Collin Morikawa talks to the media about his first victory at a major championship after the PGA Championship 2020.
JOHN DEVER: Good evening, and welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. We are really pleased to be joined by Collin Morikawa, who closed with a 6-under 64 today, finished the championship 13-under par with a four-day total of 267. Congratulations, Collin.
Emotionally, how are you processing winning the PGA in just your second career start in a major at the ripe old age of 23? I mean, that’s a remarkable achievement no matter what way you shies.
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah I don’t even know. I’m on Cloud Nine, I don’t know about you guys, but yeah, I’ve believed in myself since day one. I’ve said it when we sat down, I specifically remember at Travelers the fours of us, me and Wolff, Viktor and Justin Suh, and I just told everyone, all four of us and obviously we’ve all had some pretty good paths, Justin has struggled a little bit, but we all believed since day one that we can do this. I haven’t let up from that.
I feel very comfortable in this position. But it was going to take a very, very good round today, and I knew with the leaderboard the way it was looking and everyone out there, you just had to play well.
You either win or you lose, and I got off to a little shaky start. Made a putt on 1, and you know, went full steam ahead there.
Q. (By Steph Curry): Question for you, coming down the stretch in the back nine of a major, everybody knows that that’s the moment that you go take it. Are you a leaderboard watcher? Did you know where you were? What’s your mindset in that moment the last two and a half hours of your round?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Steph, you mind taking off your hat? No, it’s fun to see you. I saw you out there on 9, and my caddie is a huge Warriors fan, I think you heard him — I’m not (laughter). I’m an L.A. boy at heart.
But yeah, I do look at leaderboards. I want to know where I’m at. Why not? I don’t think it affects me. I think gets to know where you’re at. I don’t want to be coming down 18 knowing I need to make par, and trying to force a birdie or doing something stupid. You know, when I looked on 12, and there’s a party of us at 10-under, and someone was going to separate themselves, especially with 16, gettable pins, 14, 15, but you know, I knew where I stood stepping on 16 tee. I knew I hit a good shot — I had to hit a good shot, tied with Paul after he just made birdie.
You know, yeah, what a drive that was on 16.
Q. Quick follow-up. I’m free for the next three months if you need a caddie or replacement. No, J.J. is a great guy, but if you need me, I’m available.
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Perfect. I can’t wait. I want to see your game. Cam was talking about he played with you at Stonebrae.
Q. You upgraded his playing partner, so yeah, 100 percent. Congratulations. Can you take us through everything related to 16, what your game was all week and then just your mindset today and exactly where you were in your mind in the tournament when you got on that tee?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, by Wednesday night, I had no plans on going for 16 at all. I told Colt Knost, he saw me Wednesday afternoon practicing on there, and he asked me if I was ever going to go for it. I told him a quick no, it’s too much into the wind, why go for it. I didn’t think the pin was going to be where it was.
You know, my caddie, it was like 278 to the front, and just a good drive for me. It was going to land just short of that in this weather; it’s going to bounce on up. He looked at me, he counted off and asked me what I wanted to do and I told him, let’s hit a good drive. And I counted back from 14 at Muirfield. What’s different from 14 at Muirfield and this shot, similar numbers, wind was a little left, kind of into me, but I knew I had to hit a good one.
And stepped up, you know, and those are moments I’m always going to remember. Hit it, J.J. actually walked in the tee and he never does that and he was talking to the ball a bunch. I don’t really talk to it too much, but we were both screaming at it to get a good bounce, and we obviously got a very good bounce, and you just have to capitalize on those shots.
Q. You got in trouble early on 1, spun back into the bunker and made the long putt to save par and on 6 you were trapped in the left side in the trees to the other rough on the right side and then saved par. What were you thinking when you made those par putts? Did you feel like this might be your day? Even when you were in trouble you were able to get out?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, those are huge, especially for me when I make a putt like that, I feel like I can make anything on the golf course. So for me it was just like, let’s get the ball on the green and give myself a chance for a putt at birdie or par or whatever it is.
1 was huge. 6, yeah, it was big. But 1 was big because, you know, a bunch of guys I’m sure were making birdie on 1. I don’t want to start off with a bogey in the final round of a major championship, so I stepped up, I felt comfortable. Felt comfortable over the putter today, and rolled it right in.
