It was a complete sweep for the No. 2 golfer in the world, Collin Morikawa, on Sunday in Dubai. Morikawa took the DP World Tour Championship by firing a 6-under 66 in the final round, and in doing so became the first American to win the European Tour's season-long Race to Dubai.
Morikawa, who led the Race to Dubai coming into the week and was nearly assured of winning it going into Sunday barring something disastrous, closed like we've become accustomed to him closing.
A tepid start on the front nine in the final round continued an equally-tepid close to Round 3. Morikawa made just one birdie in a 23-hole stretch from the middle of Round 3 to the middle of Round 4, but he made five in his last seven holes to shoot 31 on the second nine on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. It was enough to beat Matt Fitzpatrick and Alexander Bjork by three each.
"Starting off with six pars, especially with some birdie holes, wasn't fun," Morikawa said. "I felt like I was hitting some good shots and I wasn't getting the breaks I needed. The putts weren't dropping, and I just told myself when I looked at the leaderboard after nine that I was still in there and I was still two or three back at that point and I just needed one spark."
He got hot late, and started pouring putts in when winning time rolled around. It brought to mind his quote after the Open Championship about how he knows he's not a great putter but he also believes he's a great putter in situations with immense pressure. Morikawa finished in the top 15 in strokes gained putting on the week and was his usual ball-striking robot self throughout.
Despite finding a spark on the second nine, Morikawa was actually tied with Rory McIlroy with just a few holes to go, and it looked like it would come down to the end between those two. However, Morikawa put it to the floor and poured in a long birdie on No. 17 and had an easy two-putt for birdie at No. 18 while McIlroy played the last four in 3 over and faded to a tie for sixth. It looked afterward like he was pretty displeased with that outcome.
It was a test of endurance for Morikawa, who was good in the first two days with back-to-back 68s but then stalled a bit at the end of Round 3 with 12 straight pars to end his round on a course where you have to take it deep for a week straight to secure a trophy. On Sunday, he did what he's done in his two major wins as well. He came from behind with a score in the mid-60s and left the rest of the field in his wake. In his five stroke-play wins, Morikawa has shot scores of 66-64-69-66-66 in the final round. That's a 66.2 scoring average.
The list of players who have won the Race to Dubai (the European Tour's version of the FedEx Cup) is significant and includes nearly every globally important European Tour player of the last quarter century. Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Collin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and McIlroy are all on the list, but Morikawa is the first American.
"It's special, it's an honor, really, to be the first American to do that on The European Tour to put my name against many, many great Hall of Famers, it's special," Morikawa said. "I get touched up just talking about that.
"Like I said, two years ago, it wasn't my thought. It was, 'Yeah, let's go play around the world,' but we didn't know what the cards were going to be dealt. To have this chance and finally close it out, and not just closing it out with a top 10 or something, but to actually win the DP World Tour Championship, which concluded with the Race to Dubai, not a better way to finish."
The primary reason Morikawa, who does not play a European Tour schedule, was leading the Race to Dubai going into this week is because of the titles he took earlier this year that counted toward the European points race. The WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession and of course the Open Championship.
Morikawa has now played 60 events as a professional and has six overall wins, four runner-up finishes, 24 top 10s, two majors, $18.5 million earned, just five missed cuts, and oh yeah, he finished 3-0-1 at the Ryder Cup this year. Rewind 30 months, and he was still an amateur. Now? He's had a hall-of-fame career.
"Yeah, look, the way my head is wired, I'm always looking for what's next, but I'm going to try to enjoy this one," Morikawa said. "This one is special; it's at the end of the year. I've got one more event left, but I'm going to try to enjoy this one as much as I can."
It's been a year that seems like it could be replicated by somebody with one of the most repeatable moves in the sport, but Morikawa disclosed his wisdom in there. He knows that past history is not a trustworthy predictor of future success. And that though he may go on to have this 60-tournament run five more times in his career, to build a resume like this in 30 months is nearly peerless and certainly worthy of much celebration.