Collin Morikawa is one of the premier stars on the PGA Tour, a two-time major winner having only turned professional in 2019, arguably the best iron player in the game, and when he putts well, he often wins.
His win at the PGA Tour’s ZoZo Championship last weekend may have been his first since becoming a multiple major winner at the 2021 Open Championship, but it came on the back of a two-and-a-half hour practice putting session on the eve of the event. Whilst there may not be anything particularly unusual about a pro grinding on the putting green, the wall he rolled the rock on Thursday and Sunday in particular, suggests that whatever had been ailing him on the greens in the last two years has been exorcised.
Was it something in his posture? Was it the takeaway? Was it alignment issues? Or maybe it was a minor grip change?
“Yeah, yeah, we found something and we’re going to stick to it,” he said. “Look, you never know whether it’s going to be right or wrong, but something was off. Something I just couldn’t figure out. JJ [caddie Jonathan Jakovac] and I were just looking at each other very confused and trying a bunch of different things. You know, we weren’t changing too much, we were just trying to look at putts a different way.
“We stuck to it. It was nice to see putts roll in in the first round, and then that continued. Yeah, made a lot of putts this week, it was really nice.”
Not exactly clear on what made the difference? You’re not alone. Neither were the press who’d gathered to interview the now six-time PGA Tour winner who can also boast the DP World Tour Championship on his resume. Naturally, they were intrigued, but would he provide any additional insight?
“No, no, nope,” Morikawa replied.
Golfers can be a guarded bunch, and with good reason. Such are the financial incentives for a clean-cut image that anything even remotely controversial tends to be greeted with stony silence, but we’re not talking about politics or religion here, we’re talking about putting.
What’s the big secret? Does he really think that he’ll lose that competitive edge? That Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler and any number of other players who’ve struggled on the greens over the past year or two will suddenly have a lightbulb moment and realise what they’ve been doing wrong?
It’s not like putting is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing anyway. Putters can vary in length from 28.5 inches – as formerly used by Robert Garrigus who comically looked as though he’d found it in Lilliput – to almost 50 inches in the broom-handle variety. Thin grips, fat grips, light, heavy, centre-weighted, offset, mallet, blade, you name it. There are more putter types than there are balls, and each specific putter brings with it subtle nuances that vary the approach required.
Then of course, there are different gripping types. Orthodox, leading-hand-low, claw, pencil grip, wrist-lock, and I’m probably forgetting one or two.
But then again, many top sports stars are superstitious. Michael Jordan, widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform, believing they brought him luck. With six NBA Championships and an estimated wealth of $3 billion, maybe they did.
Maybe Morikawa feels that by voicing his new-found technique, it will magically disappear. He’s got form in this department too. After an opening 66 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic back in early July, he was asked if anything had changed from a disappointing showing at the Travelers Championship the week before.
“Yes, kind of,” he said. “I found probably the most important thing yesterday afternoon after my pro-am. It’s been a lot of work on the range, it’s been a lot of just playing on the course, seeing what the ball’s doing.
“Like I said, the good shots are good, so like it’s tough because like I can go hit five, 10 balls on the range, looks great and then you put it on the course and that’s where shots matter. It was something nice to find yesterday and kind of work from there. I won’t tell you, so…”
Our valiant colleagues in the fourth estate fought the good fight, repeatedly asking for elaboration, but no, nothing was given.
“It’s pretty simple, to be honest,” was about as much as he would allow. “I’m still not going to tell you, though.”
He did leave the door open a little, telling GolfWeek’s Adam Schupak that if things panned out the way he’d planned, he’d bare all in the winner’s press conference.
“If I finish on top, I’ll tell you on Sunday, that’s a fair answer,” he said.
As it happened, Morikawa lost to Rickie Fowler in a playoff, and the great secret remained. Victory at the ZoZo didn’t bring any fresh revelations, however, to the best of my knowledge, no mid-tournament promises were made.
Putting is fickle; it can change week-to-week, and even day-to-day. This could be a flash-in-the-pan performance, or, having been tipped for double-digit major wins after taking two in his first eight, maybe he’s on his way back to the top of the game.
Time will tell.
It has to, because clearly Collin won’t.