Get used to Collin Morikawa taking PGA by storm

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SAN FRANCISCO — “It doesn’t stop here.’’

Those four words were innocuous by nature in Collin Morikawa’s victory press conference Sunday evening while he regaled media members about becoming only the fourth player to win a PGA Championship before age 24, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

It doesn’t stop here.

Those four words opened a door into the 23-year-old’s soul after his final-round 64 to win by two shots at TPC Harding Park — a game city-owned public course that also proved to be a star this past week — had sucked the life from Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Tony Finau and the other players who had to chance to win Sunday.

Morikawa’s message was simple: He’s not going anywhere. This win won’t define his career, nor will it be the only thing for which he’s remembered.

The four words were so spot on if you know anything about Morikawa, and they were delivered not in a cocky, off-putting way, but with a quiet, humble confidence. That’s a gift, too.

“I’ve got a very good taste of what this is like, what a major championship is like,’’ said Morikawa, who 14 months ago was still a student at Cal-Berkeley and was playing in his second career major championship this past week. “The majors are going to be circled, just like everyone else [does], but I’ve got to focus on every single week.

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Collin Morikawa poses with the Wanamaker Trophy.AP

“I’m trying to win every single week. I’m not trying to come out and just win the majors [a veiled message to Koepka?]. I’m 23. This is my first full year. This haven’t even been a full year with everything going on.’’

Morikawa’s year — really the past two-plus months — has been dizzying.

In June, at the PGA Tour’s first tournament back after the coronavirus pandemic pause, he missed a 7-foot putt on the 72nd hole that would have all but given him victory at Colonial and then missed a 3-foot putt to lose to Daniel Berger in a playoff.

Morikawa handled that defeat with utter aplomb, acting and speaking like a seasoned 43-year-old Tour veteran who’d been there and done that, not a 23-year-old who could have been crushed by the loss.

A month later, he defeated current No. 1-ranked player Justin Thomas in a playoff at Muirfield for his second career PGA Tour victory.

And then there was Sunday at Harding Park. As if anyone needed any validation of the kind of sustainable star this guy figures to be.

“I’ve believed in myself since Day 1,’’ Morikawa said.

He referenced a 2019 press conference at the Travelers Championship when he and three other rising young stars — Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Justin Suh — conducted a press conference together.

“I just told everyone we all believed since Day 1 that we can do this,’’ Morikawa said. “I haven’t let up from that.’’

Of that group of incredible talent — don’t forget that Wolff nearly stole the Wanamaker Trophy with a scorching final round 65 Sunday to post 10-under in the clubhouse — Morikawa likely will be the steadiest, most consistent and enduring presence on major championship leaderboards in years to come

That’s his makeup. Physically, he doesn’t have a weakness in his game. And mentally, he’s so down-to-earth, mature and unflappable.

“I’m in awe still watching him play,’’ Morikawa’s caddie, J.J. Jakovac said. “All my caddie friends say the same thing. They’re like, ‘I just cannot get over how mature your guy is.’ He’s like an old soul.’’

Morikawa referenced a dinner he had with Thomas as an educational turning point.

“He told me, ‘If you’re good enough, you’re going to be out here at some point,’ ’’ Morikawa recalled. “And I already felt good enough. I just had to have the starts. I had to have those opportunities. I was like, ‘Why not take advantage of these?’ ”

So he did. And here we are. Fewer than 15 months into his professional career, Morikawa already is ranked No. 5 in the world and is a major championship winner.

“When you feel you’re ready, you’re ready,’’ Morikawa said. “But to be in the conversation with those guys [Jack, Tiger, Rory], it’s very special … and yeah, I’m ready for the next.’’

“Next.’’

It doesn’t stop here.

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