PGA champ Collin Morikawa gets first look at Kiawah ahead of Heritage bid

The American contests this week’s RBC Heritage and will return to South Carolina again next month to defend his PGA Championship crown at Kiawah Island.

Collin Morikawa had some handy home advantage ahead of last year's PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

The Californian had revealed pre-event: "I've played there maybe around 10, 15 times throughout my college career. Stanford hosted their event there one year. So I've seen it quite a bit.

"That's a course that I feel familiar with. I can name any hole for you right now. I can tell you what spots you want to miss it. The greens are going to be much faster, but at least off the tee I'm going to feel very comfortable."

Those nuggets of info made him a popular bet and punters were thrilled as the youngster landed the gamble at 25/1 thanks to a brilliant and nerveless final-round display.

Of course, the PGA Championship is played at a different venue each year and this time Morikawa has nothing to call upon from his college days as the 2021 edition takes place at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

However, as defending champion, he did get to see Kiawah - the host course of the 1991 Ryder Cup - in a media day earlier this week.

The timing worked out well as the PGA TOUR has just pitched up at another well-known South Carolina venue: the annual post-Masters gathering at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Morikawa made his debut at the Hilton Head event last year and started brightly enough with rounds of 68-69-68 before sliding to tied 64th after a closing 74.

That tournament was held in June because of a change in the schedule due to the COVID pandemic and conditions will be different when he tackles it again this week.

Morikawa is 20/1 with William Hill to win the RBC Heritage.

And, looking ahead, he's a best 25/1 at Paddy Power to defend the PGA Championship.

After finishing tied 18th in last week's Masters, here's what Morikawa said at his PGA Media day along with some comments from his pre-tournament press conference for the RBC Heritage

Early thoughts on Kiawah Island after playing 18 holes

"Yeah, I think it's definitely a ball striker's course. You have to be able to control your ball. You have to be able to flight different shots, work it left to right, right to left, and that kind of suits me. Greens are pretty small, but man, talk about that back nine, starting from hole 9 and on, it's a very good finishing stretch of golf, especially with the wind, the way it picked up. You're going to be tested on every shot.

"I was hitting a bunch of 6-, 5-, 4-irons into greens, even had a couple 5-woods. Yeah, you really can't get lazy on any of these shots. You can't take anything for granted because it'll bite you in the butt for sure."

On whether Kiawah was different to what he was expecting

"I actually had no clue what this course was going to be like. But it's good to see it for the first time because if I showed up on a Monday like I normally would before this event, it would take me actually a little longer on this course because this course is so unique on the second shots, not just the tee shots but the approach shots on where you have to hit it, where you have to miss it. Because there's some spots where you could easily miss it and there's some spots where you definitely don't want to be.

"We talked about these -- I guess they're not called bunkers, the sandy areas, the waste bunkers, whatever you're calling them. Usually we like bunkers. Usually you can get away with it, especially with greens that aren't too sloped out here, but you don't really know what kind of lies you're going to get, so we're going to have to kind of readjust and figure out what the best strategy is out here to make some birdies.

"The wind picked up the last hour and a half, two hours, and those final few holes, even though it was downwind, do not play easy. You get the greens, I'm sure they're going to be a little firmer, a little faster. It's not going to be easy to stop shots, whether it's with a wedge or a 4-iron."

On being a PGA champion

"I get to sleep with the trophy in my bed! A lot of great opportunities, a lot of things have happened from there, just people recognizing me, people thanking me on the great play. Just a lot of good things, and I couldn't be happier for the position I've put myself in. Really grateful for this opportunity, and to finally be defending, even though it hasn't been a full year, counts for something. Very excited for this tournament. This course is pretty, pretty good."

On this week's course, Harbour Town Golf Links

"I'm excited to be here. It's a course that I think really suits my game. A lot of tee to green, a lot of approach shots that are kind of in my wheelhouse. But last year I struggled a little bit, especially after playing well the week before. Just had a few issues through the turf with my irons, but this year with a little more overseed.

"We're in April now; everything feels really good. Game is feeling really good, especially after last week, so hopefully we start making a lot of birdies."

On the overall state of his game

"I'd say the state of my game is really good. I'd say overall as a season it hasn't been as consistent as I wanted. It hasn't been that kind of consistent golf that I thought I would be playing week in and week out, but there's ups and there's downs and we're trying to figure things out.

"Obviously I made a huge putter switch earlier this year in LA with the grip and everything, and everything feels great.

"I think every week I'm learning something. I picked up on a few things from last week that even though that course plays completely different, about my game, about my head, how I go through certain shots. I think we're heading down a really good path.

"Everything feels really good, and those are the weeks that you come out hopefully putting yourself in contention by Sunday.

On his career so far which shows four wins from 42 pro starts

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised. But as I look at it as a whole, like we talk about the consistency, and yes, the wins, people only look at the wins, but I look at it as a whole, and I want to be a lot more consistent.

"I'm thrilled with my four wins. I'm not going to take those away from me, and no one will. Like that's what I want to keep and I want to keep winning, because at the end of the day that's what we're kind of defined by.

"But overall like there's still so much for me to work on. I'm not surprised. I felt like I stayed all four years and I prepped for -- by the time I turned pro I was ready to come out. It's obviously paid a lot of dividends, and we have a lot more work to do, as well."

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