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No red, but Morikawa's a tiger: golf talking points

AFP logo AFP 3/2/2021 AFP
a man that is standing in the grass: Collin Morikawa celebrates winning the WGC-Workday Championship © Mike Ehrmann Collin Morikawa celebrates winning the WGC-Workday Championship

Tributes to Tiger Woods and the first WGC Championship of 2021 dominate AFP Sport's golf talking points this week:

- Shirt in Memphis, win in Florida -

Collin Morikawa had planned to join other top players on Sunday by wearing a red shirt and black trousers as a tribute to Tiger Woods, who is in a Los Angeles hospital recovering from last week's car crash that shattered his right leg.

a man standing next to a body of water: Man in red: Tony Finau was one of a horde of players who wore Tiger Woods' signature garb on the final day at The Concession © SAM GREENWOOD Man in red: Tony Finau was one of a horde of players who wore Tiger Woods' signature garb on the final day at The Concession

But Morikawa's clothing never arrived. 

So while Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Tony Finau and Patrick Reed were among the players clad in Woods's signature Sunday best, Morikawa emulated his hero on the leaderboard instead, by converting a 54-hole lead into victory at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession club in Florida.

a man wearing a hat: Rory McIlroy has not won a tournament since his WGC-HSBC Champions triumph in NOvember 2019 © Mike Ehrmann Rory McIlroy has not won a tournament since his WGC-HSBC Champions triumph in NOvember 2019

But what happened to his shirt? 

"So Adidas was supposed to send, or they did send, red shirts," Morikawa explained. "They're not at fault. With all the weather stuff and everything, I think it got stuck in Memphis. 

"We got the tracking number, I was checking it last night, I was checking it this morning. J.J. (Morikawa's caddie) even went down to the distribution center."

Morikawa's three-stroke triumph made him just the second player after Woods to win a major and a WGC before their 25th birthday.

Tony Jacklin wearing a suit and tie: Tony Jacklin, left, and Jack Nicklaus designed "The Concession" golf club in Florida, named to memorialise their famous 1969 Ryder Cup duel © Andrew Redington Tony Jacklin, left, and Jack Nicklaus designed "The Concession" golf club in Florida, named to memorialise their famous 1969 Ryder Cup duel

"You know, my agent said even though the shirt wasn't there, go out and play like Tiger would with the lead," said Morikawa. 

"I think I did." 

- Luck of the Irish - 

McIlroy tied for sixth behind Morikawa, but his top-10 finish covered up another underwhelming final-round performance from the former world number one, who at his best would have charged into contention.

It is now more than two years since the Northern Irishman's last victory, at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November 2019, and he is within a whisker of dropping out of the world's top 10 for the first time since the end of 2017.

Down to eighth in the rankings, he has consistently failed to fire over the closing holes.

This week he returns to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, which he won in 2018, claiming he is not far away from his best.

"I'm still searching a little bit. There was signs that there's some good stuff in there," McIlroy said.

His 71 on Sunday could have been worse had it not included an errant driver on the 13th that skipped off a lake and finished on dry land.

"I can't believe I had a birdie putt on that hole," said McIlroy.

With St. Patrick's Day in a couple of weeks' time, a little more Irish luck might be just what he needs.


Gallery: Golfers honor Tiger Woods with Sunday red (USA TODAY SPORTS)

- 'The Concession' - 

Morikawa's win came at a WGC event shifted from its regular home in Mexico because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its temporary home -- "The Concession" -- may sound like an odd name for a golf club, but it comes from a magical moment in Ryder Cup history more than 50 years ago.

On the final tee at Royal Birkdale in 1969, with the match tied, Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin were all square in the deciding singles -- the winner of the hole would win the Ryder Cup.

After both missed birdie putts Nicklaus had just over four feet putt for his par, while Jacklin had a slightly shorter knee-knocker. 

After Nicklaus holed his putt, he picked up Jacklin's ball marker and shook hands to concede, meaning the Ryder Cup ended in a tie for the first time.

"I don't think you would have missed it," Nicklaus told Jacklin, "but I wasn't going to give you the chance."

Hence when Nicklaus and Jacklin collaborated to design a golf course in Bradenton, Florida, more than 30 years later, it was decided it would honour one of the game's greatest acts of sportsmanship -- and The Concession was born.

- World rankings -

Top 10s for the week beginning March 1, 2021 (change from last week):

Men

1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 12.20

2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.99 

3. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.33 

4. Collin Morikawa (USA) 8.10 (+2)

5. Xander Schauffele (USA) 7.33 (-1) 

6. Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 6.62 (-1)

7. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.47 

8. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 6.46 

9. Patrick Reed (USA) 6.45 (+2) 

10. Webb Simpson (USA) 6.45 (-1) 

Women

1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 9.22

2. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 7.73 

3. Nelly Korda (USA) 7.45 (+1)

4. Park In-bee (KOR) 6.56 (-1) 

5. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.28

6. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 5.58 

7. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 5.43 

8. Minjee Lee (AUS) 5.08 

9. Kim Hyo-joo (KOR) 4.90 

10. Lexi Thompson (USA) 4.89 (+1)

dh/th

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