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By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) - World number six Collin Morikawa goes into the PGA Championship in South Carolina this week hungry to mount a title defence and prove his early career major triumph was no fluke.
The 24-year-old American put the golf world on notice in August when he broke through a jam-packed leaderboard to secure a two-shot victory at Harding Park in only the second major start of his career.
Now he must harness his game to tame Kiawah Island's seaside Ocean Course, where even a slight a shift in the wind can make or break a competitor's day.
"It's definitely a ball striker's course. You have to be able to control your ball," he told reporters. "You have to be able to flight different shots, work it left to right, right to left, and that kind of suits me."
His lack of experience is an undeniable disadvantage, despite logging a practice round on the course last month.
"There's guys out here that have had way more experience on this golf course than I have," said Morikawa, recalling Rory McIlroy's stunning PGA Championship win by eight strokes there in 2012. "It's just like coming to a new course even though I'm the defending champ. It's a brand new golf course."
However, the four-time PGA Tour winner has proven himself equal to some of the sport's toughest challenges, having navigated the notoriously difficult Concession Club to win the WGC-Workday Championship in February.
"It helps any time you get on the golf course if you can control your ball flight and control your distance and spin," two-time major winner and ESPN golf analyst Curtis Strange told reporters.
"Everything about him looks like he's got it - nobody has this game figured out or any part of it figured out, but he looks like at such a young age, he is as mature a golf IQ as anybody that's come along in a long time."
The PGA Championship begins on Thursday.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Christian Radnedge)