Collin Morikawa listened to a legend and changed his putting style – then went out and ranked last in putting. Despite the numbers he stuck solid to the new “saw” grip and a week later won his fourth PGA TOUR title – claiming his first World Golf Championship on a demanding course against the best of the best.
Branden Grace lost his father recently to COVID-19 complications. The South African thought of his old man fondly as he reached the final two holes of the Puerto Rico Open knowing he needed something big. An eagle hole out and birdie later and he was the champion.
Morikawa moved from 81st to 14th in the FedExCup with his elevated win while Grace rocketed from 125th to 42nd with his triumph.
Here are five stories you may have missed from the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession and The Puerto Rico Open.
1. Morikawa’s intellect may surpass his skill.
Collin Morikawa is an incredible talent. His ball-striking skills are to die for. But as has often been the case through history – those who strike it immaculately don’t always share the same skills on or around the greens. For all his class, the 24-year-old’s putting has been seen as his weakness. In fact Morikawa entered the week losing almost three quarters of a stroke per round in Strokes Gained: Putting this season – near last on the TOUR.
But Morikawa is an intelligent individual. So when he received advice on a saw grip and putting style from Wolf Golf Hall of Famer Mark O’Meara he took note and put it into practice – and importantly persevered longer than just one week. A week after ranking last at The Genesis Invitational he ranked 10th in the field at the WGC-Workday Championship, gaining +0.988 strokes per round on the greens.
This turnaround, combined with his usual ball-striking (Morikawa outperformed the field by +2.39 strokes per round in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, marking the fifth time in his career to lead an event on TOUR in this category), saw him cruise to a three-shot win on a course that saw 65 of 72 players hit at least one ball in the water and provided the highest final round scoring average (non-majors) of the season thus far (72.41).
He now has the most victories by a player currently under the age 25 and is the seventh player since 1945 to win four or more PGA TOUR events including a major (under 25 years old). He is the eighth player to win their first WGC title in three or fewer starts.
2. Branden Grace claims emotional win for Dad.
The Puerto Rico Open final round saw plenty of storylines emerge as a race for the title hit top gear on Sunday. Local hero Rafael Campos was in the mix and former Presidents Cup star Jhonattan Vegas was charging hard. But it was another former International Team member who felt the energy of two men coursing through his veins.
Branden Grace recently lost his father Peter to COVID-19 complications and was playing with both a heavy heart, but also a sense of destiny. He felt strength as the closing holes approached and despite being short-sided on the drivable par-4 17th in a greenside bunker Grace decided this was not the time for safety. He produced an incredible hole-out from the sand for eagle and looked to the sky. “Just give me that strength for one more hole,” Grace said. “Just a couple more good swings…”
He got his wish, made birdie on the last, and bested Vegas by one.
3. Golf world sees red for Tiger Woods.
The news that Tiger Woods suffered serious leg injuries in a single vehicle accident early last week shook the sports world. Thankfully the 82-time PGA TOUR winner survived a horrific crash and is reportedly in good spirits while recovering in a Los Angeles hospital.
Those spirits were lifted significantly more when players from multiple tours and sites wore Sunday red as Woods has done throughout his storied career. And it wasn’t just players. Fans, support staff, media and the entire maintenance crew at the Puerto Rico Open were among those who showed their love.
“It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the tv and saw all the red shirts. To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time,” Woods tweeted in response.
4. Tony Finau finds friendship with Jon Rahm.
When Tony Finau was stung by the pain of another close call at The Genesis Invitational there was an interesting person there to put an arm around the American as the playoff came to a finish. Jon Rahm stuck behind in fading light at Riviera Country Club and consoled his friend who just notched up a 21st top five in recent times without a win.
Turns out the pair have struck up a significant friendship in Scottsdale where Finau recently moved, and the Spaniard felt compelled to ensure loneliness was not one of the negative feelings Finau would need to combat in the hours following the loss to Max Homa.
In Florida this past few days the pair were reunited on the course as they both contended heavily at the WGC-Workday Championship and we learned more on this budding bromance.
5. Rafael Campos almost makes history.
Rafael Campos held a share of the 54-hole lead at the 13th running of the Puerto Rico Open giving rise to the hope the tournament could yield a local winner for the first time. But his birdie putt on the penultimate hole would hang agonizingly on the lip without dropping, effectively taking his chances with it, and the 32-year-old was left to celebrate his highest finish on the PGA TOUR rather than his first win.
As the only Puerto Rican on the PGA TOUR his T3 effort was worth celebrating, even amongst the disappointment of missing a golden chance to be not just the first local but the first Latino to win the tournament.
If nothing else, it was a great day for experience. Campos showed he had the ability to arrest a slow start and get back in the chase for a trophy late Sunday. He also learned the magnification of small errors down the stretch. But after mistakes on 12 and 13 Campos remained determined and hit the shots he needed to have a chance. He just didn’t make the putts.
“I’m really happy with my round today knowing I thought I was swinging poorly and hitting poor shots and I was able to kind of work my way around the course with mis-hits after mis-hits and actually post an under-par round,” Campos said. “That gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming tournaments.”
Where will he be next? His top-10 finish sees him in the mix at The Honda Classic.