PGA Championship - Round Three
Credit: Christian Petersen/PGA of Americ/PGA of America via Getty Images

The Cal-Berkeley grad isn't showing any nerves chasing his first major championship

It’s only Collin Morikawa’s second major start, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the 23-year-old has played through three rounds of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park.

The No. 12-ranked player in the world and University of California-Berkeley alumni opened the year’s first major with back-to-back 1-under-par rounds to enter the weekend at 2-under-par, six shots back of 36-hole leader Haotong Li.

But while the Bay Area winds were wreaking havoc on some of the world’s best Saturday, Morikawa was steady, carding a 5-under-65 to vault into contention at 7-under.

“I had to play well,” Morikawa said after his round. “I didn't know, you know, who knows if one of the leaders shoots 5- or 6-under and really takes it away and separates themselves. If I want to have a chance, I had to shoot a pretty good round at least. Tomorrow is the final round. Anything can happen to anyone.”

Morikawa carded birdies at Nos. 3, 5 and 7, making the turn at 3-under for the day. After birdieing No. 10, Morikawa dropped shots at 12 and 13 to fall back to 4-under-par for the tournament.

Showing no signs of major nerves, the young star righted the ship quickly with three consecutive birdies at 15, 16 and 17 to jump with in one shot of the lead at that point.

PGA Championship - Round Three
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 08: Collin Morikawa of the United States reacts after missing a putt on the 18th green during the third round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on August 08, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By his own admission, Morikawa hasn’t been putting well since the restart despite notching a win at the Workday Charity Open and a second-place finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge. After watching Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker putt during the first two rounds at TPC Harding Park, Morikawa got the flat stick rolling Saturday, pouring in over 120 feet of putts.

Fourteen months ago, Morikawa was graduating from Cal preparing to make his mark on the PGA Tour. Since then he has two wins and could claim the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

The early success has come fast for Morikawa, but he’s always known he had the game to play with the best in the world.

“Yeah, it's crazy to think back that it was only a year ago or whatever that I was out here across the bridge in college, but I felt ready,” Morikawa said. “I think this is where I belong and like I said, we get back to being comfortable, I’ve been more comfortable every single day I'm out here. So, it just helps a little bit more.”

With a packed leaderboard full of past major champions looking to add to their resumes Sunday, Morikawa knows he’ll need his A-game in order to add major champion to his list of early career accomplishments.

“I've got to stick to my game plan,” Morikawa said. “I can't control what anyone else does out there.  If someone starts off really well; if they don't start off really well, who knows. But like you said, it's going to be a crowded leaderboard. Anyone is within reach, really, within a few shots, so we’ll see what happens later this afternoon or later today and wake up tomorrow and just be ready to make some birdies.”

With a win Sunday Morikawa would become the youngest major winner since Jordan Spieth won the 2015 U.S. Open when he was 21. To do so in the Bay Area would just add to his major moment.

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