10 Feb 2021

Morikawa’s Major march

While a return of T68 in his debut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last month didn’t quite go as planned, Collin Morikawa remains fired up ahead of what’s in store for 2021.

Morikawa got his year off to a solid start with back-to-back T7 finishes at the two PGA Tour events in Hawaii before he jetted over to Dubai for the second time in two months following a maiden DP World Tour Championship appearance in December. While he finished T10 at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the conditions at the Emirates Golf Club proved tricky to overcome and he followed an opening 1-under-par 71 with rounds of 73, 76 and 75. Not the kind of scorecard we’ve come to expect from the American who turned 24 this month. It’s been a rapid rise to stardom – he doesn’t seem fazed by all he’s accomplished so far and is on the quest for more success as a potential Ryder Cup debut looms in September.

“The Ryder Cup is really important obviously and I’ve heard many things about it,” said Morikawa, who currently occupies one of the top six qualifying spots for Steve Stricker’s team. “I’ve watched it, and to hopefully be able to make that team – I’ve given myself a good chance to make that team so far – is a huge goal on my list for 2021.

RYDER TEAM WILL BE TOUGH

“I know that there are 20-30 guys on the PGA Tour that can make the team this year and I’ve got to come out knowing that I’ve got to play some good golf, because nothing is ever given to you. You’ve got to earn it. I’ve put myself in a good position so far and hopefully I can keep that going.

“I had a great experience at the Walker Cup in 2017 playing match-play. My ball-striking is very consistent, and when I’m on I feel like I can hit everything to ten feet, and in match play if you’re doing that and putting pressure on the opponent, shot after shot, you can wear them down. I think I’m a great match play partner and hopefully I’ll be on the team come September.”

Morikawa’s nerveless victory at the US PGA Championship last year announced him as a star in the making but he’s keen to experience those Major championship nerves again in front of packed galleries when fans are eventually allowed to attend again.

MISSING THE CROWDS

“I miss the adrenaline that the fans bring,” he said. “Last year’s US PGA Championship was a great example. There were about seven players all in close contention with 7-8 holes to play, if you put fans in there, a lot of players’ adrenaline levels might have gone through the roof. Some of the guys might have fallen away. I don’t know what I would have done. I felt like in that moment that you could have thrown anything at me and I would have remained as focused as I was. And that’s what got me through.

“But fans at a Major championship play a role, and we as players need that the channel their energy into something. I’ve had the same mental and swing coach for 16 years now and we’ve worked on how to deal with moments like coming down the stretch to win championships. It’s going to be different when we do play the Majors with fans around, and it’s something I look forward to.”

Collin Morikawa Majors

It’s unclear what Morikawa’s schedule will look like for the remainder of 2021 outside of the United States. Last year he had hoped to add the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open to his schedule the week before The Open, but once the European Tour’s calendar was shuffled as a result of the pandemic he couldn’t fit the rescheduled date into his plans.

“The situation is still fluid with different countries changing their rules and what not, so I really don’t know what my schedule is looking like,” said Morikawa, whose two European Tour starts outside the Majors and WGCs have both come in Dubai. “All we can really do is plan maybe a month to six weeks ahead, hopefully I can add something along those lines around summer, and something else down the road, but it’s tough because we don’t know what two months, or five months down the line is going to look like. Hopefully things will get better but if they don’t, the option might not be there. For now, all I’m really focused on it’s what’s coming up.

“I think The European Tour has done an amazing job with their tournament bubble. It’s very different than what we have in the US. But they are doing it right. Guys aren’t testing positive and even though we’re stuck in our hotel rooms and out on the golf course, at the end of the day, we can come out here and play some golf, which is everything we could ask for.”


COLLIN’S TOP TIPS

Training during a week off:

I focus my training during the off-weeks on staying injury free. How do I do that? Well I haven’t gone down the ‘bulking’ route, as is apparent with how I look, because that’s just not me. I just want to stay as injury-free as possible, so I look at how I maintain flexibility, and then look to get stronger – but doing it in the right way. The guys on Tour, they all have trainers and people around them to make sure they’re not doing anything stupid where we might injure ourselves. But a lot of kids that watch us and see us guys hit it further and further, they think that they can just go to the gym and start lifting weights to mimic our swing speeds and distance, but that’s not the case. You need to build your core muscles and your glutes, and start there. Start simple and build a better foundation, and from there you can experiment and get into bigger weights and more explosive training. I think every player out here has a great foundation and using that they can then look into how to hit it further. But for someone just taking up the game, they need to build that foundation first, because the last thing you want is to injure yourself by overtraining in the wrong way.

Advice for young kids:

When I was growing up, one thing that really stuck with me was when people said: ‘just go out and have fun when you play the game’. If you’re out there, and you’re forcing yourself to be out there, at that stage you need to take a break. I know ever year since I was a competitive junior I would take a week or two and not touch my clubs. I love the game as much as the next guy on Tour, but sometimes you’ve got to do something different because you’re likely to get burned out. You’ve got to find a way to make the game fun.

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