First published in the Nov. 27 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
Collin Morikawa made history yet again in the golf world by winning the DP World Tour Championship and becoming the first American to claim the European Tour’s Race to Dubai title.
The La Cañada High School graduate who frequently played at the Chevy Chase Country Club trailed Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy — who led after three rounds — by three shots going into Sunday but didn’t buckle under pressure. After opening the fourth round with six consecutive pars, Morikawa made five birdies in his last seven holes to finish 6-under 66 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates and finished the European Tour season with 5,856.4 points — more than enough defeat fellow American Billy Horschel, who tallied 3,716.2 points.
Morikawa finished 17 under par for the tournament while McIlroy was 12 under total after bogeying in three of his final four holes. Swede Alexander Bjork and Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who won last year’s competition, tied for second place with 14 under.
“Starting off with six pars, especially with some birdie holes, wasn’t fun,” said Morikawa, who bagged $3 million with the victory. “I felt like I was hitting some good shots and wasn’t getting the breaks I needed. The putts weren’t dropping and I just told myself, when I looked at the leaderboard after nine, that I was still in there and I was still two or three back at that point and I just needed one spark.
“I knew something had to change. And [at hole] 12, [I] got a great break, thinning my second shot, made the putt and that got the momentum started.”
Prior to the tournament, Morikawa, who graduated from LCHS in 2015 and University of California, Berkeley, in 2019, the European Tour awarded the 24-year-old phenom with a lifetime membership — an honor that has been given to only four other American players: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Patrick Reed and Tom Watson.
“[It’s] very meaningful,” Morikawa said. “I’ve been a pro for two and half years and to already have honorary lifetime membership is an honor. I want to be a world player, and I’ve said that since day one. … What we do as professional golfers is obviously play golf but we learn about so many other things in the world and see how other people live, and we hope to just make a positive impact in any way we can.”
The four-time Rio Hondo League MVP has been riding a wave of success all year long, having won the WGC-Workday Championship in February and British Open Championship — his second major title — in July. He also tied for third in the Tokyo Summer Olympics but lost in a seven-man playoff for the bronze medal and bounced back to help the U.S. team win the Ryder Cup in September.
A grateful Morikawa was overcome with emotion after adding the DP World Tour Championship to his trophy mantle.
“We’re just so lucky to be with people that we have around us,” Morikawa, whose grandfather died earlier this year, said after the victory. “Just say thank you; just enjoy the time you have with people because you don’t know how much time you’re going to have.”
The former Pac-12 Conference player of the year said he plans to relax after the big win, but not for too long. Morikawa, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, said he wants to “win more” and that this cap to his remarkable year is only the beginning.
“It’s not a swan song, a farewell to what I’m doing in 2021,” he said. “I’m going to set my goals high; I’m going to set the bar as high as I can get and keep going. I’m still not No. 1 in the world. I still have a lot to work on my game. … I just want more.”