Q. Can you describe the emotion of today? You talked yesterday about feeling more comfortable over these last couple months as you get in these situations. But not only did you end up in contention at a major on Sunday, but a major with seven guys tied for the lead and just sort of this very crazy, tense atmosphere. How much did you stay calm and how much does J.J. help that as a caddie who has been around before?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, this is the first time I’ve been around a leaderboard that crowded, so many guys out there trying to make birdies, we’re all tied for the lead or whatever it is, one back. Especially in the closing holes out here, they’re not easy. We got a little fortunate with some pin locations today coming down the stretch, but J.J. is huge. J.J., I am so lucky, I’m so happy to have him on the bag. Thank you, Ryan Moore, for not keeping him.
But not just as a caddie, a person I can talk to on the course and just keep it comfortable. He knows what to say, when to say it. He has figured out my game and what kind of player I am, what I need to know, what I don’t need to know, and it’s as simple as that.
I’m very lucky to have him. I brought him in for the last three holes, 16, 17, 18, to help me read them, and I think I’m going to do that all the time, especially coming down the stretch because it doesn’t hurt. He knows how my mind works and what we’re going to see together. He’s not just saying stuff just to say it. I’m very lucky to have him on the bag.
Q. On the tee shot on 16, did you hear anything? Were there any cheers, anything that gave you any indication it was close? And can you imagine what the reaction would have been on a green in normal times?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: I wish — this is the one time I really wish there were crowds right there. But no, so I was just praying for a straight bounce short of the green on to the green, and then after it bounced it kind of got behind a tree that we couldn’t see around the corner. So once it bounced, I was like, okay, I will take it anywhere it is, because it is on the green, whether it’s short, long, and I peeked around right at the tee and looked around the tree, and it looked really, really good.
So I heard some claps. Obviously not a ton. But you know, the claps could mean I’m on the green and I’ve got 50 feet. But walking up, you know, I knew it was right above the tier, and you had to make it. I had to make that putt. Two strokes is a lot different than one stroke coming down 18.
Q. This PGA will be remembered for a lot of things, your win of course, but also because it was played on a public course on the West Coast with those of us on the East Coast watching at night. Can you imagine a steady diet of public courses, PGA Championships on public courses on the West Coast?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, of course. I love the West Coast. I think there’s a ton of great public courses around. I grew up playing some public courses around the area where I grew up in L.A., and yeah, you know, you look at TPC Harding Park, and winning score is at 13, and I think everyone enjoys watching leaderboards like this that are bunched. You don’t want to see — yes, it would be nice to be on the other end of leading by seven, whatever it is. But it’s exciting.
You know, this is what fans want to see. They want to see who is going to step up, who is going to hit that really good shot towards the end coming down the stretch, you know, whether it’s 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, whatever it is. And Harding Park showed its teeth. It brought every range of player out here. You saw a lot of big hitters just bomb driver out here, still in the rough. But the rough was tough. This is some of the thickest rough I’ve seen for a while. So I had to get used to it.
But you can make courses like this that have really good routes, somewhat challenging greens here and there, and make them tough. You know, we’re not shooting 20-something under par, and it shows you that there are a lot of good public courses out there that still test us every single day.
Q. Could you imagine Rancho Park in Los Angeles being fixed up like Harding Park has been?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: I don’t have a really good recollection of Rancho Park, but no, I’m guessing.
Q. I want to go back to the chip-in on 14. First, what were you thinking about the iron shots that missed the green on 13 and 14, and did you think that that chip-in was a turning point for you going forward in the championship?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, 13, you know, I just didn’t hit it well. It was a really weird swing. It never really felt — I never felt the ball. I knew it was a bad shot. 15, I hit all right — or no, no, I’m sorry. 12 I hit all right. 13 — and then we go to 14 and on 14, I had 9-iron. Ball is a little above my feet, a little uphill stance, and when you don’t hit it out here, in the thick air, cold, windy, ball is even going to go shorter. I had to step on a 9-iron on that hole on 14 and never got a hold of it.
On the chip shot, yeah I think that was a huge turning point. That separated me. Going into 15, I had really good feels from it, especially from yesterday. I hit a really good 3-wood, I hit a really good wedge. So I knew I could hold up a 3-wood against a left-to-right wind. Felt comfortable it. Hit a good approach shot I would say and left the putt just short.
It was a huge turning point on 15, and it was one of those chips where I stepped over it, and I was like this is going in. This chip just feels like it’s going to go in, and actually when I hit it, I didn’t think it was going to go in. I almost started stepping forward because I thought it was going to be a little short right, and you know, you just get a couple extra rolls and there you go, you’re making birdie.
