We’ll begin with the ugly. The off-the-toe nasty.
Collin Morikawa had one of those Thursday. It came on his second shot, from 235 yards out, on the par-5 second at TPC Sawgrass. And he started murmuring as soon as his ball left the face of his 4-iron.
“I mean, I caught it a little toey,” Morikawa said to caddie JJ Jakovac as his ball started to Morikawa-draw.
It fell short of the green.
And it bounced.
And it rolled.
And it finished 3 feet right of the hole.
“Mishit it a little bit over the toe but landed exactly where we wanted,” Morikawa said afterward.
How nice. And it was for the 26-year-old Californian during the Players Championship first round Five birdies. An eagle. No bogeys. His seven-under 65 trailed only Chad Ramey among the morning wave. Of course, we’ve seen excellence from Morikawa before. As he approaches his fourth anniversary on tour, already he’s a two-time major winner. He’s front of mind, too, when the talk turns to who puts club on ball best.
But here’s where it gets damn right scary.
After a bit of work, Morikawa said Thursday his swing is now as good as it’s ever been.
“I would say this week, what I found earlier this week, my swing hasn’t looked this good probably since 2019 when I first came out,” he said. “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.
“So, yeah, 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.”
With one sentence, he may have put pro golf on high alert. Let’s try to unpack this some. For one, Morikawa does not lack confidence. To that end, when asked whether he feels comfortable at Sawgrass, a reference to his three previous appearances (cut last year; 41st in 2021; the event was canceled in 2020), he scolded reporters that “people really dig in these results.”
In short, Morikawa believes he can hang anywhere.
“I mean, look, I don’t really take too much — I don’t take too much from like previous history,” he said. “Obviously when you play well, you feel comfortable, so there is a reason why you played well.
“But the places that I haven’t played well at, I don’t look at it as like, oh, man, like this course doesn’t suit my game. So I think if you look at stats like that, yeah, you can look at it that way, but I haven’t had a course where I’ve been like, man, like I can’t play here. That’s a thing. So I wouldn’t really buy into that as much as a lot of people like to do.”
That all being said, he’s put in the work, too, and maybe you’re allowed to be a little self-assured then. Think of it this way: Why shouldn’t you be proud?
There have been at least some whispers since his last win, at the Open Championship in 2021, and he revealed last November that “things never felt good” last year and that he “just kind of was searching for that game, searching for some kind of normal.” He’s grinded, though. Earlier this year, he said he also put in work with putting coach Stephen Sweeney and short-game guru Parker McLachlin. And on Wednesday, he was pounding range shots into the wind.
What does all of it mean? Stay tuned, of course. Golf is weird.
But if one of the world’s best is informing you now he likes swing?
Things could get ugly.
“Overall, the game feels really good,” Morikawa said, “and I’m just going to take that into the next few days and just kind of use that momentum to hopefully play three more really good rounds.”
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