Rory McIlroy holds the trophy after winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island
Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images

Major championship golf spent 13 months on hiatus. Its return for the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park was golf theatre of the highest form.

Brooks Koepka entered the week as the two-time defending champion looking to make history by becoming the first player to win three straight PGA titles since Walter Hagen won four in a row from 1924-27.

Koepka acquitted himself well, playing stellar golf through the first three rounds to enter Sunday two shots back of 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson as part of a packed leaderboard full of past major champions and up-and-coming stars.

While Koepka fell back early on Sunday, the high drama that played out on Lake Merced will be recounted and played back as one of the most memorable PGA Championship final rounds in the history of the storied tournament.

The final round saw six- and seven-way ties atop the leaderboard at multiple points as the field tried to track down Johnson.

In the end, it was 23-year-old Collin Morikawa, firing an impressive final-round 6-under-par 64, including an eagle at the short Par-4 16th, who bested TPC Harding Park and topped the best field in golf to claim his first career major championship.

Morikawa, who was making just his second career major start, joined Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to claim the Wanamaker Trophy before age 24.

Morikawa was a fitting and deserving champion for the first major in 13 months, one that kick off a stretch that will see seven majors contended in the next 11 months.

Now the No. 5 ranked player in the world, Morikawa will look to join Hagen, Koepka, Tiger Woods, Jim Barnes, Gene Sarazen, Leo Diegel and Denny Shute as the only players to win back-to-back PGA Championships -- with Woods and Koepka being the only players to do so in stroke play – when the 2021 PGA Championship returns to The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in May.

“I'm on Cloud Nine right now,” Morikawa said after securing his first career major title. “It's hard to think about what this championship means, and obviously, it's a major, and this is what guys go for, especially at the end of their career, and we're just starting. So, I think this is just a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum, and it just gives me a little taste of what's to come. I got a taste of this now.”

The Ocean Course was witness to golf history the last time Kiawah Island hosted the PGA Championship in 2012.

Then, a 23-year-old McIlroy romped to an eight-shot win over runner-up David Lynch. That eight-shot victory is a PGA Championship record, passing the seven-shot victory that Nicklaus posted in 1980 when he won his fifth career PGA Championship.

That historic win at Kiawah Island cemented McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open by eight strokes the year prior, as the next face of golf. The Northern Irishman was marvelous from start to finsh at Kiawah Island. He went bogey-free over his final 23 holes and putting an exclamation point on his second career major championship by draining a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole.

McIlroy wasn’t a factor on the weekend at TPC Harding Park, but the former world No. 1 will no doubt feel some extra juice returning to the site of his historic romp.

Morikawa will hold the crown for at least nine months before he is asked to defend his title at Kiawah Island.

In just 30 career starts, the 23-year-old has proven he’s one of the game’s top young talents. His meteoric rise from amateur to star was completed Sunday with Lake Merced and the California cypress trees providing the perfect backdrop for his major coronation.

There’s no telling what he might do for an encore at Kiawah Island.

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