By anyone's standards, Collin Morikawa had a remarkable 2021. Winning a WGC, The Open, the DP World Tour Championship, and the Race to Dubai in one career would be impressive enough, let alone doing it in one calendar year.
In particular, the 24-year-old is often lauded for his immense ball-striking and razor-sharp mind, so we asked him how he hones these skills. There’s plenty for us to glean for our games from gaining an insight into Collin's thought processes when he's practising, as well as those of his lifelong swing coach, Rick Sessinghaus.
GM contributor Garrett Johnson caught up with Collin and Rick for a Q&A session, which you can read in full below…
You put a ball mark on the practice green about ten feet in front of the hole for mid-range putts, what’s the idea behind this drill?
Collin: The warm-up and my practise for me is always about visualising. So it’s about how can you visualise certain shots and see different lines on the green when it comes to putting. When I’m putting my best I can clearly visualise the line and see the ball as it’s going to roll on that line. It just helps me if I put a dot (ball mark) where I’m going to start the putt, and check start lines, and then just check the basics to make sure we’re all aligned for the tournament.
What’s the focus of a typical practice day at a tournament for you?
Collin: I’m just trying to get comfortable. There was a time (during the FedEx Cup Playoffs) when I was trying to figure out some swing issues, but from there my focus during tournament weeks is how do I best play golf? How do I learn the course and how do I play to my strengths and then what suits my game the best on a new course, whether you can be more aggressive on certain holes, and play smart on others, and just overall figure out the golf course.
What does your practice routine pre-round look like?
Collin: For me, my goal is to stay creative: hit different shots, don’t get stuck in just hitting full swing 8-irons, full swing 7-irons or whatever club you favour. When I practise on the side on my off-weeks I like to play courses if I know what course I’m going to play next on Tour. I like to just play them and hit one shot because you only get one shot. I play the course in my mind.
Pick a pin and hit driver, then cut 7-iron or draw something in. I kind of keep that (the draw) for my warm-up and that’s kind of what I’ve always done. Even though I hit cuts a lot of the time, I need to see the ball work both ways just so I can kind of even everything out. So for me it’s just staying creative and seeing the fades, seeing the draws and seeing my shots and visualising and how they’re going to look in the air.
How long is your routine and was it trial and error to get it fine-tuned?
Collin: I think it’s definitely lengthened as I turned pro. I’m doing a little more chipping than I used to. So for me, right now it’s about an hour, hour and ten in total - depending on where everything is situated and where the range is. It’s always been close to an hour. I’m not a guy who likes to sit around there forever, I like to get moving. If I’ve got too much time on my hands I just kind of get stuck and I don’t stay as focused and sharp as I should.
Why do you focus more on chipping now than in the past?
Collin: I want to bring what I’m doing well on the range with my iron shots into my putting and chipping and for me that means staying creative, hitting different shots. When I get into chipping it’s just about hitting a bunch of different shots before the round. You don’t know what you’re going to get, you don’t know what kind of lies you’re going to have, but it’s just about keeping your mind active, that’s a big thing. The short game is a big part of my game that I need to keep working on - chipping, bunker play, putting. It’s a work in progress but for now it’s just tightening everything up and keeping it going.
What are some go-to drills for you in your practice?
Collin: On the range I love to just put a glove underneath my left armpit, it keeps me feeling connected on my backswing. If I’m not hitting it great the previous day I’ll do that on the range the next day. It’s crucial to feel right going into your next round. Then I’ll hit a few shots to know I’m staying connected with the left swing and the backswing. That’s pretty much the only drill I do on the range. For me it’s just checking my alignments and checking the basics, making sure everything is lined up because if everything is lined up there then we’re good to go.
What’s a good drill for amateur golfers to implement pre-round?
Collin: I think hitting a lot of punch shots. Think about it, how often are you actually hitting a full-swing shot, and if you are, for those people who are mishitting them, the punch shot is going to go just as far and be just as consistent for you, so why not work on the three-quarter strike, making sure you’ve got good contact with it and you’re hitting down on it a little bit. Really, this game is all about contact. You’re going to mishit some, but if you can get the solid ones to go straight where you want it, that’s all you can ask for.
Amateur golfers show up with little time to practise, what should we do with that short amount of time?
Collin: Get loose. I think the biggest thing is getting mentally prepared for what’s ahead of you, whether it’s a lot of fun with your buddies or if you’re playing a big match against your friend. I think you need to feel ready because when you’re not sharp sometimes it takes you that five, six, seven, even nine holes and then you realise, ‘what just happened there?’ and you don’t want that to happen to you.
Continues below with Collin’s swing coach, Rick Sessinghaus...
So Rick, what's the overall focus of Collin's pre-round warm-up?
Rick: Collin’s pre-round warm-ups are very basic as it revolves around getting the body ready, getting his tempo, feeling wedge distances. The full swing remains simple. Short game warm-up - chipping, pitching, bunker play, executing potential shots that he might have on course. Then putting, which is about fundamentals: speed control and then routine. Then off to the first tee.
What’s the goal of his putting drill using a ball mark as his start line?
Rick: The putting drill we have done with the ball mark is just about using the ball mark as a start line reference. Putting the ball over the intermediate target of the ball marker helps us gauge if he is getting it online.
How long is his overall warm-up and how does it breakdown?
Rick: The entire time is one hour and 10 minutes. We start with about 10 minutes putting, 25 minutes full swing, 15 minutes on short game and then he finishes with 10 minutes putting, and then to the tee.
Any other drills for the short game outside of the ball mark putting drill?
Rick: He doesn’t do a lot of drills. His short game practise is about variability and hitting a lot of different shots.
Garrett Johnston has a wealth of experience covering professional golf. Check out his Beyond the Clubhouse podcast to get more in-depth insights from some of the game's biggest stars.
Garrett Johnston is a golf reporter and presenter who’s covered pro golf for 12 years including over 30 majors. His goal each year is always to “grow with the rookies” on Tour. The idea is to get to know the superstars before they become household names. Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, and Patrick Reed are just some of the players Johnston has covered from their early pro careers for their hometown newspapers. Johnston’s favorite event is always The Open, and he credits his unforgettable experience covering the 2015 Open at St. Andrews where he got to interview Tom Watson (in his final Open) and winner Zach Johnson exclusively throughout the week as his favorite event so far. Johnston has also developed a strong rapport with Tour caddies and regularly contributes to Caddie Network and Golf.com. He also has his own podcast: Beyond The Clubhouse
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