“I woke up this morning and felt this was my time to do it.”
— Collin Morikawa late Sunday evening
Collin Morikawa is the real deal.
He proved that with extraordinary clutch shots and a cool demeanor in the face of intense major pressure last Sunday at action-packed Harding Park when he won the PGA Championship.
He’s proven it with two other wins and should have had a third had he not missed some short putts at Colonial.
Listen closely to this young man and he’ll impress you.
Tiger Woods had Jack Nicklaus’ picture on his wall and had those 18 majors as his goal.
Morikawa’s goals? “I’ve never put a ceiling on anything,” he said without hesitation. “It’s always, what is next? What is up next? What can I do better?”
It will be interesting to see what’s next for him. He’s got the playoffs then the U.S. Open in September at Winged Foot. But before looking ahead, this one’s worth looking back at.
His Sunday, final round performance was record setting — 64: lowest final round in a PGA Championship. Lowest final round nine-hole score: 31, lowest final 36-hole score: 129 (65-64).
To understand what led up to Sunday, it’s worth a quick look into Morikawa’s past.
PGA Professional Rick Sessinghaus began working with Morikawa when he was very young. He recognized that the youngster could be special.
“There’s a lot of great swings out there but not many golfers,” Sessinghaus said when asked about his student. “He learned to play at a high level. Collin’s been wired that way; I’ve tried to cultivate it, raise his golf I.Q. by putting him in different situations. He’s going to look at a golf course and create a strategy based on his capabilities. He’s not going to overpower it but can plot his way around based on his strengths.”
Morikawa says Sesssinghaus coached him on the mental side of the game in a subtle way. “He worked the mental game into our lessons,” Morikawa said, “without me really knowing it.”
Morikawa used that mental edge to get past a shaky start on Sunday. When he hit the back nine, he had a feeling: “I knew something special would have to happen,” he recalled.
It was special when he pitched in for birdie at the 15th then beyond special when he hit the perfect drive at the short par four 16th. “I had to make that putt,” he said of the seven-footer that paved the path to his first major.
Shortly after signing his scorecard, he sat outside the clubhouse with girlfriend Katherine Zhu while he called his parents. Collin gave her a lot of credit for his success.
He met Zhu during his golf team days at Cal-Berkeley. She was on the women’s team at Pepperdine. “She’s been amazing,” Morikawa said of her. “I didn’t start winning in college until she showed up in my life. I’m very lucky to have her.”
When you listen to Morikawa, he has a refreshing innocence about him. He’s a foodie and back at his home in Las Vegas, he and Katherine foster rescue dogs.
He has an engaging smile but don’t let that fool you. Out there on the course, he’s armed to the teeth with a classic swing, a great short game and a putting touch that keeps getting better.
He has all the tools, there’s little doubt about that.
Most of all, he’s got a lot of belief in himself, just take how he feels:
“I feel like this is where I belong, this is where I want to be.”
Collin Morikawa will win a lot more tournaments, he’ll win more majors.
Yes, he belongs, in a very big way.