Nobody likes you when you're 23! Marvellous Morikawa emulates Nicklaus, Woods and McIlroy

By Sports Desk August 10, 2020

If Blink 182 are to be believed, nobody likes you when you're 23. 

Not that Collin Morikawa will care much if the song lyric is true, given he will start a new week as a major winner following his stunning US PGA Championship victory. 

A flawless six-under-par 64 in Sunday's final round earned the up-and-coming American a two-shot win from Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey. 

Only two men - Gene Sarazen (twice) and Tom Creavy - won the tournament before turning 23, while Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were the same age as Morikawa when they triumphed. 

Esteemed company for Morikawa, then. Here is what the new major champion will now try and live up to. 

Jack Nicklaus (1963 - aged 23 years, six months) 

'The Golden Bear' was already a two-time major winner by the time he claimed the PGA Championship for the first time at the Dallas Athletic Club in July 1963. Nicklaus was three strokes back of leader Bruce Crampton heading into the final round but wound up winning by two shots from Dave Ragan. Nicklaus' haul of 18 majors remains a record, while his five PGA Championship triumphs is a joint-best with Walter Hagen.  

 
Tiger Woods (1999 - aged 23 years, seven months) 

In a memorable Medinah battle with fellow youngster Sergio Garcia, Woods prevailed to win the PGA Championship 21 years ago. He led Garcia by five after the 11th but stumbled down the stretch and triumphed by a solitary stroke. The American now has 15 majors to his name, while Garcia has just the one having been tipped to win multiple during those early years. Woods has four PGA Championship wins to his name, the last of which came in 2007. 

 
Rory McIlroy (2012, aged 23 years, three months) 

A couple of 67s sandwiched a 75 prior to a magical Sunday at Kiawah Island for a still fresh-faced McIlroy. The Northern Irishman needed just 24 putts in a round of 66 en route to winning by a record eight strokes as his nearest rivals stumbled. It was the first of McIlroy's two wins at the PGA Championship, the other coming two years later. Arguably the biggest surprise is the fact McIlroy has not yet managed to add another major since, with the former world number one stuck on four. 

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    This weekend should have seen the 43rd Ryder Cup taking place at Whistling Straits.

    Of course, the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the sporting calendar eventually led to the postponement of golf's most prestigious team event.

    Team Europe, captained by Padraig Harrington, will instead defend the trophy in a year's time against Team USA, who will be skippered by Steve Stricker.

    Here, we take a look at who would have qualified for their respective teams so far if the Ryder Cup were starting on Friday.

    TEAM USA:

    Qualification process explained:

    The PGA of America and team captain Stricker announced a tweak to the qualification process following the pause of the season caused by the pandemic. All points collected since 2019 will continue to stand and the selection criteria will continue to run through the second 2021 FedEx Cup playoff event (the BMW Championship). The top six on the points list will qualify automatically, with Stricker having six captain's picks.

    1) Dustin Johnson

    A veteran of four Ryder Cups but only one that resulted in an American victory – that coming in 2016 at Hazeltine. Since the PGA Tour resumed, Johnson has been in tremendous form and became champion of the lucrative FedEx Cup.

    2) Bryson DeChambeau

    A man of unquestionable talent, whose methodical game has not always sat well with pundits and fellow professionals. But after breaking his major duck at the U.S. Open last weekend, even his greatest detractors have to give kudos to DeChambeau, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 2018.

    3) Collin Morikawa 

    It has been a truly breakout year for 23-year-old Morikawa, who became a major champion by winning the US PGA Championship.  That saw him reach a career-high ranking of fifth (he now sits sixth in the world) and if he can maintain his form, Morikawa will be an exciting Ryder Cup rookie.

    4) Brooks Koepka

    Injuries have sadly taken a toll on Koepka either side of the coronavirus break but on his day the four-time major winner is unbeatable. A fully fit Koepka, who has appeared at two Ryder Cups, will be a formidable foe for anyone on Team Europe and fans the world over will want to see him firing on all cylinders. 

    5) Justin Thomas

    Already a major champion by the time he appeared at the 2018 Ryder Cup as a rookie, Thomas was a starring light for a struggling American team as he earned four points on debut. Now established among the game's elite, Thomas will be a main man for Stricker as Team USA aim to regain the trophy.

    6) Webb Simpson

    A player who has enjoyed a career resurgence and made a third Ryder Cup appearance in 2018 having missed out two years prior. Ranked seventh in the world and with a couple of wins to his name in 2020, Simpson looks a pretty sure bet to play regardless of if he qualifies automatically.

    Likely captain's picks?

    Stricker has an abundance of talent to choose from and, if qualification ended today, Xander Schauffele would be an almost guaranteed pick. Patrick Reed is next in the standings and, while his talent is undoubted, his seeming struggle to play nicely with others in the team would possibly be a cause of concern for the captain. Tiger Woods is way down in 15th and struggling for form but could a player of his calibre earn a lifeline? The likes of Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Matthew Wolff would hope to receive a call but Jordan Spieth – down in 25th – needs to find some consistency.

    TEAM EUROPE:

    Qualification process explained:

    For Team Europe, the criteria are different. The process was frozen in July until January, with points earned up until that point remaining valid. The top four in the European points standings qualify, as do the next five highest ranking players on the world points list. Captain Padraig Harrington picks the final three players for the team. Points multipliers may be added to European Tour events closer to the Ryder Cup.

