With another major, Morikawa charts a new path

Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Add another name with which Collin Morikawa is now linked by his remarkable run in major tournaments in the space of 343 days. This one is a bit out of left field, but it shows just how much Morikawa has accomplished in a short time on the PGA Tour.

He will be the first player since Andy North in 1985 to make his Ryder Cup debut after previously winning two majors.

It was different then, of course. Tour players had to do an apprenticeship before they could even become members of the PGA of America and be eligible. North won the US Open twice before playing his first Ryder Cup.

“I think it took three years before I could start scoring points for the Ryder Cup,” North said on Tuesday. “And then you had to attend a three-day school. We had to pass a rules test. That’s why a lot of players haven’t been to as many Ryder Cups as you might think.

Nicklaus, for example, had already won seven majors when he played his first Ryder Cup.

“He’s special,” North said, returning his thoughts to Morikawa. “I was kinda around him at the PGA Championship because nobody was there. He was the most mature and ready player that I have seen in a long, long time.

And there is still a long way to go for the 24-year-old Californian.

There were a lot of obscure records that came with this silver burgundy jug he won at Royal St. George’s. Not since Jones has a player won two professional majors in eight starts or less. Nicklaus, Woods, Spieth and Rory McIlroy are all on the two majors list before they turn 25. Nicklaus won two after 54 holes, as did Morikawa.

The numbers are just as impressive: a closing 64 to win the PGA Championship at Harding Park last August, a 66 on the last day to win the British Open on Sunday. He played his last 23 holes in the PGA and his last 31 holes in the Open without a bogey.

And he took his own place in the record books as the first man to win two majors in his first appearance.

His calm, his polite, his poise suggest that Morikawa is never in a hurry. His record indicates otherwise. And his wisdom was evident on Saturday night when he was asked to play for the first time in the last group of a major tournament.

“I’ve never been in this position all the other times,” he replied.

Everything is new. And then he makes everything look old hat.

Morikawa still remembers the dinner he had with Justin Thomas on the eve of his professional debut in June 2019. Thomas assured him that while every path is different – some short, some longer – the talent doesn’t is never denied. Morikawa won in his sixth start.

Winning two majors in two years elevates Morikawa to the elite of golf, and he will face even more attention and scrutiny next week at the Olympics and Whistling Straits for his first Ryder Cup.

If there are any lessons to be learned – he turned out to be adept at this – it’s to reset goals. That’s what he believes he failed to do when he won the PGA Championship last year.

“I’m not going to throw it all in the trash and just say, ‘OK, we’re a whole different person.’ But the goals have to change, ”Morikawa said. “I didn’t do this last year.

And it showed. He had only missed one cut in his first 22 starts against a full field. And then he missed three cups in a row in tournaments that had a cup. He only had two top 10s in his last nine tournaments in 2020.

“I want to end the season on a high note, and I’m going to sit down – when things slow down, hopefully – and try to embrace it and figure out what’s next,” Morikawa said.

It doesn’t seem like much is holding him back.

His putting stood out at Royal St. George’s, especially the ones he buried on the 14th and 15th holes (one for the birdie, one for the par) which were decisive. With no data available at the British Open, his performance will not apply to his PGA Tour ranking in the key putting statistic.

Morikawa ranks 170th. The only other top 10 player ranked outside of the top 100 in betting on the PGA Tour is Thomas at No.108.

That hasn’t stopped him from winning two majors and a world golf championship among his five wins in just 52 individual tournaments around the world.

“Stay on the path he’s on,” Spieth said. “He swings the club beautifully, puts them in positions that make it very, very difficult not to start the ball in line. So therefore, he’s going to be very consistent from tee to green. Obviously, with the shots he landed and the putts he landed, he’s not afraid of high pressure situations and winning a major championship.

“I think winning one can happen to a lot of people who play really good golf in a week,” he said. “Winning two, three or more, he’s clearly proven that this stage is where he wants to be.”

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