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Cal Golf: Collin Morikawa Confident He Has Let Go of His Obsession To Be No. 1

The two-time major winner feeling good a week out from defending his British title.

For Collin Morikawa, the obsession with being ranked No. 1 — and he acknowledges feeling that way — is behind him.

"I want to be here and I want to compete against these guys and I want to beat every single one," the former Cal star told reporters Wednesday on the eve of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club at Berwick, Scotland.

"Doesn't matter what I'm ranked in the world. When I was 1,000 in the world coming out here, I still believed that I could be No. 1 and I still believed that I could beat all these guys,” he said.

“I think when I put my head to that and put my mindset to that point, I'm like, 'OK, we're just here to play golf. We're here to enjoy it and we're here to win.’ “

For the record, Morikawa is No. 4 in the official world golf rankings. He’s ahead of Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are far to his rear.

Fellow Cal grad Max Homa is ranked a career-best 19th in the world.

Morikawa tees off Thursday in a group with Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris at 5:15 a.m. PT in the final tuneup for The (British) Open next week at St. Andrews. Homa, Francesco Molinari and Patrick Cantlay get started Thursday at 5:35 a.m. PT.

Scottie Scheffler, whose four victories this season include the Masters, has a sturdy lead atop of the world rankings.

"I've heard players talk about this and I've paid attention to it, and where I'm at now, Scottie has built a gap between us and I just want to get back in the winner's circle," said Morikawa, without a victory since taking The Open at Royal St. George’s last summer.

"That's what it was like since I've turned pro and it hasn't changed. ... But when you know you're on the grass or when you're on the cusp of something and you're so close to that, sometimes that kind of jumps precedent to what you really need to focus on, right?

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“And I was so focused on hitting that perfect cut and hitting these perfect shots that I knew could get me to No. 1 in the world. That it kind of took over rather than me just playing golf.”

Morikawa, 25, admits straying from the mindset of "just playing" early back in December. He was on the doorstep of ascending to No. 1, and it perhaps became too much of his focus. He had a five-stroke lead after three rounds at the Hero World Challenge and by closing out the victory would have become the second-fastest to No. 1, behind Tiger Woods.

He staggered to a final-round 76 and Victor Hovland rallied from six strokes back to win. Morikawa wound up tied for fifth, and never got to No. 1.

Morikawa played well in two subsequent events, finishing fifth and second, then his play became erratic. Hs missed the cut at The Players Championship and finished 68th at the Valspar Championship.

He followed that with a ninth-place finish at the World Golf Championships before placing fifth at the Masters. But Morikawa finished outside the top-25 in his next four tournament before missing the cut at the Memorial.

"I think that might have played a factor in how I was performing beginning of the year," Morikawa said. "All I cared about — not all I cared about, that's a lie. What I cared about was trying to get to No. 1 in the world.”

He came to this conclusion several weeks ago, in time to sculpt a fifth-place finish at the U.S. Open at Brookline, Mass., giving him a top-five finish at all four majors. Morikawa shot three rounds in the 60s, faltering only when he carded a third-round 77.

"I said, 'Screw it, let's just go play golf,’ " he said. "That's what I did. The amount of college, like, swing videos I watched were endless and I think it didn't just show me how I swung it back in college because, yeah, maybe I want to swing it like that."

Cover photo of Collin Morikawa by John David Mercer, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo