Collin Morikawa came up with the big shots when he needed to in seizing the PGA Championship last month.
But the rising 23-year-old American still doesn’t believe his first major victory puts him or anyone else into the same category of “clutch-ness” as one of his playing partners Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open.
“There’s Tiger Woods and there’s the rest of us,” Morikawa declared when asked about being “clutch” in preparation for his shot to make it two majors in a row this weekend at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck.
Morikawa, Woods and 2017 PGA winner Justin Thomas will comprise one of the marquee threesomes of the opening two rounds, even if there will be no rowdy New York galleries chasing them due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 44-year-old Woods’ 2019 victory at The Masters marks the only one of his 15 major wins over the past dozen years. He has played sparingly (four PGA events) and mostly ineffectually since the PGA Tour restarted earlier this summer.
Morikawa, who turned pro out of Cal-Berkeley in 2019, became the third-youngest winner of the PGA Championship since stroke play began in 1958 — behind only Jack Nicklaus (1963) and Rory McIlroy (2012). His final-round 64 on Aug. 9 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco featured a holed-out chip on No. 14 to take the lead and a wild drive-the-green eagle on the par-4 16th hole to essentially clinch the Wannamaker Trophy.
“It’s just who is going to step up to the next moment,” Morikawa said in a continuation of his Woods answer. “We’re on a different stage now. It’s not just another amateur event or another college event or whatever it is. This is the big time. This is the major.
“So yeah, you’ve got to step up, and you can’t be scared of taking another step because that puts you in another level of golf.”
Morikawa’s next-level breakthrough at the PGA has zoomed his tour ranking to No. 5, behind only Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Thomas and McIlory, with Woods just outside the top 20 (21st). Morikawa’s well-rounded game has him considered among the favorites on this treacherous par-70 track.
After playing just nine holes at Winged Foot earlier this week, Morikawa replied “this one, probably” to a query about the “hardest course” he’s ever played.
“I don’t think I approach it any different,” Morikawa said. “I think walking here as a major champion, you have a sense of knowing how to get things done. Yes, I’ve only done it once, but I’ve done it. You just want more. You get that little taste of what it’s like, and you know why guys mark in their calendars the major championships for the year.
“So it’s not like I’m showing up not knowing what a major championship feels like. You still have that feeling here even without the fans. You can tell how guys are prepping, how guys are getting ready, but for me it’s just, OK, let’s come out here, I see all these guys every week, and let’s have some fun playing golf.”
New York Post
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