PGA Championship: Putting the key as 33/1 Collin Morikawa bids for title defence

Last year’s winner admits he can struggle with the shortstick but says he’s feeling confident heading to Kiawah Island.

It's still very early in his career but there's already a catchphrase when discussing Collin Morikawa's chances of winning a golf tournament.

Such is the quality of his ball-striking that - and here it comes - "if he putts well, he wins".

The American youngster did exactly that - and then some - when making a sensational winning debut in the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in August.

He's 33/1 with William Hill to triumph again this week.

Morikawa ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Putting on the way to victory in the 2020 PGA. It proved the difference-making stat as he pulled away to score a two-shot win and claim a first major title in just his third appearance at that level.

A dip in form earlier this year also had an obvious explanation. Morikawa's Achilles Heel was nagging him again and he lost a combined 18 strokes with the putter when T68 at the Dubai Desert Classic and T43 at the Genesis Invitational.

But, lo and behold, seven days later the blade warmed up and he was lifting more silverware at the WGC-Workday Championship. Morikawa ranked 10th for SG: Putting in Florida and once again the "if he putts well, he wins" catchphrase was being deployed.

Heading into this week's PGA Championship he ranks 1st for SG: Approach but just 186th for SG: Putting.

His elite ball-striking is almost a given so if he putts well…

Here the defending champ talks about his putting, thoughts on Kiawah Island and what he expects this week.

On the wind at Kiawah Island

"I think I got lucky during the media day. It was actually windier and it was the opposite wind. We had the wind that we might actually see on Sunday, which is I think really beneficial for me just to see the course in a different way.

"In my head I was ready to play 10 through 13 just nearly impossible hitting 4-irons and 5-woods into the greens, and I think I've hit 9-iron into a few of those greens this week so far.

"Overall I think that's what this golf course is going to test, it's going to test your ability to adapt and then be ready for change. You're going to have nine holes that are into and nine holes that are against, and how are you going to be able to figure out how to just stay patient and play some great golf.

"But it was great to see the golf course a month before just to kind of see the layout and just get a little more comfortable with how the course is going to play, but overall like I feel really good. Game is trending in a great direction, and I've just been really trying to go out and play golf, and I think that's the best thing you can do coming into a major."

On whether he has the length to compete (Morkiawa is only 125th in Driving Distance)

"Yeah, I definitely think I can compete here. Obviously my ball-striking helps, and I feel comfortable with a 6-iron or 5-iron in my hands.

"But you have to control your golf ball. Out here with the wind no matter what it is, it's going to be blowing over 10 all day everywhere, you just have to control your golf ball, so it doesn't matter if you're 150 yards or you're 200 yards, you have to be able to know where you're going to land certain shots, where you're going to miss them.

"There's certain spots out here even with the paspalum grass it might be nice to have a good lie but if it gets a little baked out in the afternoon it's going to play a little harder. You have to be kind of cognizant of where you're hitting your shots, and I think that kind of favours what I do. I really strategically think through how I'm going to play all 18 holes."

On the state of his game

"You tweak little things here and there, and I was able to take three weeks off. I was really fortunate to do that before heading into this week. And when you get a break like that, you kind of set your clubs away for a little bit and then you go back and you get in the groove of things.

"And then I was able to get my coach, Rick, out there in Vegas before this week, and we just got little things. We tinkered a little bit, figured out what we need to do, get in the routines.

"But it's such a great game because you think about what you did really well in other tournaments, and it's so hard to actually remember what you did well. You actually think you did this well, but it might be something else. It might be something in your head, well, you thought that you just have to figure out. It's us just trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. We figured out a few things, and it feels really good."

On whether he thinks his putting has held him back

"Oh, for sure. It's definitely my weakness. I wouldn't say it's held me back, but it hasn't helped me. I think I'm like 180 something on Tour this year, which isn't great for really anyone out on Tour.

"But you know, I've shown that when I do putt well, I'm able to play really well. I'm able to put myself in contention. It's just finding consistencies. I'm going to go through stretches here and there where you're not going to putt great, and right now over the season -- I know in the fall like I was putting awful, and that's going to set me back for the rest of the year.

"Even if I putted really, really great, my stats might not move up that much, but at this point I don't care, I just want to putt well for this week, I want to putt well for next week, I want to putt well on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

"But I feel like I'm doing the right things to try and get better. That's what's exciting is that when I changed to this grip, I saw something that I had never seen before. Just comfort, like setting over the putter. If I had a four-footer I felt comfortable stroking the putter. I knew I was heading down the right path. Still some things to work on, but this week I feel good."

On the "if he putts well, he wins" catchphrase

"If I putt at a zero strokes gained I'm going to be doing pretty well. I give myself enough birdie chances, especially on certain courses, where if I miss a couple -- if I miss my 12-foot birdie putts it's going to hurt my strokes gained a lot. I'm hitting a lot of greens, I'm hitting a lot of close shots.

"I'm not looking for a positive-2 on the greens every day. If I just get around zero, I think my game, the consistency will be there a lot more, and I think that's kind of what I'm looking for."

FOR LIVE SCORING CLICK HERE

READ MORE: The Dye is cast: How will course designer Pete Dye impact on this week's PGA Championship?