RENO — Just over two months since Collin Morikawa graduated from Cal, he’s headed to the PGA Tour’s version of final exams.
So far, he is passing every test.
Morikawa capped off a dream summer Sunday when he birdied the last three holes and rallied to win the Barracuda Championship, making him the second player in the last month to go from college to a PGA Tour winner.
He couldn’t help but think about a recent dinner with Justin Thomas.
“He told me that we’re going to have expectations, we’re going to have goals that we’re going to set, and if you’re good enough, you’re going to get there at some point,” Morikawa said. “I didn’t know when that timetable would be.”
He closed with seven birdies against no bogeys in the modified Stableford scoring system, giving him 14 points in the final round at Montreux Golf and Club. That would translate to a 65, meaning Morikawa has averaged 66.83 in the final round of his six PGA Tour events since turning pro. The highest Sunday score was a 69 in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
While he was already assured of a PGA Tour card for next season with his good results, the victory gives him membership immediately, with his points retroactive. Morikawa is at No. 46 in the FedEx Cup, and he cracked the top 100 in the world ranking.
He still has the Wyndham Championship next week before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin.
“This win means everything to me, and to get into the playoffs is something special,” Morikawa said.
He finished with 47 points for a three-point victory over Troy Merritt, who had the lead on the back nine until the 22-year-old Morikawa made his final charge with four birdies over the last five holes. Merritt had a chance to win on the par-5 18th with an eagle, but his chip raced 12 feet by the hole and he missed the birdie putt. He finished with seven points in the round.
Robert Streb, tied for the lead after a birdie on No. 10, finished with eight pars and tied for third with John Chin.
Morikawa joins Matthew Wolff of Oklahoma State as players who have gone straight from college to their first PGA Tour victory. Wolff won the 3M Open in Minnesota three weeks ago, making an eagle putt on the final hole to beat Morikawa.
Two months ago, Wolff and Morikawa were competing in the NCAA Championships in Arkansas. They start next year on Maui in the winners-only Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“I think I’m ready. This proves that I’m ready,” Morikawa said. “To get this first win off my back means a lot. It’s going to open just a lot more confidence and doors for me, obviously.”
Morikawa earned $630,000, giving him $1,672,904 since graduating college just over two months ago.
The victory does not get him into the Masters, however, because the Barracuda Championship was held opposite a World Golf Championships event.
Morikawa began his move after having to settle for par — no points — on the par-5 13th, leaving him three points behind Merritt who was in the fairway behind him. Morikawa holed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 14th, and his best shot was on the par-3 16th, when he went at a back pin with a high cut into the breeze to 10 feet on the fringe and made the birdie putt.
His biggest shot was on the next hole when he holed a 30-foot birdie putt with enough pace that it might have gone some 6 feet by the hole. That set him up for the closing hole, where his 4-iron came up short of the green with a front pin, and he used putter to roll it to 2 feet for a tap-in birdie.
“It felt good to make that putt, but obviously I had one more hole to play,” Morikawa said. “There was a lot of points on the board left, and I knew I had business to do on 18. And I hit three good shots and was able to tap in for birdie.”