Golf

Collin Morikawa’s consistency landed a maiden major as Brooks Koepka’s ‘bully boy’ tactics backfired

David Livingstone reflects on a thrilling PGA Championship and pays homage to golf’s emerging superstar in Collin Morikawa, while Brooks Koepka had humble pie for his Sunday evening meal.

The meanest gunslingers in golf rode out west for the first big shootout of the year but it was a skinny local kid who ran them out of town with a single shot.

A bit like Billy the Kid, Collin Morikawa took out a whole bunch of them when the going got tough in the battle of Harding Park. But unlike the 19th century outlaw, Collin the Kid beat them all fair and square with one dramatic shot that secured the PGA Championship an hour before the end of play.

What Morikawa did on the 16th hole on Sunday, when he drove the green and holed the eagle putt, simply added another line to the statement of intent he’s been posting since arriving in the professional ranks 14 months ago.

When “bully boy” Brooks Koepka was calling out his rival Dustin Johnson on Saturday night for being a leader who’d won only one major when in contention, he overlooked the youngster who’d only played in one.

As Koepka stumbled through his final round towards a dinner of humble pie, Morikawa hung around a leaderboard so crowded it almost made up for the lack of spectators.

By the time he delivered his decisive blow on 16, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas were all on their way home, probably expecting to hear that Johnson or Jason Day had won. When they discovered 23-year-old Morikawa had joined their exclusive majors club, I bet they all felt old, even Thomas and McIlroy.

Rory certainly sounded as if he was feeling his age when he reflected on his week and said: “Maybe I’m just not as good as I used to be.” It was a throwaway remark and delivered with tongue in cheek, but it surely revealed his frustration about another barren week at a major championship.

Beyond his own disappointment, he expressed concern about Koepka’s barbed comments about Johnson before Sunday’s final round.

Rory talked about the need for players to be respectful towards each other, especially major champions, but, just in case that didn’t hit the mark, he quickly broke his own rule by reminding everyone that Johnson had won three times as many tournaments as Koepka.

Don’t expect Brooks to take much notice. He’s enjoying his new and unexpected role as a media favourite who’s not frightened to say what he thinks about anything, including his rivals and long may it continue.

Golf needs the likes of Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed as much as it needs new young squeaky-clean major winners like Morikawa. A bit of honesty and arrogance never did sport any harm.

For the moment, Morikawa has a very large trophy that does all the talking for him but it will be interesting to see how his personality develops as he grows into his role as a major champion.

Inevitably, he’s being hailed as golf’s latest superstar but he’s a long way from being that right now. It was significant that when Nick Dougherty asked Paul McGinley what was so special about the new champion, Paul said it was his consistency.

It made me think about another Irish Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington, who once said in his inimitable style: “Consistency is overrated.”

Certainly, those of us who like our heroes to be in the swashbuckling mould of Seve or Tiger are not likely to get over-excited about someone who is merely consistent, but we’ll get out of our seat for a player who takes out his driver and sets up an eagle on a par-four in the closing stages of a major as Morikawa did when a birdie or par might have been good enough.

Strange that, in a week when Tiger said he was running out of majors because they were building bigger, stronger golf courses for bigger, stronger players, a moderate-hitter with a moderate temperament should steal the show from all the stars who started the week with great expectations.

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