Back in the winner's circle

Collin Morikawa rides dominant final round performance to victory at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan


More than two years since his victory at the 2021 Open Championship, Collin Morikawa is back in the winner’s circle on the PGA TOUR.

Fueled by a dominant final round -7 (63), the two-time major champion put it on cruise control Sunday on the way to a six-shot victory at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan.

“It feels so good,” Morikawa said. “I can’t even explain it. I knew I was going to get here at some point, but it’s like getting your first win or your first major. People start asking questions, and they start asking why. I had to really look back and ask myself what’s wrong, and what’s the reasoning behind finishing second of fifth versus a win.”

Morikawa entered Sunday’s final round two shots behind then-leader Justin Suh and came bursting out of the gates with four birdies on the front nine, including three in the last four holes. The early surge gave Morikawa the lead as he made the turn, a lead he never relinquished.

“The game felt really good,” Morikawa said of his front-nine performance. “Knowing that I was two back, you just want to give yourself a chance with nine holes left and everything just kind of clicked. We were able to not make any errors really, make the par putts when we needed it, and it was nice to finish off that front nine with a birdie on eight and nine.”

Morikawa’s win was due in large part to his performance on the greens. Finishing atop the field in birdies (24) and second in putts per GIR (1.60), the hard work early in the week with the putter certainly paid off.

“JJ (Collin’s caddie) and I were grinding for almost two and a half hours Wednesday afternoon after our pro-am and just trying to figure out things on how to read these greens, how to get a little more consistent, take out a few variables,” Morikawa said. “I texted a couple buddies on certain little things and it’s nice when things click like that. Even the ones that were missing were good putts and great looks and it got to a point today where I needed to just put good speed on and the ball would have a good chance of going in the hole.”

Heading into this week, the next win, whenever it happened, was going to be special for Morikawa, but to win the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP was especially meaningful. As a Japanese-American, Morikawa recognizes the significance of winning in Japan, and appreciated the support he felt throughout the week.

“When you have something to look back on, being half Japanese and looking back at that and being able to connect with the people out here, it means the world. When you’re able to touch on that little aspect a bit more, it pulls a little bit more out of you. I knew at the beginning of the week that the fans out here were rooting for the Japanese players but I like to count myself as a part-Japanese player in that. I felt the love, the fans have been incredible and I look forward to coming back many more times.”