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Why this rising star would be wise *not* to chase distance

Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa, during the 2020 PGA Tour season, ranked 97th in driving distance. He hit it 297.3 yards per pop.  

Don’t go to 96th in 2021, said the former caddie to a five-time major champion. Don’t go to 297.4, said a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour. 

“I mean, the sky is the limit for him,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay, the former caddie for Phil Mickelson, on Golf Channel’s broadcast of Saturday’s third round of the Tournament of Champions. “The one thing, I hope, in his case, is that he doesn’t chase distance. I’d hate to see him be one of those guys who says, ‘I need to get 10 yards longer. I’m going to do this or that, or do 1,000 pushups a day.’ 

“I think he’s great right where he is. He’s going to have an amazing career.”

It’s been nothing short of already. 

Morikawa, at 23 and having played not even a full two years on Tour, has won three tournaments, the PGA Championship and Workday last year, and the Barracuda Championship in 2019. At the PGA, he became the third-youngest winner of the event since it began its stroke-play format (1958), with his tee shot that drove the 16th green in the final round being one of the more memorable shots in the history of the event. At the Workday, he defeated world No. 3 Justin Thomas in a playoff, with his putt on the first hole, after Thomas rolled in a 50-footer, being one of the more memorables exchanges in a while. Last year, Morikawa ranked in the top 20 on Tour in four of its Strokes Gained metrics — off the tee (19th), approach the green (second), tee to green (fifth) and total (14th). 

Don’t mess up a good swing, Justin Leonard said.

“It is tempting,” said Leonard, who won the 1997 Open Championship among his 12 wins, on the Golf Channel broadcast. “But he’s so technically sound with his golf game, with his swing — there really is no weakness. Yes, you could say, ‘OK, well maybe his weakness is he’s not one of the longest players on Tour. But I totally agree with Bones — he doesn’t need to be. As good as he is with his irons, as well as he manages his game, he’s got an extremely high golf I.Q. 

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“And so, if I’m in the camp of Collin Morikawa, I’m saying, ‘Listen, let’s drop some bread crumbs to get back to this point where you are right now.’ Make sure we got everything we need on film, you write things down as you’re going through things, your thought processes, because this, at just 23 years old, it’s not as good as it’s going to get, but it’s so good that you don’t want to get too far away from where he is now.”    

He likely won’t, if his 23 years are any clue. Mackay said at an event in 2019, Morikawa told him how he chose his clubs and ball. How he decided where to live. How he picked who was going to manage his career. As a college senior. 

“I’m like, wait a second, this guy’s like talking to a guy that’s got three kids,” Mackay said. “So he’s incredibly impressive, very, very wise for his age obviously.”

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