Q. You led the week in strokes gained putting. What’s behind the turnaround?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, my caddie gave me some advice after the second round last week in Memphis, and I think if you look at my putting stats, for me, normally if I’m putting around zero, I’m very happy. But the last two days at Memphis, I thought I made huge strides. This week, I just kept that going, and yeah, a couple little adjustments in the setup and that paid huge dividends for me. Just feeling a little more comfortable over the ball, getting my head where it should be, and just being able to putt and really react to the target from there.
Q. I have two questions. One, what was your number on 16? What was the actual distance with the driver there?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: I want to say it was 278 front, 294 hole. My ball went 291, exactly how I played it. Yeah, I mean, it just had to be a normal driver for me. I didn’t have to do anything special. Thankfully I don’t hit it 330.
Q. You had mentioned in the award ceremony, or right after it was over, that you’ve got a taste of this now. Can you expand on this a little bit, and are you prepared, which I think you are, for the scrutiny — not the scrutiny, but the spotlight that’s now on you, having three wins, two wins this year already and a major already at age 23?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I mean, I love talking to you guys, whatever you guys say. I love hearing what you guys have to critique or whatever it is. It’s all for me to take in and filter out what I need or what I don’t need. That’s just kind of who I am.
Yeah, I feel very comfortable in this spot. When I woke up today, I was like, this is meant to be. This is where I feel very comfortable. This is where I want to be, and I’m not scared from it. I think if I was scared from it, the last few holes would have been a little different, but you want to be in this position.
And for me, like you said, like I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t stop here. I’ve got a very good taste of what this is like, what a major championship is like. I really do miss the fans. I know we all had to have some type of adjustment not having fans; when fans do start coming back hopefully at some point, it’s going to be an adjustment, but this is where I want to be. I love it.
The majors are going to be circled in, just like everyone else, but I’ve got to focus on every single week. I’m trying to win every single week. I’m not trying to come out and just win the majors. I’m 23. This is my first full year. This haven’t even a full year with everything going on.
But yeah, I love golf. I love every part of it. I love being in this position and I love just being able to come out here and play with a bunch of guys that love the sport, too, and that’s why I think I love being in this position.
Q. We saw you had your Cal golf on the yardage book cover. Can you speak to how living in the Bay Area helped shape you as a golfer and as a person?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: I think growing up in L.A. and coming out to Berkeley, especially where I grew up in L.A., very different, just different walks of life, everything, every part about it was very different and that was kind of eye-opening.
It just got me to open up and have some fun, and being out here in the bay, I was very fortunate with the coaches, with the people, the people supporting, the donors, whatever it was, everyone who helped me get to the point of graduating, I couldn’t be more thankful for them because they set that foundation for me to achieve my goals.
You know, one of those reasons, you look at guys like Max Homa, Michael Kim, Brandon Hagy, they were a big part of why I went to Cal, and what they did in that 2012-2013 season was special. Yeah, they didn’t win it, but for a regular-season team, I would say they are right up there being one of the best.
Yeah, San Francisco is always going to be my second home. I didn’t realize how much I actually missed this area. It’s very crowded; I don’t like the one-way streets at all, but being in this weather, being away from, you know, 95 degrees, 100 degrees in Vegas, 95 percent humidity with just sweating before you even get to the tee, yeah, I do miss it and it’s going to be very special, winning my first one here at Harding Park.
Q. Did you participate in the Berkeley commencement on May 2019?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I was. I was there.
Q. And then two weeks later you’re in Canada debuting on the Tour?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I’m pretty sure I went to graduation, and then I had my Ben Hogan Award at Colonial where I finished runner-up three years in a row, two years with the Hogan Award, and obviously what happened this year.
Q. If you can remember all the way back to Canada that far —
COLLIN MORIKAWA: I got you.
Q. What you expected of yourself, what you thought of yourself, it sounded like from some things you said, this was all possible already?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: They are not expectations, they are all goals. Expectations are what you put on me. That is what I filter out and what I don’t hear because I have set goals, and last year the goal obviously was to get some type of status and to learn from it.
I had dinner with Justin Thomas and I was very fortunate through my agent and everything to have dinner with him that week, and he told me, “If you’re good enough, you’re going to be out here at some point.” And I already felt good enough. I just had to have the starts. I had to have those opportunities. I was like, why not take advantage of these.
