Eugene Country Club was a formidable opponent for everyone who competed at this week’s Pac-12 Golf Championships.
For a moment Wednesday, it appeared the course was going to claim another victim. After firing a 64 the previous day, California’s Collin Morikawa opened the final round with three straight bogeys to fall behind his main competitor, Kyler Dunkle of Utah.
Instead of panicking, Morikawa collected his wits and got back to the stellar golf that elevated him above the rest of the Pac-12 field.
“I was hitting really good shots,” Morikawa said. “I knew I was going to have a lot of holes left. If I just kept hitting good shots, I knew I would give myself a chance.”
Morikawa’s reward came on the back nine as he birdied the final three holes to pull away for a four-stroke victory at 12-under par.
With gusty winds contributing to the already challenging conditions, only four of the 72 golfers broke par in the final round. One of those was Morikawa, who had birdie putts inside 10 feet on the final three holes to finish 1-under for the day and add an exclamation point to his Pac-12 title.
“I knew there were going to be some par-5s I could take advantage of,” said Morikawa, who is No. 4 in the latest World Amateur Golf rankings. “To finish off with three straight birdies is pretty special.”
Momentum turned for Morikawa with a birdie on the par-4 11th. Dunkle missed a short par putt at virtually the same time, resulting in a flip-flop at the top of the leaderboard.
A birdie on the par-5 16th hole gave Morikawa a two-stroke lead. His tee shot on No. 17 clipped a tree on the left side of the fairway and landed in the rough, but he chipped within 8 feet and drained the putt to remove any doubt.
“Throughout the entire week it’s been one shot at a time,” Morikawa said. “That’s been my mentality forever now. I really pushed that in my head this week. The last three holes, I knew where I stood, knew what I had to do.”
Stanford won the team race at 7-under par with four players finishing among the top 10 individuals. Isaiah Salinda led the way at 3-under, followed by Brandon Wu and Daulet Tuleubayev at 1-under and David Snyder at even par.
“For the most part, we kept the bigger numbers off the scorecard,” Stanford coach Conrad Ray said. “We putted well this week. The greens were fast and slopey, but we made our fair share of putts.
“Everyone contributed. One through six, they all had a role in it.”
Oregon finished in a tie with Utah for fifth place at 31-over. The Ducks had hoped for a better showing on their home course, but Eugene Country Club didn’t cut them any breaks.
“I’ve been at Eugene Country Club all my life, been a member here since I was a kid,” coach Casey Martin said. “I’ve never seen it play tougher.
“My guys feel like they’ve been through a war. They don’t feel very good about themselves, but it’s understandable. It was just so difficult.”
Senior Ryan Gronlund shot 71 to finish in a tie for 10th at even par. Yin Ho Yue finished 4-over, followed by Craig Ronne at 5-over and Donald Kay at 6-over.
Ronne, who’d been under par through the first three rounds, shot 78 on Wednesday and slipped to a tie for 21st.
“He had three really good rounds, and today was a bad day, score-wise,” Martin said. “He was playing with some of those players that are really good and the nerves that come with that, and the golf course was really tough.
“I think those three freshmen are going to really learn from this and get better.”
Oregon State remained in 11th place, led by Sean Kato at 11-over and Shawn Lu at 12-over.
NCAA regional selections will be announced next Wednesday, with the top 81 teams divided among six sites. The Ducks are No. 40 in the latest Golfstat team rankings.
“We’ll go somewhere and we’ll just keep battling,” Martin said. “This team has got great heart. We’re going to have to have a great week to advance, but everything is in the past now.
“Everyone starts even. I think that will be encouraging news to them that they get to start fresh.”