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Picture Perfect - In the time of the Corona Virus, the major championship we deserve

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We live in most uncertain times.

The age of the Corona Virus has turned our world upside down. In the Philippines, we've been subject to the strictest lockdown in the world - one far more restrictive than anywhere else in the world. But it isn't just us. 

The pandemic has shut most of the world down, with tourism, sports and entertainment among the industries the most gravely affected. With the world on the brink of imploding on itself, it is therefore fitting that we get to witness arguably the most exciting major golf championship in history.

Majors, in their efforts to challenge the best golfers on the planet, often get things wrong. The US Open, in particular and the Masters Tournament to a lesser degree, have often been criticized for losing control of the golf course pushing it to the very edge of fairness, sometimes beyond.

They would do well to look to the 2020 PGA Championships for the correct formula. This was a major championship done right. The greens were fast but fair, the punishing rough put a huge premium on finding the fairways. All in one of the most beautiful settings in golf. It was a Goldilocks setup. Everything was just right.

The competition was equal to the setup. On final day, nine of the very best golfers on the planet had a share of the lead at one time or another. After the defending champion and pre-tournament favorite Brooks Koepka shot his way out of the tournament, the tournament was wide open. It was impossible to pick a winner.

23-year old Collin Morikawa stepped up and separated himself from the field with a superb all around game. 

Long recognized as one of the most proficient ball strikers, not just among the new crop of professional golfers, but on the PGA Tour as a whole, he lived up to that reputation by leading the tournament in shots hit into the green in proximity of the hole. He also led in two other statistical categories - fairways hit and strokes gained putting. He toured Harding Park in an immaculate 6-under 64, missing just two fairways and six greens. He was six-for-six getting up and down when he did miss the green including a chip-in birdie on the 14th. 

The numbers show he deserved to win, but for a championship of this magnitude to be special, he had to hit a great shot; one that would break the field's back and put a dagger in their hearts. That would come at 16. 

He had laid up on the short par-4 16th on the three previous days, but on the final day, within three holes of the championship, Morikawa decided to put it the tournament out of reach for good. He pulled driver and absolutely flushed it. He carried the front edge of the green 274-yards away and watched as the ball rolled up and stopped just 7-feet below the hole. He got to the green and putted the ball right into the heart of the cup for a 3-shot lead. The tournament was over.

He could have easily birdied the last two holes; he left the putt on 17 just short of the cup and his birdie putt on the last burned the edge before settling down just inches away. The PGA Championship had a perfect hero for one of the most exciting major championships ever. 

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Morikawa broke or tied all manner of records in his maiden major victory. He was just the third youngest winner of the PGA Championship since World War II, behind Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus and just the ninth to win the PGA in his tournament debut. His weekend total of 65-64-129, is the lowest closing 36-hole score in PGA Championship history. 

He found the well guarded fairways of the PGA Championship with monotonous regularity, but it was his putting that impressed the most; he gained an unfathomable 8-strokes over the field on TPC Harding Park's immaculate greens. 
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Morikawa's performance was dominant down the stretch. Even more impressive than his statistical prowess was how calm and focused he remained throughout the final round. There was no sign of nerves. Just a calculated, immaculately executed plan to play the golf course, deviating only to deliver the coup-de-gras on the 16th tee. Morikawa was a stone cold assassin on the back nine on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

This kid's for real, folks. The numbers don't lie. His quiet self-confidence is the X-factor that all great champions possess. He's ascended to his place as one of the best golfers on the planet more quickly than anyone could have imagined. We are fortunate to be able to watch his career unfold.  

-Mike Besa

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