Cal Golf: What Chance Do the Experts Give Collin Morikawa at the PGA?

Photo by Aaron Doster, USA Today

Jeff Faraudo

Former Cal star Collin Morikawa, barely a month removed from his second professional victory, returns to the Bay Area this weekend to take his first shot at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

Morikawa, 23, has the confidence of golf experts, who include him among the short list of entries who could prevail in Sunday’s final round of the first major ever played in San Francisco.

— Kyle Porter of CBS Sports ranks Morikawa as his No. 15 pick to top a field that includes 48 of the world’s top-50 golfers.

— Alex Myers Golf World says Morikawa has the 11th-best chance of winning the PGA.

— And Nick Pietruszkiewicz, part of an panel tasked with picking a winner, gives the nod to the second-year pro from Cal.

Before we dig deeper into Morikawa’s chances, here is how you can watch this weekend’s tournament, given that spectators will be kept off the course due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

102nd PGA Championship TV schedule

— Thursday: 1 to 7 p.m. PT (ESPN)

— Friday: 1 to 7 p.m. PT (ESPN)

— Saturday: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT (ESPN;, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT (CBS)

— Sunday: 9 a.m. to noon PT (ESPN); noon to 6 p.m. PT (CBS)

Two-time defending champion Bruce Koepka will try to become the first golfer since legendary Walter Hagen to win three consecutive PGA titles. Hagen won five PGA crowns in the 1920s, including four in a row from 1924 through ’27.

Morikawa enters this week at No. 12 in the world rankings and No. 11 on the 2020 money list with $3,164,088. He scored his second career victory last month at the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

This will be a different challenge with the pressure of a major and elite players throughout the field.

CBS’ Porter picks Koepka to beat Justin Thomas for the PGA title but puts Morikawa at No. 15 on a list of his 20 best bets.

Here’s what Porter had to say about Morikawa:

Morikawa is right where I'd like him to be coming into this event and following his win at Muirfield Village over Justin Thomas a month ago: under the radar. The 23-year-old is already maybe the best tee-to-green player in the world. It will simply come down to whether he putts and whether he can mentally withstand a weekend while contending at a major. I suspect he can, and I hope we get to find out.

In fact, Morikawa ranks fourth on the strokes gained tee-to-green this season, behind Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia.

Myers of Golf World puts Morikawa at 30-to-1 to win. Here is his breakdown:

Reason to pick: Morikawa has been one of the best — and most consistent — golfers since turning pro last June, including a pair of victories. The Cal-Berkeley grad would like nothing more than to capture his first major not all that too far from his old campus..

Cause for concern: While the ball-striking machine currently leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained/approach, he ranks a woeful 172nd in strokes gained/putting.

Golf World also solicited the opinion of others and one unnamed caddie likes Morikawa’s chances:

Collin’s a West Coast guy, so he’s familiar with these conditions. He’s also one of the most consistent players tee-to-green, which gives him a huge advantage around a course which demands accuracy and precision.

ESPN’s Pietruszkiewicz understands that Morikawa faces a serious challenge, but he cites his reasons for picking him:

Why he'll win: Sure, he's 23. But have you seen him hit an iron? Or looked at his results this year? Or noticed the person he beat in a playoff to claim the Workday Charity Open? (That would be new world No. 1 Thomas.) You never know what's going to happen next in 2020, so it's time to think outside the box a bit for the winner of golf's first major in 13 months.

Morikawa will tee off Thursday at 8 a.m. in a group also including Herik Stenson and Zach Johnson.

Two other former Golden Bears will compete at Harding Park:

 Max Homa, who won the 2013 NCAA title while at Cal, tees off at 8:44 a.m. Thursday in a group with Louis Oosthuizen and Matt Fitzpatrick. Homa, 29, is ranked No 70 in the world this year. In his only previous PGA Championship, last year at Bethpage Black in Farmdale, N.Y., Homa tied for 64th place.

 Byeong Hun An goes off at 12:47 p.m. with Talor Gooch and Sungjae Im. Ranked No. 56 in the world this season, the 28-year-old is coming off a 12th-place tie last week at the St Jude Invitational in Memphis. This is his sixth PGA — he missed the cut in three of the previous five and his best finish was a tie for 28th in 2017.


*** Sports Illustrated's Ryan Asselta breaks down this weekend's PGA Championship:


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