Collin Morikawa on the ‘brutal thing’ about being a major champion – and why he is feeling quietly confident about winning the PGA Championship for a second time.
Collin Morikawa has that knack of making the game look incredibly easy. He rarely looks flustered, and his swing remains the envy of almost everyone on the range. In full flow, his iron play is comparable to Tiger’s in his pomp. It really is that good. Or, at least, it was.
The stats still mark him out as an elite ball striker, but he is no longer considered to be one of the best players in the world. He’s not even in the top 10 according to the Official World Golf Rankings, who have him down in 16th.
So much has changed since Morikawa won his first major championship on his US PGA Championship debut in 2020 and followed it up by claiming the Claret Jug 14 months later at Royal St George’s. At the time he was being talked about as golf’s next big thing, the new kid on the block, before Scottie Scheffler came along and embarked on his own winning spree.
It would be harsh to say Morikawa has regressed, but he has battled his game and the new-found expectations placed on his slender shoulders.
He has had surprisingly few chances to add to his five PGA Tour wins since his crowning moment at the 2021 Open Championship, though he did squander a six-shot lead with 18 holes to go at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January.
Three top-10 finishes since then does, at least, represent an improvement on a largely forgettable second half of 2022, but he currently sits 24th in the FedEx Cup standings and outside the Ryder Cup qualification places as we enter perhaps the most crucial point in the season.
Here, he reflects on his love affair with the PGA Championship, the words of wisdom offered by Justin Thomas, and why he is feeling confident about his game as he prepares to tee it up at Oak Hill Country Club for the first time.
The PGA Championship will always be special to me because it was my first Major title, and you will never be able to take that away. Lifting the Wanamaker trophy, and then proceeding to drop the lid is a memorable moment in itself! It is remarkable that your name will always be etched in history, and it will never leave that spot in 2020. You create your own memories in the victories, and that is something that can be cherished forever.
I remember two weeks after winning my first Major, Tiger came up to me and said, “Welcome to the Major Club”, and I got chills just from hearing that.
My aim is to try and claim the Wanamaker trophy again. There is something brutal about winning a Major and then having to give the trophy back. When you realize that you are not defending – the feeling of achievement is missed. It is such a good feeling winning any tournament but it is an extra special feeling winning a Major on a Sunday and walking down the 18th.
I have actually never seen Oak Hill and do not know much about it. My strengths that have been portrayed as a golfer early on in my career are my ball striking. If I am going to have the opportunity to contend and to win another Major Championship, my ball striking will have to be on point.
I would say for the most part, I’m back to playing how I used to. My swing hasn’t looked this good probably since 2019 when I first came out. I’ve played very well, 2020, 2021, but position-wise I just love where I’m at right now and just freeing everything up, just allowing me to just look up at my target and hit the ball, and hopefully it goes where I want it. I think I’m very happy with that, and that just allows that freedom to just kind of forget about everything else and hit your shot.
Justin Thomas gave me the best piece of advice. It was my first week on the PGA Tour as a professional, we were at the RBC Canadian Open in 2019. I do not know where he got this advice but it is one of the most important pieces he could have offered me as an upcoming golfer, and that is: “No one can decide your path; it can be long or short. If you truly love what you are doing, and you really believe that you are going to make it to the PGA Tour, or whether you will achieve Tour dreams, the path will come to fruition and it will be there. One just has to keep going, and to continue to work hard”.
Since then, that has really stuck. He said, you know, it could be tomorrow, where after the Canadian Open, I can earn my PGA Tour card, it could be in five years, it could be in 10 years. I think that this journey also defines golf, it is the unknown. It can be quick, it can be tough, but it can be easy. As long as you love the journey, you are going to love the process, and it will hopefully allow you to achieve your dreams.
What separates the 2020 PGA Championship Major to the 2021 Open Championship that I won, was the lack of fans in 2020. Having galleries present for my Open Championship victory was a different feeling. My goal going into every tournament I compete in is to win, and I hope to claim the Wanamaker again in 2023.
Collin Morikawa is a Rolex testimonee and part of the brand’s enduring relationship with the game which began more than 50 years ago, in 1967, with Arnold Palmer, joined by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Since then, the affiliation between Rolex and golf has grown into one with a global reach. In 2021, Rolex became the Official Timekeeper and Official Partner of the PGA of America, organizer of the PGA Championship, supporting its efforts to grow interest and inclusion in the game of golf. Through this partnership Rolex is present at all four men’s Majors, the pinnacle of achievement in the sport.
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About the author
Michael Catling is Today’s Golfer‘s Features Editor and an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.
Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with dozens of Major champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, and Justin Thomas.
A former member of Ufford Park and Burghley Park, Michael has been playing golf since he was 11 and currently plays off a handicap of 10.
Away from golf he’s a keen amateur chef and has his own healthy recipes website. He also loves playing squash, going to the gym, and following Chelsea FC.