Good Things Lining Up for Morikawa coming into the Open
19 Jul,2023

By Tim Liotta


Good Things Lining Up for Morikawa coming into the Open

Ball-strikers. Strokes Gained: Approach. The ability to control distance, ball flight. Plot a way around the golf course. 

All mentioned as key components to succeeding this week at Royal Liverpool. 

And when the subject of favorites for this week's 151st Open Championship comes up, three names are bantered about: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and rightfully so. 

The three are 1-2-3 in scoring average on the PGA Tour in 2023, and 1-3-8 in the Strokes Gained: Approach category. 

One name that could sneak up on the experts this championship? How about the guy No.2 in Strokes Gained: Approach - Collin Morikawa - who also only happens to be coming off his best finish in months just two weeks ago, a T2 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he lost in a playoff to Rickie Fowler. 


"Being in contention two weeks ago was the best feeling, walking down those last nine holes, it felt like it was just back to normal," Morikawa said on Tuesday. "It didn't feel like it was out of the norm. It just felt like, man, we're here to make birdies, we're here to win the tournament. The playoff didn't go the way I wanted, but it just felt comfortable.

"To know that that's still there, that's the best feeling."

Two weeks removed from Rocket Mortgage, Morikawa is looking forward to putting that feeling to the test in the year's last major championship.

"Majors test everything. ... it just comes down to believing in yourself really," said Morikawa. "That's how you get to the top of the level. That's how you get to where you want to be.

The two-time major champion, who this year finished T10 at the Masters, T26 at the PGA Championship, and T14 at the U.S. Open, knows not everything can be controlled when wrestling with the game of golf. 

"You first have to believe in yourself, but everything has to go your way," he said. "The way things line up, you have to have that lucky bounce or you have to have that lucky break or the tee shot go your way, and you can always kind of pinpoint it to like one or two shots, whether it's Saturday or Sunday coming down, things just go your way.

"When you're playing well and you're in contention, you get those breaks, and it's just being able to pull off the shots when it matters the most."

Morikawa is just one Open Championship removed from prevailing by two shots over Jordan Spieth and by four shots over Jon Rahm in the 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George's Golf Club in 2021. And Royal Liverpool suits his eye. 

"The course is in front of you. There's not really many blind tee shots, not many blind approaches, a few coming on the back nine, but everything is in front of you," he said. 

"Obviously, they've always talked about staying out of the bunkers, but it's really true. It's a shot penalty if you hit it in these fairway bunkers. 

"So, that's step number one this week is to stay out of as many fairway bunkers as possible, and then hopefully give ourselves some birdie opportunities."

At Royal Liverpool in 2006, Tiger Woods won by avoiding the course's 84 pot bunkers, hitting driver just once. In 2014, Rory McIlroy won by overpowering the par-5s. Morikawa thinks the 2023 strategy off the tee should hold a little bit of both approaches.

"I watched some video from when Tiger won in '06," Morikawa said. "It was as brown as could be and dry as could be out there, right, and like that was his strategy, but he also had a lot of mid to long irons in.

"I think that's a mix. Even today with no wind I was hitting 3-iron, 3-wood, driver. I hit every club off the tee. It's going to be a mix.

"It really is how much you want to take on the bunkers, how aggressive you want to be off the tee. Is that going to give you a 9-iron versus a 6-iron? 

"Out here, it could be the shot penalty that costs you that momentum swing one way or the other. It could be for your benefit, or it could be the other way.

"I think it's a blend of certain ways. A guy like Rory, how far he hits it, yes, he's going to be carrying some bunkers that I can't carry, so he might be playing a little different strategy.

"For me it's really to stay away, plot my way around this golf course, and take advantage of certain holes where I might have a wedge in."

With so many variables to manage coming into a major championship, one has already broken Morikawa's way, one that arrived when Tee Times for the first and second rounds were released. Morikawa will step to the first tee for Game 46 on Thursday afternoon, paired with Max Homa and volatile Englishman Tyrrell Hatton. 

"This might be one of my favourite pairings I've ever had," Morikawa said. "Max obviously because I've gotten very close with him. I call him a really, really good friend and he's obviously a lot of fun to play with.

"But Tyrrell, when people ask me who I like to play with, I say his name because it's entertaining," he said. "It's enjoyable. But it's no hate against you. He doesn't disrupt you. He doesn't slow you down. We're fast players.

"His caddie, Mick (Donaghy), is also incredible. You ask that question, I mean, we literally talked about it 20 minutes ago at lunch with my caddie. It truly is one of the best pairings I could ask for.

"I enjoy it. He's a lot of fun. He's never really that negative. He'll talk to you at any point, even if he is mad. We've seen a lot of those moments.

"But he is a really good guy. He does have a good time, but he's very professional in a sense of like respecting his other playing partners for sure."

Morikawa has cultivated plenty of lessons learned from his Open Championship victory two years, but there's one he's not so sure will stick. 

"I definitely called it the British Open the year I won and then people gave me hate for it, so then I called it The Open last year," he said, "but I played better when I called it the British Open, so I might call it the British Open. ... I think people understand whether you say British Open or The Open. At the end of the day if you win it you can call it whatever the hell you want."