It probably hasn’t happened too often when it comes to the holder of the Claret Jug in golf’s oldest major, but, as was the case when he won at Royal St George’s last summer, Morikawa will break new ground indeed in the 150th edition of The Open.
“People ask me if I’m going to go early or take a few trips,” added the 25-year-old Californian. “I’ve really never done that for any major. When it comes to St Andrews obviously there’s the history, there’s everything that St Andrews stands for, okay, the home of golf and everything related to it.
“But I have to go Monday to Wednesday and do my normal preparation on how I will understand St Andrews. I can’t play it like people have played it in the past. We don’t know what the weather will be like. We don’t know what the little changes ahead of us could or could be over time.
“I just have to be prepared and know how I’m going to prepare now for links golf. I think that having experience from a year ago, I will be able to adapt a little faster than I did last year.
“Last year I took a lot of risks, changing some irons, changing the putter setup a bit. But I think I’ll be a little better prepared this year to be ready to figure out how to dissect that course of golf to the best of my ability.
He picked a good year to travel to the Fife venue, where a record 290,000 fans will be in attendance for the landmark occasion, which will include a ‘Celebration of Champions’ at the start of the week.
“I think every time you defend a tournament, it’s always special, right?” recognized Morikawa. “You come back as a previous champion. You just know you’ve done it before.
“But, when we reduce that to a major championship, especially as the Open, and you have course rotation and you move around, which is also kind of weird in a sense of its own because it’s not like I had previous history at St Andrews.
“There’s a million other guys before me who probably played there, played well, and you can consider them more experienced, more like favorites because they played there.
But that’s the thing is I’ve been doing this now for three years, and I keep showing up at new golf courses and trying to figure them out, and I just have to get out and play.
“At the end of the day, it’s just whether I’m going to be ready to go out there and play golf and play my game and do what I’m doing. It’s sort of dissecting the golf course from tee to green and hopefully making a few putts for the week.
The odd eyebrow may have been raised when Morikawa won the 2020 US PGA Championship behind closed doors at San Francisco’s Harding Park behind closed doors due to the Covid pandemic, but it was certainly no fluke.
He produced a polished performance to also win that Open at Royal St George’s in front of fans last summer and also became the first American to win the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai in 2021. He savors those huge crowds on the Old Race.
“The more the better to be honest for me,” he said. “This year the Masters was the first time I had full fans, and I think when I have more people it almost makes me focus a bit more on what I’m doing rather than almost enjoying the countryside.
“When you’re a little distracted, you pay attention to other things rather than focusing on golf. So when it’s busier, for me, I enjoy it even more, so I look forward to see all those people there.
As a colleague said at the end of a video chat, Morikawa is the kind of guy you’d be happy to see your daughter bring home. He is polite, respectful and charming and also lives cleanly. Compared to, say, 1995 winner John Daly, the Claret Jug is currently in safe hands.
“He actually didn’t make his way too far,” Morikawa said of the game’s most iconic trophies. He arrived at a few friends, did some sponsor outings; where I practice in Vegas, I’m going to leave it there for a few days here and there.
“But I think the best experience I have is just people seeing me take it out of the case and they see it head-on with themselves holding it and just see the story they can witness right in front of them. I think it’s one of the coolest experiences that people kind of underestimate.
“When they pull it out and they hold it and they realize what they’re holding it’s a cool memory for me just to see what they’re going through because they got it in their hands and they ‘re seeing all the previous story before me.
“It’s the coolest thing, it’s just seeing the reaction on people’s faces, picking up the Claret Jug. I think it will never get old. I think when you see someone picking it up and you see it witnessing it for the first time, it truly is a special place in the game of golf, and always will be.
Collin Morikawa says he ‘owes a lot’ to Scottish Open in East Lothian