Collin Morikawa was still a terrific golfer in 2022 despite the young PGA Tour star’s failure to pick up a win
Collin Morikawa fell short of a victory at the World Tech Championship in Mayakoba. He was barely in contention, but when the dust settles on one of the final PGA Tour events of the year, Morikawa still finds himself at the center of the story.
Earlier in the week, Golf Channel commentator Trevor Immelman speculated that the reason Morikawa was struggling in 2022 – a year in which he failed to pick up a win – was possibly -be because of the difficulty in being up to it. bar he set for himself early in his career when he won five of his first 50 PGA Tour events and two of his first eight major championships.
Morikawa’s reaction to Immelman’s very innocuous comment was odd and made me think he completely misunderstood what Immelman had said.
“Wow, that’s hard to hear from him,” Morikawa told Golf Channel. “I don’t care what he says there because I don’t think it’s my bar. I think I have so much more to improve. I was almost the last one to put. I don’t think that I even finished close to being average on the putt. If I can just get my putt to be average, I think there’s so much more to improve on. I don’t know where that came from, but that kind of stings over there. I don’t know like to hear that.
“I don’t know if it was a compliment, I’ll be honest. If he did, maybe it went wrong from what I heard. For me, I don’t I’ve never seen a ceiling. I just want to keep improving. Obviously, we’ve taken a few steps back this year. It’s just trying to improve every day and trying to improve small things. I I expect to play well. I set myself very high goals. It just sucks when they don’t come through.”
Immelman later confirmed that it was all actually a misunderstanding, but between Morikawa’s reaction, his hiring of a putting coach, and his start-of-the-week monologue about the fate of old age (Morikawa turns 26 next February), it makes me made me wonder what else was going on with the two-time major champion.
“It was a lot more stressful this year,” Morikawa said of his 2022. “I just tried to figure out what was wrong when it was just kind of a body thing and just the way my body was moving.. Unfortunately it took seven, eight months throughout the year to at least find that, but it’s on me. It’s all on me just to know what’s going on. I have a great team around me, but that’s the best thing is, you know, I still have to be aware of what I’m doing.
“I just wasn’t able to make sure everything was where I wanted it to be. It’s tough, but that’s what’s great. Even though we’re heading into this offseason, this area of fall I’m putting a lot of pieces together and a lot of work to make sure this kind of next 2023 is going to be [the] the best.”
To be clear, Morikawa was talking about how his body works in 2022.
“I think it’s getting old,” said the 25-year-old. “Yeah, no, it’s just that it gets old. I mean, man, I drank way more in college than I ever do now, but apparently when you get older, your body just moves differently. I I still feel good, like everything is fine, everything is moving well, but it’s not as clean as before. And the maintenance I have to do now is just a little more. That doesn’t mean I have to doing something crazy, I’m not really changing anything, it’s just getting my body where I need it.
“Last year I didn’t really need to focus on that, but when I look back and you think of how many trips I’ve made in the last three and a half years, it’s is a lot. It doesn’t stop. I love it, but travel takes a toll on your body and it takes a toll on you and you have to be able to work your way through it and that’s what the best athletes do. “
Clearly Morikawa is frustrated that he was unable to back up his spectacular 2020 and 2021 campaigns with anything similar in 2022, and he kind of proved Immelman’s point – and to be fair, the same point. many pundits and even players have done over the years – that when you don’t realize what you achieved at such a young age, it can drain you mentally, physically and emotionally.
As for golf itself, not a ton of change statistically, which should be encouraging for Morikawa. It has dropped slightly in ball striking from 2021 (1.62 to 1.47 shots gained per round) but not enough to be worrying. He was actually a better putter in 2022 than he was in 2021, although his short game suffered the biggest categorical drop compared to any other part of his game.
An interesting nuance is that while Morikawa’s best and worst performances were almost identical to what he did in 2021 (his expected wins fell from 1.97 to 0.94 from 2021 to 2022), his median performances in 2022 were much worse than they were. in 2021. That, theoretically, shouldn’t matter when it comes to winning (you only win with your best performance anyway), but it strength matter how he feels as if playing.
The thing is, Morikawa will be fine. He is a high variance player, which is what you want to be if you intend to collect a lot of trophies. It would serve him well mentally and emotionally to understand that just because a few tournaments happened early in his career doesn’t mean his baseline is someone who wins three or four regular events and a major every year. Data Golf had it at 0.20 major expected in 2020, and it won one; he had it at 0.45 major expected in 2021, and he won another one. It’s important because while he was good, he wasn’t extremely good in 2020-21, but the expectations after winning two majors started to build. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Morikawa was a three-win, no-major guy.
If you take a long-term view, gains and losses often happen randomly, which means they can sometimes occur in clusters. Just because you’ve won two of your first eight majors doesn’t mean you’re Tiger Woods’ second coming. Just because you don’t win any of your next 15 matches doesn’t mean the Korn Ferry Tour is in your future.
Morikawa exceeded both expectations and statistical odds in terms of victory in the early years of his career. He exceeded. It happens, but that doesn’t mean a year without a win has changed him as a player or a competitor, although that can often feel that way.
Are there things to work on? Sure. Can the iron game improve a bit? Yes. Does he need to clean up his little game a bit? Absolutely. But if Morikawa continues to play like he did in 2022, he’s going to have more seasons (in terms of wins) than he had in 2021. That might sound counterintuitive, but as we’ve seen so many many times in the history of golf, this game has made absolutely no sense. If you let it, sports can confuse even those who seemingly have all the answers.