One Major Down, Morikawa Looking for More
September 15, 2020 Mamaroneck, N.Y. By Dave Shedloski
Collin Morikawa is seeking a second consecutive major championship this week at Winged Foot. (Robert Beck/USGA)

Owner of the Wanamaker Trophy for his breakthrough victory last month in the PGA Championship, Collin Morikawa was asked Tuesday just what can be done with the largest of the four major championship trophies.

Certainly one thing would be dropping the lid, which Morikawa did while hoisting the trophy overhead at Harding Park in San Francisco. (Not the first time that has happened.) But there are other options, apparently.

“There’s a lot of things you can do with it,” the second-year pro said. “There’s a lot of things.”

He didn’t elaborate, but since he found out the lid comes off, one has to imagine that options abound, perhaps involving a favorite beverage?

But the best thing he could do with it is pair it with more major championship hardware, starting this week at the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. A member of the 2017 USA Walker Cup Team, Morikawa is competing in his second U.S. Open and third major overall.

In fact, the former University of California All-American is the only man who can run the table in this year’s majors, though it’s a shorter table with the Masters in November and the Open Championship in England having been canceled. That would make it a triple crown of sorts.

Tiger Woods is the last player to win three majors in one year, capturing the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA in 2000. Before that you have to go back to Ben Hogan in 1953 when he won the Masters and the two Opens but didn’t compete in the PGA because he couldn’t return to America in time.

Morikawa, 23 and already a three-time PGA Tour winner, is paired with Woods and 2017 PGA champion Justin Thomas for the first two rounds of the championship on Winged Foot’s West Course, starting on the No. 1 tee on Thursday at 8:07 a.m. EDT. Probably a good thing that Morikawa said Tuesday that, “There’s Tiger Woods and there’s the rest of us,” when questioned about whether or not there is such a thing as a clutch player.

This kid knows what he’s doing.

Which he showed at Harding Park when he submitted the most clutch final round in the field, posting a 6-under 64 highlighted by arguably the shot of the year, driving the green at the par-4 16th hole to set up a 7-footer for eagle, which he converted. That helped him rally past third-round leader Dustin Johnson, who just won the Jack Nicklaus Award for being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year. Johnson, by the way, also owns a Jack Nicklaus Medal for winning the 2016 U.S. Open.

Morikawa said Winged Foot is the toughest course he has ever seen. But he does not seem intimidated by it. “The first few holes definitely opened my eyes,” he said. “But it's playable. Obviously, you've just got to hit really good shots. It's going to test every part of your game this week. Overall, Winged Foot is amazing.”

Most of the competitors, including Morikawa, haven’t previously seen Winged Foot, but he’ll have some extra insight that many others won’t enjoy because his caddie, J.J. Jakovac, who previously worked for three-time USGA champion Ryan Moore, competed in the 2004 U.S. Amateur here, advancing to the Round of 32. The two men first pooled their talents at last year’s U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, where Morikawa advanced before finishing T-35 at Pebble Beach.

“The best thing about [Collin] is his head,” Jakovac, a two-time individual national champion at Division II Chico (Calif.) State, said in an interview earlier this year. “I know the courses, but he thinks like a caddie out there, which is cool. He’s better than most guys in the mental aspect.”

Winning the PGA Championship only gave him even more of a mental boost.

“I think walking in here as a major champion, you have a sense of knowing how to get things done,” Morikawa explained. “Yes, I've only done it once, but I've done it. You just want more. You get that little taste of what it's like, and you know why guys mark in their calendars the major championships for the year.

“So, it's not like I'm showing up not knowing what a major championship feels like. You still have that feeling here even without the fans. You can tell how guys are prepping, how guys are getting ready, but for me it's just, ‘OK, let's come out here, I see all these guys every week, and let's have some fun playing golf.’”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to usopen.com and usga.org.