How and why Collin Morikawa won the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession

Victory in Florida saw the American jump into the top five of the world rankings and confirmed that he is a very special talent.

Not many golfers win a Major Championship and a World Golf Championship title before the age of 25.

In fact, ahead of last week, only Tiger Woods had ever completed that double.

In adding victory in the WGC-Workday Championship to his 2020 PGA Championship triumph, Collin Morikawa therefore joined Woods in a rather exclusive club.

It's proof, if proof were needed, that the 24-year-old Californian is a very fine golfer.

Let's dig a little deeper into the story behind his win.

The three stages of success

Stage one was round one: a solid but unspectacular lap of 2-under-par 70.

Stage two moved up through not one or two gears, but all those available to him.

He carded a second round of 8-under-par 64 and maintained the hot pace with a further eight par breakers in the first 12 holes of his Saturday round.

In all, he made birdies at 17 of 30 holes in that run.

It vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard and thereafter, in stage three, he consolidated, first riding a rough wave through the end of his third round and another at start of the fourth, then doing enough to remain clear of the chasing pack.

Heading into the back nine he was aware that birdie opportunities lay ahead, as much for those chasing him as for himself.

He made a 12-foot par putt at the 11th and converted a 7-foot birdie at the short par-4 12th.

"Huge putts," he said. "Those were ones that really gave me slight separation."

Awareness and preparation

Morikawa knew that his two shot 54-hole lead was an advantage, but he also knew it was one that could slip away very quickly.

"It's so huge. No matter what anyone says, sleeping on a lead has its pressure, has its nerves," he said.

"But I was excited to get back in contention and to have a chance to win. It's something that I've missed."

Perhaps key was his appreciation of the situation: his aim was not to seek an unattainable ease in the heat of battle.

"It's never comfortable. Myself, my caddie JJ and my coach Rick, we have this formula, just how to get ready, how to focus for these moments.

"I needed to stay focused, I needed to stay committed to these shots, and JJ just kept me in the moment."

Wake up call

In the first 27 starts of his professional career, which concluded with victory in the PGA Championship, Morikawa missed just one cut and, in all, was outside the top 40 seven times.

In his next 14 starts he again finished outside the top 40 seven times, with three of them missed cuts.

Three wins and another four top five finishes came in the first spell, but, until last week, there had been no win and no top five in the second.

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In other words, his best golf was not as sharp and his bad golf was worse than previously, too.

At the end of last year Morikawa woke up to what was happening.

"When I sat down after my last event on the Tour, which was the Masters, I sat down with Rick, my coach, and I told him the honest truth: I got complacent. I was getting lazy."

"So I reset, I worked through December and by the time this year started my game felt good, I just needed to put four good rounds together."

Working on his weaknesses

It has been no secret that Morikawa is a) a supreme ball-striker, but also b) has had a weakness in his short game.

To improve the latter he revealed that he has turned to two PGA Tour veterans.

"I've been working on so much over the last couple of weeks," he said. "Tips from Mark O'Meara and Paul Azinger got me through this week.

"My game felt so good and I'm so excited right now.

"Mark was helping me with the putting, obviously it's been a big change to the saw grip, as he calls it.

"Then I talked with Azinger for a while about chipping and (what he showed me) saved my life this week."

The Nicklaus connection

Jack Nicklaus makes no secret of his design principles.

He makes the fairways wide, but (he hopes) deceptively so.

One side of the fairway will always present an easier entry to the green and the smart golfer will appreciate this.

Secondly, Nicklaus likes the approach shots to ask tough questions of distance control.

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Few would argue that the qualities Nicklaus seeks in a winner on his courses do not neatly fit Morikawa.

Last year he ranked top five for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and Approach, this year he is on track to repeat the feat.

His first win on the PGA Tour came at Montreux in the Barracuda Championship, his second win at Muirfield Village in the Workday Charity Open and now his fourth win is at The Concession Club.

The link between the three? Nicklaus designed all of them.

The numbers

As if to rubber stamp the above observation, Morikawa ranked first for both Strokes Gained Approach (9.544) and Tee to Green (12.526) last week.

He was also tied second for Greens in Regulation (77.78%) and second for Putts per GIR (1.554).

Bermuda breakthrough

Ahead of last week there was a gap in the Morikawa CV.

He'd landed six top five finishes, three of them wins.

But not one of them had been on Bermuda grass.

Perhaps his weakness on the greens was emphasised when faced with grainy putting surfaces?

Morikawa has improved on the greens.
Morikawa has improved on the greens.

If so, his hard work over the winter (and with O'Meara) might be paying off.

He finished seventh twice on Bermuda grass in the January visit to Hawaii and now the win has followed.

The impact

Morikawa now owns four wins in just 41 starts on the PGA Tour.

He is not only just the second man to win a Major and a WGC title before the age of 25, he is also just the seventh to win four times, including a Major, before hitting the quarter-century mark.

The future looks bright.

Morikawa is 28/1 with Unibet to win the Masters next month.

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