Morikawa ‘saws’ way to win at WGC-Workday Championship
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Putting lesson from Mark O’Meara proves instrumental at The Concession
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
Collin Morikawa’s interview after winning WGC-Workday
BRADENTON, Fla. – Collin Morikawa has almost always excelled from tee to green.
It was the putting that was an issue.
Thanks to a lesson from a World Golf Hall of Famer, that was far from the case at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession, where Morikawa shot a final-round 69 to beat Brooks Koepka (70), Billy Horschel (70) and Viktor Hovland (67) by three.
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“Short game and putting – I mean, that’s it,” J.J. Jakovac, Morikawa’s caddie, said of the big difference in his man this week. “He always hits the ball exceptional. I mean this week was really good, I’m sure he finished number one in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, but that happens often. But it’s just putting making those putts. I mean he putted beautifully all week.”
Morikawa did lead the field in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green. Also in SG: Tee to Green.
His work on those greens, where he was 213th in Strokes Gained: Putting on the season, made the difference. He was 10th in SG: Putting at the WGC-Workday, not only holding his own but gaining strokes on the field. And he did it using a “saw” putting grip, rotating his right hand around to push the club through the hitting zone, that he picked up from Mark O’Meara.
He also got a chipping lesson on site from NBC Golf analyst Paul Azinger.
“I heard about Mark O'Meara using this saw grip,” said Morikawa, who like the PGA TOUR Champions pro is a member of The Summit Club in Las Vegas. “And out of the blue for 18 holes at TPC Summerlin, I was like, let's give it a shot. And I made nothing. Like I made zero putts.
“But for some reason, I couldn't sleep,” he continued. “And that's never happened to me. I've never thought about putting or golf this much in my life, because it felt so good. It just felt so different on how I was putting that I knew I was heading down the right path.”
Added caddie Jakovac, “He said it felt so good it freaked him out.”
Morikawa saw O’Meara at the club the next day, and they spent around an hour together.
“He felt comfortable with it,” O’Meara said from the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, Arizona, where he finished T8. “He said it’s the best he’s felt on the greens. I’m not surprised to see the kid win. He’s got an unbelievable future ahead of him. Look, I had mentors, a lot of the great players before me helped me along the line, and I’m always there to help young players.”
Most young players would love to have Morikawa’s problems. But while he had won the Workday Charity Open in July and the PGA Championship in August, Morikawa, 24, had cooled considerably. He’d missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, his hometown tournament. A T44 at The Masters Tournament was underwhelming. He wondered aloud whether he was working hard enough.
“I got complacent,” he said Sunday. “I was getting lazy.”
Eager to shake things up, he used his new saw putting grip from start to finish at The Genesis Invitational in L.A. Although Morikawa finished T43, he still felt encouraged.
“He was dead last in the field in putting,” Jakovac said, “but he was like, ‘It felt really good.’ He just kept saying that. He’s like, ‘Are you worried about it?’ I’m like, ‘Not at all. Your stroke has great flow to it. It looks better to me like that, you’re releasing the putter through the ball.’”
The new stroke was golden at The Concession, where Morikawa averaged 27 putts per round and gained nearly four strokes on the field. His impeccable ball-striking kept him out of trouble on a course where disaster lurked around every dogleg and doomed the chances of several players.
Hovland might have won outright, or at least forced a playoff, were it not for his quadruple-bogey 8 on the ninth hole, his last of the day, in the second round Friday. Cameron Smith was in contention until suffering a third-round 77. Bryson DeChambeau, who won the 2015 NCAA Men’s Championship at The Concession, opened the tournament with a 77.
Morikawa kept the big numbers off his scorecard, making worse than bogey just once, a double-bogey 6 at the 16th hole Thursday. He led the field with 27 birdies.
“His advantage is superior ball-hitting on a course that has massive penalties for missing it,” Jakovac said. “It’s being in control of your golf ball, which he was, and then you add on top of that he started to make putts and chip it good, it’s a good combination.”
The WGC-Workday wasn’t just Morikawa’s fourth win, it was also a reminder of the brotherhood of the TOUR. Players wore red and black to honor Tiger Woods, who suffered compound leg fractures in a single-car accident in L.A. Woods said on Twitter that he was touched; players at The Concession said it was the least they could do for a man who transformed the game.
O’Meara himself was a beneficiary. Having sharpened his game while living in Orlando and practicing with Woods, O’Meara captured the 1998 Masters and Open Championship – the last two victories of his 16-win PGA TOUR career. Morikawa has been a beneficiary, too. As with many players his age, Woods inspired him to pursue golf. They now share an agent, Mark Steinberg, who told Morikawa to go close out the tournament the way Woods would.
“I think I did,” Morikawa said.
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.