Six things to know about Open champion Collin Morikawa ahead of his Olympic debut

At 24, the American already has two major titles. And the breakfast addict is primed to become the next golfing superstar, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next on his radar.

By Rory Jiwani
Picture by Getty Images

Collin Morikawa is now a two-time major winner after a nerveless Open Championship victory at Royal St George's, Sandwich.

The 24-year-old from California beat Jordan Spieth by two strokes to win the claret jug on his first attempt, and stake a claim to be golf's next superstar. He'll make an Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games, starting next week.

Incredibly, Morikawa only turned pro two years ago and quickly established himself as a contender for titles.

Before his Open triumph, he was ranked four in the world which earned him a spot in the USA team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Now he'll aim to go one better than Henrik Stenson who won Olympic silver at Rio 2016 weeks after claiming his first Open title.

Morikawa chose studies over turning pro

Hailing from a Japanese-Chinese background, Morikawa was born in Los Angeles to Debbie and Blaine who own a commercial laundry business.

He quickly became interested in golf and started attending junior camps aged five.

A Grade A student, Morikawa went to the University of California's Berkeley campus in 2015 and, in his sophomore year, was accepted to study at the prestigious Haas Business School.

He continued to lead the University of California golf team and also enjoyed international success as part of winning USA Walker Cup and Arnold Palmer Cup sides.

In 2018, he reached number one in the world amateur rankings and turned pro the following year after graduating with a degree in business administration.

Given his subsequent rapid rise to the upper echelons of the sport, there's no doubt his decision to carry on studying was the right one.

And he's applying what he learned to his life on the tour.

He told Golf Digest, "I’m running my own brand, running who I am as a golfer. I might not necessarily be doing everything, but I understand everything that’s going on.

“I don’t know that everyone out there on the PGA Tour really has a full understanding of everything that’s going on behind them. I’m very aware of that, of what’s going on in the background. Other people, they couldn’t care less. They just want someone to do it for them. But I want to be involved; I want to learn about it."

Making up for lost time as a professional

Success came almost instantly for Morikawa in the pro ranks after his debut at the Canadian Open in June 2019 where he finished tied for 14th.

The following month he was tied for second at the 3m Open, and fourth at the John Deere Classic which secured him his PGA Tour card for the following year.

He ended a spectacular July with victory at the Barracuda Championship on just his sixth professional start.

He had to wait almost a year for his next title, beating Justin Thomas in a play-off to take the Workday Charity Open.

And then four weeks later he had his first major title, winning the PGA Championship at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park by two strokes from Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey.

The coach behind Morikawa's success

When he was just eight years old, Morikawa's parents approached Rick Sessinghaus to be the youngster's coach.

It's a relationship that continues to this day.

As well as helping to model his charge's swing, Sessinghaus has used his doctorate in applied sports psychology to make a big impact on the mental side of Morikawa's game.

A talented if temperamental golfer in his youth, Sessinghaus moved into teaching and told, "How does a player look like a world-beater at the range but then go out and shoot 82? I went down the rabbit hole on that question. I enjoyed trying to unravel the disconnect."

He has since helped hone Morikawa's skills and added, "Collin is extremely efficient and effective at practicing Having clarity before you practice is crucial.

"We have never prepared differently for different events. Collin doesn’t get more excited because the tournament is ‘important’ — it’s just a tournament for which he wants to be his best no matter the course or competition. That perspective is applicable to a lot of different things."

That calmness has come to the fore in both Morikawa's major triumphs.

His rounds of 65 and 64 - the lowest closing 36-hole score in major history - saw him take the 2020 PGA Championship.

And he dropped just one shot in the last two rounds of the 2021 Open, finishing with a blemish-free four-under-par 66 to claim the claret jug.

Morikawa loves breakfast

While golfers have been known to munch on the odd cheeseburger mid-round, that would not be Collin Morikawa's food of choice.

He's far more likely to tuck into a bacon roll or a bowl of breakfast cereal.

Morikawa and his girlfriend, fellow golfer Katherine Zhu, love breakfast so much that, as he told in July 2019, they even have pet names for each other centered on food - he calls her "bacon".

He also has the names of cereals, and a rasher of bacon, engraved on his wedges.

A regular visitor to Hawaii to see family, Morikawa's go-to breakfast is a Hawaiian-style plate of white rice, fried eggs and Portuguese sausage.

Baseball's loss is golf's gain

Morikawa is a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, but his golf aspirations saw him quit practising other sports at the age of 10.

And he reserves special affection for the team's pitcher Joe Kelly who helped the Dodgers win the 2020 World Series.

He told Yahoo Sports, "I grew up a Dodgers fan, I grew up a Lakers fan.

"I want to go spend a day with Joe Kelly because he seems like he's the coolest dude in the world. He doesn't care what anyone thinks."

It's also the source of needle with his caddie Jonathan Jakovac an ardent fan of the Dodgers' bitter rivals, the San Francisco Giants.

Weeks after his first PGA Tour success, Morikawa had the honour of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium.

Going head-to-head with Jimmy Fallon

Morikawa had a big stage to announce that he would be going to the Olympic Games.

He did it live on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, saying, "It gives me chills. Two years ago I was an amateur, and look at us now. Now we're trying to win gold."

Then he took on the host in a game of Mario Golf: Super Rush, struggling for the first two holes before holing out from the fairway on the third.

The virtual running between shots might not have been Morikawa's forte, but he goes to Tokyo as one of the favourites for the Olympic title.


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