5 surprising things I learned interviewing Collin Morikawa
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Even on the PGA Tour, where it feels like there’s a new phenom crowned every week, there’s nobody quite like Collin Morikawa. He was the No. 1 amateur in the world and a three-time first-team all-American at Cal — and that was before he seamlessly made the transition to the PGA Tour, where he has won three times in short order, including his very first major championship at TPC Harding Park a couple months back.
But you already knew that. What we know less about is the (young) man behind the made-cut streak and how he got to be where he is today. What’s the secret sauce? Morikawa hopped on this week’s Drop Zone podcast to break down where he’s been and where he’s going. You can listen to that at the Spotify embed below, or on Apple Podcasts, Podbean, really anywhere you get your podcasts.
So what’s Morikawa like to chat with? Here are a few things I learned from our sitdown.
1. Tiger was still his idol growing up in the 2000s.
Morikawa was the first golfer to win on the PGA Tour who was born after Tiger Woods’ first win — but that didn’t mean Woods was too old for him to look up to. “He’s the guy,” Morikawa said definitively. “He’s still the guy for kids that are growing up now, that are just picking up the game.”
There you have it. The Tiger Woods generation continues. Morikawa pointed out that kids picking up the game now don’t necessarily know who guys like Ernie Els and Vijay Singh even are, putting Woods’ immortality in a whole new light.
2. He’s a player rather than a range grinder.
It’s always interesting to hear how pros value time on the range compared to time on the course. Bryson DeChambeau, for instance, essentially never plays actual golf rounds when he’s at home, while Rory McIlroy believes a play-heavy combination is optimal. Morikawa falls on the side of hitting the course.
“There was a lot of alone time on the course; I played a lot on the course and that was just how I crafted my game,” he said of his training sessions. “Even now, I rarely just go beat balls on the range.”
According to Morikawa, the split on Tour is “closer to 50-50 than you would think,” when it comes to range guys vs. course guys.
“There’s a bunch of guys that love to practice and there’s a bunch of guys that love to play. Everyone can do it, everyone can play well — that’s golf.”
3. There’s no ‘Wow’ factor to being on Tour.
Morikawa is thus far unfazed by the leap to golf’s top level. That may be unsurprising, seeing as he won his second-ever major championship start — but still, it’s striking to hear his reminder that this was always the plan.
“It’s crazy because you guys might expect me to be like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe where I’m at. I’m living my dream!’ But to be honest, this is where I always thought I was going to be, and there’s so much more ahead of me that I’m not going to put a limit to what can happen and what I can do,” he said.
4. He’s known his competition for a long time.
Morikawa said he didn’t have many golf friends growing up; his friends didn’t really know or care what he did at the course. But once he started playing a more national circuit, he got to know plenty of golf’s other rising stars — guys he still competes with now.
“The AJGA is like the junior tour for the entire country, and you meet everyone there,” he said. “Like, the guys that are on the Korn Ferry Tour that are now my age, [Matthew] Wolff, Viktor [Hovland], all these are guys that I’ve played with, I’ve known them for 6, 7, 8 years now. I’ve seen them so many times. So that’s where you grow most of your golf friends.”
5. He’s really, truly not surprised by anything.
I know, we already covered this. But it really, really comes across talking to him. There has not been a single thing that has happened to Morikawa on the PGA Tour that has thrown him for a loop.
“No. And it’s crazy that nothing has, but there seriously hasn’t, and I love it,” Morikawa said. He seems to recognize that that isn’t normal, but I’m not sure he can really understand it, which may be a key to success.
“I think the coolest thing is that all the guys out here on the PGA Tour are just normal guys. We’re really good at golf but we love other things, we’re not just golf-focused, and I think finding out, learning about these other guys, having fun with ‘em off the course, that’s been the best thing. Because that’s your new group of buddies.”
Still, Morikawa acknowledged there was one moment that stood out as particularly special.
“When Tiger came up to me and called me a major champ — that was the coolest thing.”