I was able to have one Korn Ferry start as an amateur and two PGA Tour starts as an amateur and I learned a lot from them. I actually learned more from my missed the cut than losing in a playoff on the Korn Ferry event, just because you’re able to learn so much in a short amount of time.
You know, I was very lucky to have those starts, but starting from Canada, obviously, J.J. was on the bag, it was very new for me. We had gone through sectionals the Monday before. We didn’t even know Canada was an option. He did not have his passport, so he had to come up Wednesday and end up caddying for me and I’m sure he was wondering what kind of player I was going to be.
Yeah, Canada from the start, I felt very comfortable, but there’s a very different sense of comfort now.
Q. Along those lines, we’re 14 months out of Cal, and you’re now three Tour wins, you’re a Major Champion, No. 5 in the world. That puts you among the elite. Do you feel like one of the elite players? Did you feel that way before you even won today, or do you even think of yourself in those terms?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I think when I play my best, I’m able to compete and if not beat these guys when I’m playing really well.
You know, I think there’s like this brotherhood; there’s a family of professional golf. All these guys, you see their groups. You see the guys that they are playing their practice rounds with, and you know, yeah, I’ve got my young guys with Wolff, Viktor, Scottie, Cameron, Joaquin, whatever it is, but I wouldn’t say I’m as close to those guys as some of the other guys out here that have been able to play and travel for years on end now.
Do I feel like I’m part of that group? Yeah. Do I feel like I’m going to start playing practice rounds with them just because I’m part of this group? No, I have my own group. I want to go out and have fun and do my own thing. Just because I’m sitting near the rankings with these guys doesn’t mean I’m going to start playing every single practice round with them.
It’s cool to play practice rounds with these guys because I learn so much, just how they think. I don’t have to ask a bunch of questions, but just watching even Steve Stricker this week, just how he goes around the practice round, how he chips, how he putts. I’m always trying to pick up on what these best players do and what makes them so great because who knows what I’m going to figure out; who knows what’s going to click in my head to work for the week or the next year or whatever it is.
Q. Was there a point where you felt your mind drift?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Beautiful Dodgers hat, even though they lost yesterday.
Q. They won today.
COLLIN MORIKAWA: They won today? Good. I love to hear that.
I think after the 16 tee, having whatever it was, six, seven — I had to make it. I didn’t have to make it, but it was one that was really going to turn the tables on everyone else in the field, and that’s why I brought J.J. in to add a little more sense of comfort. Did I feel nervous? Yeah, there’s going to be nerves running through there, but can I channel that into excitement, can I channel that into focus, and I think I did a really good job of that today coming down the stretch.
Having him come in to read the putt gave me a couple seconds to get in my own head and really focus on the putt, and talking things out sometimes helps. I was able to talk those out, what the line was, everything, how we were going to feel this putt, and yeah, I think touching on that, I think that’s something that I’m going to remember and use for the future coming down the stretch, whether I have a lead or whether I’m one back or tied for the lead is just being able to communicate. Because sometimes when you’re kind of stuck inside yourself, who knows what’s going on.
Q. Did you have a chance to look at a leaderboards, especially on the back nine, when at one point there were seven people tied for the lead? Did it ever cross your mind that, I have to do something to break out of this, or did you stick with your game plan all along?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: I think there’s a little of both there. I definitely looked at a leaderboard, I saw on 12, we were all having a party at 10-under. Who is going to break out? Who is going to be the oddball out to separate themselves? I hit a really good drive on 12, not a great approach shot, made up-and-down, hit a good drive on 13, and at that point, I knew someone was going to have to break out.
Does that mean I’m going to change my game plan? No. I went for 16 — was it Friday, I think they moved it up? So I went for 16. So it’s not like that game plan changed whether I was going for it, but you know, I had to step up and be fully committed that I was going to hit driver. Not be like, okay, if I hit driver, this could end up here, this could end up there, or we can chip out, make par, whatever it is. I had to be fully committed.
And you know, I think that’s why I played 14 at Muirfield so well is because I had to be fully committed. There’s water on the right. There’s a hazard on the left on 16, but that’s pretty far away. I just had to be fully committed, and J.J. asked me, you know, “Are you sure? Is this what you want to do?”
I’m like, “Yes, this is driver. This is perfect.” You know, stepped up, hit a really good drive and obviously it ended up where it did and hit the putt.
