Rising star Morikawa outguns Thomas in dramatic playoff

Collin Morikawa reacts as his putt drops to extend the match on the 18th hole during the final round of the Workday Charity Open golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Rising star Morikawa outguns Thomas in dramatic playoff

  • Morikawa, who had been the pacesetter through the first two rounds

LOS ANGELES: American Collin Morikawa tapped in a putt on the third playoff hole to outduel Justin Thomas in a wild Sunday finish and capture the PGA Tour Workday Charity Open.

Morikawa, who had been the pacesetter through the first two rounds, rallied from three strokes down with three holes remaining to force the playoff at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

He then stayed alive by draining a 24-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole immediately after third-round leader Thomas had made a jaw-dropping 50-foot putt for birdie.

“Amazing,” said the 23-year-old Morikawa, who carded a final round 66 to finish on 19-under par 269 and won for the second time on the  PGA Tour.

Sunday’s win made up for a disappointing loss in another dramatic playoff finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge four weeks ago in the PGA’s return from the COVID-19 calendar shutdown.

World No. 5 Thomas was trying to win for the 13th time on the Tour, but he was undone on the final hole of the playoff after his tee shot on the par-4 10th sailed right and landed behind a tree.

Thomas closed with a 69 but that included two bogeys in his final three holes after beginning his round with a two-stroke lead over Viktor Hovland, with Morikawa three adrift.

“I am pretty pissed off, it is the only way to explain it,” Thomas said. “I had a three-shot lead with three to go and completely handed it over.

“Collin played great. He had a very tough hole at 17.

“We both made two great birdies on the first playoff hole. I had two chances to win this thing in regulation and on the second playoff hole and I didn’t get it done.”

This week’s Workday Charity Open is the first of back-to-back events at the Jack Nicklaus designed Dublin, Ohio course. The Nicklaus-hosted Memorial will follow next week.

After rain, wind and lightning led to two suspensions on Friday, organizers decided to move the tee times up on Sunday to avoid any more weather delays.

Morikawa started Sunday’s round three shots back after opening with a 65 and 66 to lead the first and second rounds.

He quickly fought his way back to the top of the leaderboard with two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes.

He made three more birdies on the back nine including the par-4 17. Morikawa used an eight iron to spin his approach shot to eight feet then made the putt and celebrated with a fist pump.

His only blemish came on the par-4 13th when he made bogey as he closed with a 4-under 66.

The most dramatic moment of the round came on the first playoff hole as both players rolled in massive putts for birdies.

Thomas went first, making a 50-foot downhill putt for what appeared to be the victory. But Morikawa wasn’t going anywhere. He stayed alive by draining his putt, from just inside 25 feet, to send it back to the 18th tee for a second playoff hole.

Morikawa sealed the win on the 75th hole, two putting on the green after Thomas missed the fairway off the tee and had to chip out from behind a small tree with his second shot.

The win was Morikawa’s second in just his 24th start as a pro.


Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

Updated 12 August 2020

Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

  • A victory against Leipzig will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since 2017

LISBON: So far so good for Atletico Madrid in the quest for their first Champions League title.

Diego Simeone’s team have caught all the breaks going into the decisive final-eight tournament in Lisbon.

Old foes Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo are gone. They drew Leipzig instead of a more traditional powerhouse for the quarterfinals. And their rival lost its top player after Timo Werner left for Chelsea. Even when things went wrong and the squad was hit by COVID-19, Atletico avoided the worst as only two players were infected and they could still make the trip to Portugal.

Things have been looking good for Simeone and his players.

A victory against Leipzig on Thursday will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since it was eliminated by Ronaldo’s Madrid in the last four in 2017. Ronaldo and Madrid had defeated Atletico in the final in 2014 and 2016, and also ended the rival’s run in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Ronaldo again was Atletico’s nemesis last season after joining Juventus. Atletico lost to the Italian team in the round of 16 after Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the decisive second leg in Turin.

But this time Ronaldo and Juventus were eliminated by Lyon in the last 16, the same stage in which Madrid were knocked out of the tournament by Manchester City. Only two past champions are still left in the competition — Barcelona and Bayern Munich — and they play against each other in the opposite side of the draw, meaning Atletico could only meet one of them in the final.

Leipzig are a relative newcomer to the Champions League, having reached the group stage only twice. This is the first time they made it to the knockout round. They eliminated Tottenham in the round of 16, but now they won't count on top scorer Werner, who did not extend his contract by a few weeks to finish the season with the German club before moving to Chelsea.

Atletico stunned defending European champion Liverpool in the last 16, advancing after a 3-2 win in England.

“The game against Liverpool will go down in history and was one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” Atletico striker Diego Costa said. “It gave fans high expectations and we will give our best to try to meet those expectations. Hopefully we will play well and luck will stay on our side.”

Costa said Atletico will not take Leipzig lightly despite  the rival’s lack of experience in international competitions.

“They are very strong on the ball and know what they are about,” he said. “They have made it to the quarterfinals and have no pressure.”

There was a scare within Atletico this week when it announced two positive test results for COVID-19 among the group that was traveling to Lisbon. There were concerns that an outbreak within the club could have affected the team’s participation in the tournament in Portugal, but new tests showed that only Ángel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko were infected and the squad could travel to Lisbon.

Vrsaljko was not even going to play because he is nursing an injury, while Correa isn't among Atletico’s top stars even though he led the team in assists this season.

After coming agonizingly close recently, Atletico hope the breaks will keep going their way and that they  will finally get to lift the coveted European trophy.