We knew that Collin Morikawa was a good player before last summer’s PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. The now-24-year-old was already ranked No. 12 in the Official World Golf Rankings. He had won a PGA Tour event as a rookie, the 2019 Barracuda Championship, and coming out of the PGA Tour’s stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic last summer, he nearly won the first event, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club. He also beat Justin Thomas in a playoff to win the Workday Charity Open a month before heading to San Francisco.
So yes, we knew Collin Morikawa was good. And then he won the PGA Championship, which he will defend this week at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, a Pete Dye creation that is one of the most intimidating and challenging courses in the United States.
“I think it’s definitely a ball striker’s course,” Morikawa said after playing the course for the first time in April. “You have to be able to flight different shots, work it left to right, right to left, and that kind of suits me.”
Golf fans have seen plenty of pros make a name for themselves at a young age. Morikawa is in the middle of his third season on the PGA Tour, with several events still to go. Still, as you can see in the chart below, his win total and his total number of top-10 finishes are comparable to several big-name players to this point.
As you can see, to this point Collin Morikawa already has more PGA Tour wins than Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler had through three full seasons, and with two more wins this season he could tie Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas’ mark of six wins through three seasons. He is unlikely, however, to equal either Spieth, Thomas or Tiger Woods’ number of top-10 finishes, but there is no shame in that.
The most memorable shot of Morikawa’s career took place on the par-4 16th hole last year at TPC Harding Park, which was set up at 336 yards, forcing players to decide off the tee whether they wanted to hit an iron and lay up or go for the green with a driver. At the time, Morikawa was tied with Paul Casey at 11 under and had a one-shot lead over Jason Day, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and Matthew Wolff.
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Morikawa opted to go for the green with a driver. The play was aggressive, but it was absolutely the right decision based on the numbers. Morikawa had tried to reach the green on drivable par 4s and hit the green in two shots on par 5s 144 times last season before the PGA Championship. On those holes, he made a birdie or eagle almost 60 percent of the time and was a cumulative 97 under par. When he did not try to hit the green on a drivable par 4 or go for the green in two on a par 5, he was 20 under par on 78 holes.
Morikawa’s drive went 293 yards on that Sunday and cut the corner, bounced a few times and rolled to a stop 7 feet from the hole to set up an eagle putt. Moments after Casey missed a birdie putt on 17, Morikawa struck his putt, aiming toward the left edge of the cup and then watched it drift to the right and into the center of the hole to give him a two-shot lead.
That was not the only good putt Morikawa made last year at the PGA Championship. He led the field in strokes gained putting that week, which is surprising because entering the week he ranked 164th in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour (-0.271). It’s Morikawa’s Achilles Heel and the thing that holds him back from winning even more.
Consider this: Morikawa ranks eighth in driving accuracy this season (70.45 percent), second in greens in regulation (72.85 percent) and is 10th in proximity to the hole (34’ 2”), a stat that measures the average distance to the hole after an approach shot. The guy throws darts, which not only helps him avoid making bogeys, it gives him a lot of birdie chances. He averages 4.64 birdies per 18 holes, which ranks fourth on the PGA Tour.
But among the 216 golfers ranked in strokes gained putting in 2021, Collin Morikawa ranks 186th. His average, -0.471, means that he is losing almost half a stroke to the field over 18 holes because of poor putting.
At The Ocean Course, if Collin Morikawa hits his driver and irons the way he normally does and has a good putting week, he will be very hard to beat. If his putter remains cold and he struggles on the greens, he might still contend (his ball striking is that good).
For the defending PGA Championship winner, it will all come down to the putter.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/19/stats-say-collin-morikawa-is-elite-even-as-his-putting-holds-him-back/