Collin Morikawa reacts to a shot on the 13th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2022 PGA Championship on May 18, 2022 in Tulsa, Okla.
Sure, we’re just talking about practice, but if you practice how you play then Collin Morikawa is as ready as can be to win his second PGA Championship.
In a practice round Sunday at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the season’s second major tees off Thursday, Morikawa scored a hole-in-one on the 208-yard, par-3 sixth hole. For any doubters, he live streamed the whole thing on Instagram. Not that there’d be any reason to doubt the abilities of Morikawa, a 2020 Olympian, two-time major champion and the No. 3 golfer in the world.
For a 25-year-old in just his fourth year of professional golf, Morikawa has indeed already established a reputation as one of the ones to beat whenever he tees it up. That’ll be the case again this weekend at Southern Hills, where Morikawa is among the favorites. The PGA is where Morikawa made his first big splash on tour two years ago.
In just his second major start, Morikawa fired a final-round 64 at San Francisco’s Harding Park to win the 2020 PGA Championship. In doing so he joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as the last four golfers to win their first PGA at the age of 23.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,” Morikawa said following that August 2020 triumph. “It’s hard to think about what this championship means, and obviously it’s a major, and this is what guys go for, especially at the end of their career, and we’re just starting.”
Morikawa was indeed off and running from there, building on what he’d accomplished in 2020 with an even stronger 2021. With a top-five finish at the U.S. Open, Morikawa clinched a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team for the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. But before teeing it up there, Morikawa captured his second major title in July at the British Open. There, more history, as he joined Bobby Jones as the only players to win two majors in their first eight tries.
The Olympic tournament awaited just weeks later. Morikawa, who was earning a reputation as a strong closer, saved his best round for Sunday. He shot a 63 to raise up from a tie for 17th and finish in a tie for third. In a playoff for the bronze medal, Morikawa made it to the final hole but came up just short of winning the hardware.
“One of the best experiences of your life,” Morikawa summarized in the aftermath of the playoff. “I’m walking away whether I get a medal or not, I’m an Olympian and that’s what I said from the beginning of the week. But I think what today brought out of me was more than just playing for myself I was playing for our country and I was able to fight and dig deep.”
Morikawa would suit up for his country again later that year as the U.S. regained the Ryder Cup, handing Europe its biggest defeat in tournament history. Morikawa didn’t lose any of his matches, going 3-0-1. The lone tie was in his Sunday singles match against Viktor Hovland as the U.S. already had a huge lead.
Hovland in a way helped with Morikawa’s preparation for this weekend in Oklahoma. If there’s one weakness to Morikawa’s game it’s putting, though he’s made big strides so far in 2022. Morikawa picked up a tip from Hovland, who marks a line on his ball to help with alignment. Picking up even a few strokes with the flat stick could make the difference at the PGA.
To win a major in Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month would be even sweeter for Morikawa, a California native who is of Chinese and Japanese descent. Playing in Tokyo was especially meaningful for him, and he said since turning professional he’s come to embrace his heritage even more.
“To see the love for the game in Japan and to see how they resonate with me and to see that simply because, yes, I look like them — they may be a little kid or whatever — sees that opportunity that they want to be like me,” Morikawa said to NBC’s “TODAY” ahead of the Tokyo Games. “Knowing that I can give hope to hopefully just one person, hopefully more and more, it means a lot.”