Collin Morikawa: excited about Home of Golf Open defence and reveals pivotal moment in 2021 triumph

A set-to with his caddie early in the third round cleared the air and allowed him to push on for victory at Royal St George’s.

At first glance Moving Day was a good one at last year's Open for the eventual champion Collin Morikawa.

He started Saturday two shots behind the leader and ended it just one back, confirmed to play in Sunday's final two-ball, primed to make a charge for his second Major Championship triumph.

It turns out, however, that the progress of his third round was rather less straightforward.

Speaking to the press ahead of his defence of the Claret Jug at the 150th Open this July in St Andrews the 25-year-old explained that his third round nine months ago had threatened to turn sour before he turned it around.

"I'd say the first pivotal moment was on the fifth hole," he said. "I rarely argue with my caddie and I don't get mad at him.

"But I had hit a 5-wood up in the air, it looked pretty good. My caddie had said, 'Great shot.' Then it hung in the air, landed on the top lip of the bunker and I almost hit that (next shot) out of bounds.

"I think I was 2-over through five holes and I felt like I should have been even or 1-under. I just had to get it off my chest.

"I just said, 'Look, no more calling out any shots before they actually stop moving.' And he's like, 'Look, I'm doing my best, you're doing your best, that's all we can do.'

"Just to get over that little hurdle of having that awkward tension between us, which we've really never had, just to get it off our chest … that cleared the way for the weekend and (allowed) me to finish up that Saturday on a good note.

"That was one of the most pivotal moments that will be underappreciated by anyone because they don't know that kind of stress you get going into a weekend near the lead."

And the other secret to his success that Moving Day? His short game.

"I made up-and-down on four, made up-and-down on 10, made up-and-down on 15," he said. "That kept the momentum going. Anytime you're making bogeys, it takes away from that and you have to go make another couple birdies to get back into it or keep that lead.

"But I kept close to the lead by making pars and that was the best things that could have happened that day."

Morikawa on his defence

"I think anytime you're defending a tournament, it's always special, right? But when we narrow that down to a Major Championship, especially being an Open, and you have a rotation of courses and you're moving around, which is also kind of weird in a sense of its own because it's not like I have previous history at St Andrews. There's a million other guys before me that probably have played there, played well, and you can look at them as more experienced, more as a favourite because they have played there."

Morikawa on British golf fans

"The fans make everything. We love what we do, we love playing golf, but the energy the fans bring out, it kind of brings out the best of us. At last year's Open, the fans, seeing how much they truly love the game, those are the people you want to play in front of. To have the most respectful fans, who truly understand the game more than other fans around the world, makes things even better to just get a couple of claps when you hit it to maybe 30 feet."

Morikawa on the Home of Golf

"Obviously there's the history, there's everything that St Andrews represents, right, the home of golf and everything about that? I can picture the 18th hole, I can picture the 17th hole pretty well. I've never been to a golf course or a golf club like that where the entire town is encompassed around St Andrews. The love for the game, the love for the sport, I think kind of breathes and lives through the town."

Morikawa on the Scottish Open

"The plan is absolutely to come back and play the Scottish Open. I owe a lot to that tournament for getting me ready and actually making me realise that I needed to change some irons. Those two weeks last year my game was in some of the best shape I could have had. Then I came over to the Scottish and I started hitting 9-irons to 45 feet, missing greens, and it was just frustrating. I wanted to blame it on my clubs, and rarely that's the case, but I really did. I made some changes, there we were at Royal St George's making a few changes on the Monday and ended up winning."

Morikawa on his Masters finish alongside Rory McIlroy

"I call it probably the best finish and best experience I'll have at the Masters unless I win it. There's no other way to walk off the 18th green in a final round other than doing what we did and hearing those fans. Is it a launchpad for me to play better? I don't know. I think it was more of just a lifelong memory of finishing at the 18th at Augusta like that, holing out back-to-back bunker shots, Rory giving himself kind of a long-shot of a chance towards the end. But to hole out on top of him, that was one of the coolest experiences I've had as a professional so far."

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