too will pass. That crowds will once again flock to watch Woods stock major championships and marvel as Rory McIlory pummels drives at golf's most iconic theaters. The major moments we can witness in person no longer will be taken for granted because we will remember the time we were unable to take in San Francisco's municipal jewel as it tormented the best in the world.

[RELATED: Koepka's aura of invincibility shattered by reality at PGA]

The PGA Championship finally joined its counterparts as a major attached to meaning, with the 2020 edition serving as a defining moment of this era and a building block that, at least in some way, made us a little more whole.

It gave fresh meaning to tomorrow, presenting us with four days to view our next 24 hours not with anxiety and heartache, but with excitement, anticipation and hope.

Major championship golf arrived in one of our darkest hours, and it delivered a much-needed gift for our weary souls as a light in the darkest of times.

Collin Morikawa's PGA Championship win completes meteoric rise to stardom

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Collin Morikawa's PGA Championship win completes meteoric rise to stardom

The only mistake Collin Morikawa made Sunday came well after he outdueled the world's best to win the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park and etch his name into golf history in the process.

The 23-year-old star stood on the 18th green and lifted the Wanamaker Trophy high over his head, sending the topper flying off the body of the trophy and onto the firm grass that had served as a stiff test for the world’s best.

The topper was placed back on top of the trophy as the Cal product laughed, fully soaking in his major moment.

No harm, no foul.

Such was the case throughout Morikawa’s final round Sunday in which he fired a dazzling 6-under-par 64 to claim the year’s first major at 13-under-par, two shots ahead of Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey.

Fifteen months ago, Morikawa was at Cal’s commencement ceremony in Berkeley. Now, after winning in only his second major start, the No. 5 ranked golfer in the world has officially joined the ranks of golf’s upper echelon.

“I'm on Cloud Nine right now,” Morikawa said after securing his first career major title. “It's hard to think about what this championship means, and obviously, it's a major, and this is what guys go for, especially at the end of their career, and we're just starting. So, I think this is just a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum, and it just gives me a little taste of what's to come. I got a taste of this now.”

Morikawa entered the final round at TPC Harding Park at 7-under-par, two shots back of 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson. There 12 players, including Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau, who were within three shots of the lead when play began.

Major championship golf is a pressure cooker made to chew up and spit out those with the faintest hint of doubt. Many might have expected Morikawa, experiencing his first major Sunday in contention to go away early.

He faced trouble on the first when his approach shot spun back into the bunker giving him a tough up-and-down to remain at 7-under. But calm and steady, Morikawa pitched out to 23 feet and drained a bomb to save par.

After birdies at No. 3 and No. 4, Morikawa made another massive 26-foot putt to save par on No. 6. Major championships often are won not by crazy birdie barrages, but by round-saving and, in this case, title-saving pars.

Such was the case Sunday.

Morikawa made the turn at 2-under for the day and birdied No. 10 to jump into a tie for the lead.

As the tension ratcheted up down the stretch, it looked like the young star succumbed to the pressure when he left his approach shot at the Par-4 14th hole short, giving him a tricky up-and-down from 54 feet away.

But he didn’t buckle or bend. There were no nerves. Just a steely resolve.

Morikawa landed his chip on the fringe, it hopped once and slid into the bottom of the cup for a birdie three that gave him the lead by one with four to play.

A month ago, Morikawa stormed back to beat Justin Thomas at the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village. During that closing stretch, he drove the green on the short Par-4 14th hole, setting up a key birdie.

Sunday, he stood on the tee at TPC Harding Park’s drivable Par-4 16th hole tied for the lead after Paul Casey made birdie right in front of him.

With 278 yards to the front of the green and the Wanamaker Trophy in his sights, Morikawa pulled driver.

The shot fit his eye perfectly as he unleashed a mighty lash that sent his major hopes soaring through the thick San Francisco air. Had fans been in attendance the roar would have shaken the Earth as the ball landed in front of the green, bounced twice and rolled to seven feet, giving Morikawa a look at eagle.

As if he’d been there before, Morikawa stepped over the putt and sent it into the bottom of the cup, etching his name on the Wanamaker Trophy in a moment that will go down as one of the shots that defines this storied championship.

“I actually did,” Morikawa told CBS’ Jim Nantz when asked if he channeled the shot he hit at Muirfield on 16. “You know, 14 at Muirfield is pretty special and my caddie looked at me after I hit my shot on 16 and asked me the same exact question. It just fit my eye and we were just hoping for a really good bounce, we got it, made a good putt and now we’re here.”

The California cypress trees and Lake Merced were the perfect backdrop for Morikawa’s major coronation, serving as the theatre in which his meteoric rise from talented amateur to world-class golf star was completed.

With the win, Morikawa joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as the only players to lift the Wanamaker Trophy before age 24, and he was just the fourth player since 1934 to win a major in his second start.

[RELATED: Koepka's aura of invincibility shattered with does of reality at PGA]

Morikawa joined golf’s elite class in an area that he holds close to his heart, penning what looks to be the first of many chapters in the story he always felt he was destined to star in.

“Yeah, I feel very comfortable in this spot,” Morikawa said after hoisting the Wanamaker. “When I woke up today, I was like, this is meant to be. This is where I feel very comfortable. This is where I want to be, and I'm not scared from it. I think if I was scared from it, the last few holes would have been a little different, but you want to be in this position.

“And for me, like you said, like I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t stop here. I've got a very good taste of what this is like, what a major championship is like.”