‘Why are you doing that?’ Collin Morikawa explains the drill he used as a kid to become an elite ball-striker

Collin Morikawa celebrates his 2021 British Open win.

Collin Morikawa, the 2021 Open Championship winner, leads the FedEx Cup standings entering the Playoffs.

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Collin Morikawa’s rise to stardom has been no accident. He followed up his two-win 2020 — which included a PGA Championship victory — with eight top 10s and two wins this year. The biggest victory came just last month, when he won the Open Championship for his second major.

Morikawa’s superb ball-striking has led the way. He’s 24th in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and first in SG: Approach, gaining an average of 1.395 strokes on the field in the latter category. His gap over the No. 2 player in the ranking, Paul Casey (.917), is massive.

But just how has Morikawa become such a strong iron player? He was asked that on Wednesday at Liberty National in New Jersey, where he’s preparing for The Northern Trust and the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“Growing up, the way I practiced, I was practicing on the golf course, so I’d always hit different shots,” he said. “I’d never just throw it on a mat.”

Morikawa played at Chevy Chase Country Club in Glendale, Calif., a 1925 William P. Bell-designed nine-hole course with 10 greens. Hitting balls into a net cage was the only place Morikawa could warm up.

“I would stand kind of off to the side and create a ball above my feet, even though it was a half inch above the ground, and I’d have one foot off,” Morikawa said. “I remember a parent came up to me and was like, ‘Why are you doing that?’ You’re not really practicing anything good, and it actually sticks out to me now because, look, we’re never going to get a flat lie. We’re always going to have to adjust. You’re always going to have to do something different. So I think that’s why me practicing on the golf course, throwing a few balls out, and it’s been that creative side of hitting different shots.”

He continued, explaining what he does well within his swing and how to sustain it mentally.

“Obviously, I have a little bowed wrist, not as bowed as some people’s,” he said. “Club is still fairly square. And I just hold that, kind of turn, rotate, clear out the hips, and I’m able to hit that little baby cut, what I’ve been known for the past few years. Mentally, I think I just — I know what my body does. I know what my shots do. I just kind of stick to that. I’ve created more shots. I’ve learned different shots throughout the bag, but even through college, this is what I’ve been doing, and I don’t want to change anything just because guys are hitting it higher and guys are hitting it farther. I’ve stuck to what I’ve been doing, and I think I truly believe that what I’ve learned throughout college was good enough out here. Obviously, it’s shown sometimes here and there that it’s solid enough.”

Free insight into the mind of the best ball-striker on the planet? Thanks, Collin. His first round of The Northern Trust begins at 8:26 a.m. ET on Thursday, and he’s grouped with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay.


Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining GOLF.com in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.