Q. This is really good news in Japan, because you’re part Japanese. I just want to ask what kind of relationship you have with Japan and what’s your history here, if you know?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I’m actually half-Japanese, half-Chinese. My mom’s Chinese. My dad’s Japanese. I’m about a third, fourth generation on my dad’s side.
So family ties back to Japan, I really, unfortunately I can’t say I have many, if any. But being able to go back to Japan, I went with my family, I don’t know, three, four winters going, and then going back for ZOZO — yeah, this past fall, it’s special, and it means a lot. And going back there, I feel like this is just — it’s home. Even though it was never home for my dad and it was never home for my grandparents, all my grandparents and my cousins and everyone on my dad’s side, they all live in Hawai’i and they have been there for awhile.
But going back to Japan, I love it. My girlfriend loves it. I love it. Obviously the food is, I think, the best in the world, and man, am I hungry (laughing). I love my food.
But you know, I hope I — I’m able to go back to Japan again. Who knows when, but when everything’s safe. Yeah, yeah.
JOHN DEVER: You told us last night about the big dinner —
COLLIN MORIKAWA: She would know this, I had udon, which is a Japanese noodle.
Q. Only Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus were younger than you to win the PGA Championship during the stroke-play era. What does it mean to you to join that list?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: It’s great company. You know, it’s been crazy, because this entire start of my professional career, I see all the things comparing to Tiger and doing all this and then Tiger is on a completely different level. I think we all know that. But any time you’re in the conversation of the greats, Jack, Rory, Tiger, no matter who it is, if you’re in that conversation, you’re doing something well.
So to know that, yeah, what I’ve done, what I did my four years in college, was obviously worth it, but there’s just that extra sense of feeling good in my heart, to finish out, get my business degree, graduate, come out here knowing I’m prepared, and knowing that it’s possible.
You know, when you feel you’re ready, you’re ready, but to be in the conversation with those guys, it’s very special and yeah, you know, I’m ready for the next.
Q. Just on that history theme. Harding Park has produced Byron Nelson, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Tiger, Rory, this great list of winners. How much significance is there in that history, and why do you think Harding has produced such great winners over the years?
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, it’s really cool. I mean, look at the golf course. This is TPC Harding Park, is now one of my favorites in the bay. To be honest, through college, it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t think I played it extremely well. Everyone kind of shot around even and we drove back to the campus and got our night in.
It shows the quality of golf course, I think because no one separated, but if you look at the end leaderboard and the quality of players and the players that have won majors, that haven’t won majors, they are all there. It brings all the best players and who’s playing really well together, so it shows you this is a very good course, and yeah, I’m happy to come out on top.
JOHN DEVER: Last question for you. You just won the PGA Championship so we would be remiss if we didn’t ask you about your relationship with your coach, Rick Sessinghaus, how long you’ve been with him, the rapport between you two and what you focused on the last few weeks as you got ready for the first major of the season.
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, so I’m 23. I first started working with Rick I think around eight, so it’s been 15 years. I have been so lucky. He’s not just a coach. He’s a great friend. He’s a mental coach. But you talk about a person that knows what to say, when to say it and how to say it, he’s your guy.
Thank you, Rick, for everything. It’s been a crazy road and we have only been climbing up so far, and why not keep going up. I’m so happy he was here. He went home Friday. Him and my agent went home back to L.A. and they drove up early this morning. I’m very happy. I almost questioned why they drove up, but it’s really special to have him, you know, for 15 years, and there’s so much for us to keep learning.
I think that’s what’s cool is that I love to learn. He loves probably learning even more than me, but you know, what did we work on over the past month? It’s just continuing things that we’ve done really well and figuring out the things that we didn’t. You know, putting was huge. I credit J.J. a lot for what we changed in the putting.
But Rick, you know, just to keep things — I had him come at Workday. I saw him right before I left for the first event back at Colonial, I had him come out at Workday, though, and it was the first week he was out and it was feeling all right. We went to go hit balls Wednesday afternoon I finished practicing, and I normally don’t do that, and that’s when things clicked. He said one thing about just the way I turn and rotate through my backswing that I had done before, and that’s what you need as a coach. You need something that — he knows what to say, you know, things that maybe he’s said before, but maybe I just need to hear it again. Every week is different. You remember things; you don’t remember things, so it clicked, and it’s still working.
JOHN DEVER: Well, this week clicked, and we appreciate you being with us on a really memorable PGA Championship, and enjoy the spoils.
COLLIN MORIKAWA: Thank you so much. Thanks, everyone.