PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

RBC Heritage

Collin Morikawa definitely has his groove back

April 19, 2024

Collin Morikawa reacts on the 18th hole after finishing the second round of the RBC Heritage.

Andrew Redington

It was easy to overlook Collin Morikawa's T-3 finish at the Masters, coming as it did with a disappointing 74 and fully in the shadow of Scottie Scheffler's latest coup. But that result represented a surprising leap for the 27-year-old two-time major champion. Morikawa has been struggling this season relative to his past success, with just a single top-five finish before Augusta, and his world ranking slipped back to 20 from its high point of 2 at his peak. Nothing about his recent form indicated that he could contend at a major, but there he was.

And now, at the RBC Heritage—an elevated $20 million tournament—here he is again. Morikawa shot a bogey-free 66, highlighted by a 36-foot birdie putt from off the green on the 12th hole, to hold a tie for the lead at 11 under heading into the weekend.

What explains the change? At Augusta, he spoke of his need to find something different to shake off his slump—he said he hadn't been feeling quite right all the way back 2022—and how he discovered something with his swing in the week leading up to the Masters.

"I'm not going to let you know what I'm doing," he said, half joking and half serious, on Saturday night. "Need it to work at least one more day."

Whatever it was, the once prodigious iron player seemed more like himself, and a switch to a mallet putter—perhaps inspired by Scheffler—had him within a single good round of winning the third leg of the career grand slam.

At Harbour Town, Morikawa has made just a single bogey in 36 holes and sat in a three-way tie with Tom Hoge and Sepp Straka atop the leaderboard as play continued Friday. He would never say he expected to be there, but signs early in the week were auspicious.

"You have to believe in it," he said on Thursday, "and when I saw the shots and the shots keep going on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, at that point I know what we're working on is working."

He was still mum about the actual swing change, though, saying, "I'm using this one thing that we found last week just to my advantage." As of this writing, Morikawa is only 46th this week in SG/approach, but in other strokes gained categories, he's seventh off the tee, seventh in putting and first around the green. He highlighted that last stat in discussing Friday's round, which included a few errant shots that forced Morikawa to slow himself down.

"Just scrambling, finding ways to make birdie and not getting ahead of myself," he said when asked for the best part of his game. "Days like this where you don't hit it as well, sometimes you think ahead and sometimes you kind of wait for the next hole and you wait for the next shot."

He was also asked again about this "Eureka" moment before the Masters, and though he didn't get technical, he opened the door a little wider, calling it a "a real big steppingstone."

"J.J. [Jakovac, his caddie] and I were pretty happy when we found it," he said. "It's not like we created something new in the golf swing. It just all made sense. We tried to make a lot of things make sense for the past while, but sometimes things click, and it's obviously clicked because it's lasted more than a day."

The wider golf world will start paying attention the minute he wins another tournament, but even if that doesn't happen this weekend—which it easily could—we've seen enough to know that one of the younger generation's greatest talents has re-discovered what makes him great, and he's putting it to immediate use.