Morikawa's major move

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M. James Ward outlines how the two-time major champion is poised to make a run this weekend for a second Wannamaker Trophy.
Posted on
May 18, 2024
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

LOUISVILLE, KY. After being in contention during the final round of this year's Masters, Collin Morikawa is once again in the spotlight after scoring a second round 65 that has him just one shot behind 36-hole leader Xander Schauffele.

Morikawa picked up considerable momentum with five consecutive birdies on his inward nine (holes 4 thru 8). A lone bogey happened at his finishing hole -- the par-4 9th. However, he concluded the round with no blemishes along with two birdies.

Unlike many of his fellow elite competitors who drive the ball prodigious distances, the two-time major champion's game relies particularly on a deft iron game that consistently places his ball in advantageous positions for birdie tries. His mental strength and inner belief in his abilities is often overlooked.

Morikawa's play has recently been on the upswing since his recent performance at this year's Masters where the 27-year-old was paired with Scottie Scheffler in the final grouping and finished T3 after crippling double-bogies at the 9th and 11th holes.

Morikawa will be paired in the final group with Schauffele and the two Californians are well aware of each other having been teammates on the 2021 and 2023 USA Ryder Cup teams respectively.

Lurking just three shots off the lead is Scottie Scheffler and a possible final round pairing with the number one player on the planet.


Morikawa's 2nd round magic

Became the first player to make five consecutive birdies this week.It is the longest streak of his major championship career.

Over the previous three PGA Championships at Valhalla GC, two players managed to birdie (or better) at least five consecutive holes:

-Mark Brooks made six straight birdies in the first round in 1996.
-Thorbjørn Olesen made five straight birdies during the third round in 2014.


For Morikawa the inner belief in himself has been the driving catalyst in returning to the consistent high form he has displayed in the past.

"I know I still have it in me, and that's what's exciting is that, after Augusta, it sucked to finish like that and it sucked to lose to Scottie, but at the end of the day, I knew I had three more majors coming up and to prep for that and get things as sharp as possible and just come out strong. It's obviously nice to get off to this start."

Morikawa's game is well-rounded and his driving skills have been very much in evidence at Valhalla with nearly 80% reaching the fairway.

When looking at Morikawa you don't have the hulking physical stature of a Brooks Koepka or Dustin Johnson. There's no swagger or glib statements made. Morikawa has made a career in being stronger mentally than many.

This is a golfer who won the PGA Championship in 2020 in only his second start in a major event. He also shot a final round 64 - tying him for the lowest final score in championship history. His epic driver at the par-4 16th sealed the win with a brilliant eagle.

Just over a year later Morikawa won the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George's in England. He became the first player since Bobby Jones in 1926 to win two majors in eight or fewer starts. And also became the first player to win two different majors in his debut appearance.

The final 36 holes at Valhalla has Morikawa back in the fray. What will be interesting to see is how he performs this time around given what took place at Augusta this past April.

For Morikawa the game plan is straightforward -- what has happened is in his rear-view mirror. It is that inspiration that propels him ahead and that starts with Saturday's third round.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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