(Reuters) – Collin Morikawa narrowly avoided another playoff heartbreak on Sunday, defeating Justin Thomas in a tightly contested bout at the Workday Charity Open in Dublin, Ohio.
The 23-year-old, who suffered a playoff loss at the Charles Schwab Challenge last month, hung on to claim his second PGA Tour win in just 24 starts after his fellow American Thomas bogeyed on 16 and 18 to send the pair into extra play.
“Justin wasn’t going to give it to me. He was fighting through the entire day,” said Morikawa after clinching the win. “I’m excited right now, I’m so happy.”
Tied at 19 under par after four rounds, the pair put on a putting masterclass on the first playoff hole for birdies, with Thomas letting out a roar after sinking a more than 50-foot putt.
But Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner who had been flawless through the first three rounds at Muirfield Village Golf Club, missed the fairway on the third playoff hole and got stuck behind a tree, and it was Morikawa who kept his nerve for the win.
“Those three holes were a grind, obviously Justin making that birdie putt on that first playoff hole, I had to make it, or else we go home again,” said Morikawa. “I just got a little more comfortable throughout the playoff… Two playoffs now, and finally got one done.”
It was a bitter loss for Thomas, however, who had a two-stroke lead over Norwegian Viktor Hovland going into Sunday and had appeared nearly unstoppable as only the third player ever to go bogey-free through 54 holes at Muirfield.
“I just can’t beat myself up, although it’s going to be pretty hard not to, at least the rest of this afternoon,” Thomas told reporters. “I just need to execute better.”
Third place finisher Hovland, who has not finished outside the top 25 since the tour returned from COVID-19 hiatus, called the tournament “a learning experience.”
“I’ve just got to go back to what I do and get a little bit better at putting and just get a little bit better with my whole game,” he said.
The Muirfield Village Golf Club event was added to the PGA Tour’s calendar after the John Deere Classic, which was supposed to be held in Illinois, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Hugh Lawson)