A confident Collin Morikawa in contention for third major at 2024 PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One month after playing in the final group at the Masters and finishing third, Collin Morikawa is in contention again to win another major.

Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Championship winner, carded five consecutive birdies on his second nine to shoot 6-under 65 at Valhalla Golf Club on Friday and assume the clubhouse lead during the second round of the 106th PGA Championship.

“I’ve been putting great so far, since Augusta, so it’s nice to just kind of keep that trend going,” Morikawa said.

The 27-year-old former Cal Bear said he had a poor range session, including missing several drives to the right, and spent an extra few minutes before his tee time figuring it out.

“Kind of tweaked a little something in the setup, and it worked for the most part,” he said.

It worked to perfection for 17 holes until he chunked an 8-iron at No. 9, his final hole of the day, and made his lone bogey. Still, Morikawa was pleased to be near the top of the leaderboard at 11-under 131.

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The PGA champ at TPC Harding Park also is the winner of the 2021 British Open, and won two majors in his first eight starts in majors. That level of early success heaped expectations that Morikawa would be a worldbeater for years to come. But after hoisting the Claret Jug, he endured a drought of more than two years before winning again at the Zozo Championship in Japan in October. That victory, his first after parting with longtime coach Rick Sessinghaus and hooking up with instructor Mark Blackburn, however, didn’t turn into a springboard to greater success. Morikawa called the start of his season “pretty flat,” and it led Morikawa to make another coaching change in March.

“I used to walk by a bunch of players on the range and wonder why they hit so many balls. That’s pretty much become me,” Morikawa told Golfweek after the Masters. “JJ [Jakovac, his caddie] asked me last week at the Valero (Texas Open) if I’ve ever hit the ball that bad, and I never have in my life. I can’t think of one moment in my life since I started golf…I thought I’ve seen lows but from a ballstriking standpoint that was a new low for me.”

Morikawa found something the week of the Masters and nearly earned his third major, if not for a couple of costly mistakes at Nos. 9 and 11 on Sunday that he blamed on being “too greedy.” He officially reunited with Sessinghaus earlier this month but said he has no regrets about the six-month break.

PGA Championship
PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa and his coach Rick Sessinghaus with the Wanamaker Trophy after the final round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

“I thought we had exhausted all of our resources and all the things we tried and nothing was working,” Morikawa said.

He compared reuniting with Sessinghaus as like having an old friend back.

“There’s a sense of comfort,” he told Golfweek. “It’s hard to replace someone you’ve worked with for 18 years.”

Despite his lull in performance earlier this year, Morikawa said he never lost confidence in his abilities.

“I know I still have it in me, and that’s what’s exciting is that, after Augusta, it sucked to finish like that and it sucked to lose to Scottie, but at the end of the day, I knew I had three more majors coming up and to prep for that and get things as sharp as possible and just come out strong,” he said. “It’s obviously nice to get off to this start.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek