DeChambeau posts best-ever finish in a major; Morikawa’s connection to Fresno

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Bryson DeChambeau hits from the rough on the sixth hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

SAN FRANCISO, Calif. — Central Valley native Bryson DeChambeau is still looking for that first major triumph, but he took a big step towards eventually achieving that goal this week at TPC Harding Park.

DeChambeau posted his best-ever finish in a major (t-4th) at the 102nd PGA Championship, staged at the public golf course in the Bay Area. In 14 previous majors, Bryson had missed six cuts, with his best previous finish being a tie for 15th at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

“Finally was able to finish in the top 10, top 5 I hope in a major, and that’s an awesome accolade,” DeChambeau said. “Next step is to win. I feel like my game is good enough.”

For a while Sunday, looked like the Clovis East graduate might get that first major win. He started the day three shots back of overnight leader Dustin Johnson, but was 4-under through his first seven holes, which briefly tied him for the lead.

Unfortunately, a couple bogeys on holes 8 and 9 stifled that early momemtum, but after a couple of birdies on 14 and 16, he got back in the hunt on the back nine. He narrowly missed an eagle putt from 16-feet on 16 that would have again tied him for the lead. He closed with two pars after that, finishing with a Sunday 66 (-4), which left him a five-way tie for 4th (-10 overall).

DeChambeau is no stranger to winning on Tour, having won six times, including last month at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. But questions have lingered about whether he could get it done in golf’s biggest events. This top-5 result is validation that he’s headed in the right direction, after adding a bunch of strength and ball speed within the last year.

“It’s super validating. I don’t know how else to put it. Very excited for the future for me,” DeChambeau said. “Look, my driving I think is only going to get stronger and farther, golf-course dependent, obviously. But I hope in due time there’s going to be an advantage that’s out there that, you know, hopefully – I don’t know how else to put it in a nicer way, but gives me a really distinct advantage that helps me win a lot out here.”

DeChambeau earned $404,350 in prize money for his strong finish, and remains in 4th place in the season-long FedEx Cup standings.

It was another young star from California who ended up winning the title, UC Berkeley graduate Collin Morikawa. Morikawa used a chip-in for birdie on hole 14, and a memorable eagle on the short par-4 16th, to surge ahead on the back nine and win by two shots over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey.

Morikawa’s impressive performance — his weekend rounds of 65-64 for 129 set the lowest closing 36-hole score in PGA Championship history — has etched his name alongside some golf greats in the record book.

The 23-year-old became the third-youngest PGA Championship winner since World War II, behind only Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods won a PGA at 23 also.

He is also just the third player since 1970 to win a major in two or fewer major starts. His only previous major was a U.S. Open appearance last year.

And Collin has a connection to Fresno.

Before he became a PGA Tour star, Morikawa was a hot shot college freshman at Cal, who played in the 2015 Nick Watney Invitational at Fort Washington Country Club in Fresno. He finished at 8-under and tied for 6th in the annual college tournament hosted by Fresno State, after rounds of 67-69-69.

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