The last time Collin Morikawa was in Japan, a final-round surge nearly earned him an Olympic medal.
Last week, a final-round surge in Las Vegas nearly won him his sixth PGA Tour title.
After closing with a 10-under 62 on his home course at The Summit Club, Morikawa finished T-2, one shot behind Rory McIlroy at the CJ Cup.
It’s been a consistent climb back into contention for Morikawa, who suffered a back injury at the Tokyo Olympic Games in late July. The reigning Open champion struggled through the FedExCup playoffs, improving his result at each event, and then went 4-1-0 as the U.S. dominated the Ryder Cup.
It was at Whistling Straits where Morikawa realized something about himself: He doesn’t just handle well the extreme moments; he embraces them.
“I was more nervous on the [first] Walker Cup tee shot, which is crazy to even think about, than my first Ryder Cup tee shot, which I don't know if many people could say that, but I just loved being in that moment,” Morikawa said Wednesday at the Zozo Championship.
Morikawa, who is of Japanese descent, took the Tour’s charter flight from Vegas to Chiba, Japan. He got in nine holes on Tuesday with world No. 1 amateur Keita Nakajima and is balancing rest and course preparation ahead of Round 1, in which he hopes to get off to a quick start to avoid the need for a furious rally.
The world No. 3 was 11 shots off the lead entering the weekend at the CJ Cup. He then shot 65-62 to nearly clip McIlroy.
Morikawa would like to see more than just his physical form carry over this week.
“So, what I'm thinking about through those last two rounds, how I'm thinking through shots is kind of what I want to bring to this week and to the future, and make sure I don't forget these things,” he said. “I tell myself when I'm playing bad, these are big lessons I want to learn from and make sure I don't try and repeat them, but when I'm playing good, sometimes I forget what I did as well.”
Remembering what works. Seems simple enough. Two and a half months ago, Morikawa closed in 63 and was part of a playoff to determine the bronze-medal winner at the Olympic Men’s Event. He made it to the fifth extra hole before falling to C.T. Pan.
Despite that miss, it’s been a tremendous 2021 for Morikawa, who has won a WGC event and the claret jug. After Japan, he still plans on playing the European Tour finale in Dubai and Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Morikawa loves to show that his “game can travel,” and after a fan-less Olympics, he’ll be happy to showcase his talents in front of the Japanese faithful this week.
“Even though it was the Olympics and we knew what we were playing for, it just, it has a different feeling when you have fans,” he said. “I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there [were] fans on stools and lined up five, six people deep. They would cheer for you walking to tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it's good or bad. Sometimes it's not the best in our head, but it's enjoyable because they really understand the game, they appreciate us coming over and we appreciate them. They bring so much energy.”