GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA | The day will come soon enough when 22-year old Collin Morikawa will take a breath and fully absorb all that has happened since he turned pro earlier this summer.
But not yet.
Fresh out of a four-year college career at the University of California where he was a three-time first team All-American and two-time finalist for the prestigious Ben Hogan Award, Morikawa has deconstructed the notion that PGA Tour rookies need time to learn their way around.
In six starts since turning pro, Morikawa has three top-10 finishes including a victory last Sunday in the Barracuda Championship, catapulting him to full PGA Tour membership and 46th spot in the FedEx Cup race as the playoffs approach.
Were it not for his fellow rookie Matthew Wolff, who beat him on the 72nd hole at the 3M Open last month, Morikawa might be a multiple winner already.
The only learning curve for recent college stars Wolff, Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, it seems, is figuring where to stay and directions to the golf course. The winning thing is taking care of itself.
“We believe in ourselves,” Morikawa said.
What is it that makes this group just out of college different?
“There is something different but I don’t know what it is yet,” Paul Casey said. “They’ve instantly backed up the hype, which we haven’t always seen.”
It’s not as easy as Morikawa has made it appear, at least it’s not supposed to be.
However, Morikawa’s career graph has been on a steady incline from his days as a junior player. He won the Western Junior, the Sunnehanna Amateur and the Trans-Mississippi Amateur in addition to his decorated career in Berkeley.
Ask his college coach, Walter Chun, if he’s surprised by Morikawa’s fast start and he pauses.
“Yes and no,” Chun said.
“No, because he’s so talented. Yes, because you never know how the transition from college to professional will go. There are plenty of can’t-miss kids who don’t make it.”
Though he’s not yet in the official PGA Tour stats, Morikawa would rank among the top handful of players in strokes gained tee to green. He’s a remarkably consistent ballstriker and when his short game and putting come together, he’s capable of spectacular stretches.
“His consistency is a byproduct of how physically gifted he is,” Chun said.
“(Morikawa) picks up bits and pieces all over. … He uses his street smarts to understand what he needs to do to get to the next level.” – Walter Chun, Morikawa’s college coach
Morikawa, who graduated from the highly regarded Haas School of Business at California, has used the accumulation of his experience to help him be fully prepared when he turned pro. As a sophomore at Cal, he played in the Safeway Open and, though he missed the cut, said he learned more from those two days than he could have imagined.
In 2018, Morikawa played the Arnold Palmer Invitational and learned he had to improve his ball flight, getting tighter control especially when playing firm greens.
During his senior season at Cal, Morikawa said he began building a routine that he brought with him to the tour, jump-starting what can be an unsettling adjustment.
“He picks up bits and pieces all over,” Chun said. “Whether he’s talking to Maverick McNealy or Max Homa, he understands what he needs to do.
“He uses his street smarts to understand what he needs to do to get to the next level.”
Speaking of Homa, a former University of California player who won the Wells Fargo Championship this year, here’s what he tweeted about Morikawa this week:
“Been saying it since I met him 2 years ago. Collin Morikawa is gunna do massive things in this game. I’ve only seen a small handful like him before. It’s both beautiful and frightening to see.”
When Morikawa turned pro, his immediate goal was to earn his full PGA Tour privileges without having to go through the Korn Ferry Tour finals. He had dinner with Justin Thomas in Canada earlier this summer and the discussion brought some clarity, helping him balance expectations versus reality.
“I have to realize this is my first summer out here and I’m here to learn,” Morikawa said. “I’m still learning. That’s never going to stop.
“But I think it’s gone a lot faster than I kind of saw. When this season is over, I’m going to be able to really look at it and put this whole season together. Obviously, it’s going to be a lot of positives but there are going to be some things I nitpick.”
Morikawa’s next goal is to be among the 30 players who make the Tour Championship at East Lake, an achievement that he may accomplish in three months. It goes back to the mindset of “Why not me?”
“It’s been a trickle-down effect from Tiger,” Chun said. “The Justin Thomases and Jordan Spieths have inspired guys to think, hey, they won majors in their 20s. It’s doable.
“But you have to be smart. You can’t think it’s just going to happen. These guys have pieced together what they need to do to compete at this level. Their predecessors showed it could be done but you still have to take care of what you need to do.”
Matthew Wolff shakes hands with Collin Morikawa after winning the 3M Open. Photo: Sam Greenwood, Getty Images
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