    1) Tommy Fleetwood

    One half of the 'Moliwood' pairing alongside Francesco Molinari that won hearts, and crucially plenty of points, for a dominant Team Europe in 2018. Fleetwood was in fine form towards the back end of 2019 and the start of 2020 but has struggled since golf returned. Still, with plenty of points accrued and time to find form, Fleetwood looks sure to play.

    2) Jon Rahm

    Rahm picked up a single point from three matches as a rookie two years ago and will be desperate to make a mark in an event where his Spanish compatriots Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia have become so synonymous. With two wins in 2020 and a brief stop as world number one for the first time, Rahm is now a major European player. 

    3) Rory McIlroy

    A veteran now of five Ryder Cups, four of which ended in victory, McIlroy will be the leading man in Europe's quest to retain the trophy. He was in flying form prior to lockdown and a top 10 at the U.S. Open suggests McIlroy is again on an upward trajectory.

    4) Victor Perez

    An outstanding rookie season in 2019, including a win at the Alfred Dunhill Links, has left Perez in a strong position. But struggles in 2020 will have to be solved if he is to be a part of Harrington's team a year from now.

    5) Tyrrell Hatton

    Having earned a taste of the Ryder Cup two years ago, where he won one point from three matches, Hatton will be desperate to make the team once again. With five top-10s in 2020, including winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he has every chance of doing so.

    6) Danny Willett

    Having missed seven cuts from his previous 10 events, Willett is a player who will have to raise his game in 2021 to play at a second Ryder Cup.

    7) Matthew Fitzpatrick

    A rookie during the losing effort in 2016, Fitzpatrick failed to make the team two years ago. At the minute, the Sheffield-born star has his destiny in his own hands. With three top-10s and as many missed cuts in the past six starts, consistency will be key.

    8) Lee Westwood

    A real veteran of Team Europe, Lee Westwood played in 10 straight Ryder Cups between 1997 and 2016, ending up on the winning side on seven occasions. Even if he fails to make the automatic spots, if he can stay in decent form then his experience could convince Harrington to hand out a captain's pick.

    9) Bernd Wiesberger

    A three-time European Tour winner in 2019, Wiesberger – who has never played at a Ryder Cup – will be desperate to rediscover that groove to make the team.

    Likely captain's picks?

    Ryder Cup legends Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are well off the pace for automatic picks but if either man can hit form at the right time then their experience would likely be too invaluable for Harrington to ignore. Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson are both knocking on the door and would fancy their chances of making the team without the need of a hand from Harrington.

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    Sepp Straka is among four players tied for the one-stroke lead following the opening round of the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship.

    Straka carded a seven-under-par 65 and he was joined by Scott Harrington, Hudson Swafford and Tyler McCumber atop the leaderboard in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

    A Web.com Tour champion but eyeing his maiden PGA Tour title, Austria's Straka was flawless on day one following an eagle and five birdies at Corales Golf Club.

    Straka was the only player among the leaders to go bogey-free through 18 holes heading into Friday's second round.

    Zhang Xinjun and Joseph Bramlett are tied for fifth, while Ricky Barnes, Cameron Percy, Justin Suh, David Hearn, Kyle Stanley, Sean O'Hair, Jamie Lovemark, Brian Stuard, Patrick Rodgers and Ryan Brehm are a shot further back.

    American Kelly Kraft enjoyed a stunning finish to his round, going eagle-par-eagle – including a walk-off hole-in-one – to reach four under.

    Defending champion Graeme McDowell made a solid start but he ended the round five strokes adrift of the leaders.

    McDowell had three birdies and a bogey to be level alongside the likes of former Ryder Cup team-mate and 2016 Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson.

  • Coronavirus: UK government pauses plans for fans' October return to sporting events in England Coronavirus: UK government pauses plans for fans' October return to sporting events in England

    The United Kingdom government has paused plans for the return of fans to live sporting events in England from October 1 due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

    On Monday, the COVID-19 alert level in the UK was raised to a four, meaning transmission of the virus is "high or exponentially rising", with prime minister Boris Johnson set to outline fresh measures to halt the increase in cases.

    Plans to bring supporters back into stadia were placed under review earlier this month and pilot events were restricted to 1,000 people in attendance.

    However, government minister Michael Gove confirmed to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that pilot schemes were now on hold, as are plans for fans to return in staged phases, representing a major blow to a struggling sports sector.

    "We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn't going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans," Gove said.

    "We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.

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    Approximately 300 spectators were granted access to the World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible in Sheffield, while a friendly between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea in August saw 2,500 fans allowed into the Amex Stadium.

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    "People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question why were they allowed to go ahead," added Gove.

    "What we must do is look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognise that sport is a vital part of this nation and we're looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time."

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    Over 100 leaders from sports bodies have requested emergency funding in a letter to the prime minister.

    Sport England has handed out £200million for emergency cases, but with clubs continuing to lose money many have said that does not go far enough.

    Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC earlier this month that teams were looking at losing £700m if fans are not allowed back into grounds during the 2020-21 campaign, saying it was "absolutely critical" they were brought back.

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