Tiger Woods will be back in action this week, defending his crown at the Zozo Championship. Collin Morikawa will be there, too.
And it won’t be the first time the two golf prodigies will both be present at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California.
The former site of the Tiger Woods Foundation’s World Classic, Morikawa said he was once part of a pack of wide-eyed youngsters hoping for a glimpse of the world’s top player at Sherwood. Although his memories of the afternoon are a little fuzzy — in fact, he’s not even sure what year he attended the event — the winner of the 2020 PGA Championship remembers he stayed upbeat, even if he didn’t get any time with the stars.
“I came out here when I was really young to watch Tiger’s event, but I couldn’t tell you anything about that day other than I remember waiting underneath one of the balconies for signatures, never got one I think and that’s about it,” Morikawa said. “I’m sure I was either waiting for Tiger or Phil (Mickelson). But when fans are out here and you’re just a small little speck in the fans out there, it’s tough. It didn’t ruin my day. It wasn’t like that was going to make my life or not.”
Fast forward and Morikawa is learning about life inside the ropes — after he started his PGA Tour career by making his first 22 cuts, adding a pair of victories last summer, he then opened the 2020-21 campaign by uncharacteristically missing his first two cuts.
Life isn’t easy on the Tour, and with a string of events back in the Pacific time zone, the former California Golden Bear feels he’s got his rhythm back. A T-12 last week at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas and this week’s revamped event at Sherwood have provided some relief from the rigors of a long post-break stretch of golf.
“It’s good to be back in L.A., good to be back in Southern California where I grew up,” he said. “Every time we’re able to play a tournament in California it always means a little more to me, so it’s good to have another home event I guess three weeks in a row for me now.”
Of course, while the Zozo is his immediate focus, much of the talk this October has been about Augusta National, which is looming just a few weeks away. Morikawa already has a major under his belt, but he knows to elevate his status into the same range as Woods and Mickelson he needs to shine at the Masters.
Still, as unfazed as he was by failing to get that duo’s autograph as a youngster, Morikawa is maintaining a consistent and simple approach to the upcoming major, insisting he won’t change up much in advance of the tournament.
“I haven’t made a trip and I won’t. I’ll kind of show up on Sunday and kind of go to the course from there. That’s just been the way I’ve done everything. It’s not like I’ve gone out to any course and tried to figure it out before, whether it was a major or whatever it may be,” he said. “I’ve watched Augusta on TV for years. I’ve watched it every year and yes, I know the course, but I don’t. I think … we’ll do a great job kind of showing up Monday or whatever it may be and just figuring out the course, how I need to play it, not how someone else needs to play it.
“Course knowledge helps wherever you are, so the guys that have played this lots of times, yes, it’s going to help, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go out there and play really good golf and hopefully contend Sunday afternoon.”