This isn’t the way Collin Morikawa envisioned the FedEx Cup playoffs unfolding. Certainly not after he started the three-week march to a potential $15 million prize sitting atop the standings.
But the 24-year-old Cal grad, who injured his back at the Tokyo Olympics in July and has struggled since, offers no complaints about golf’s season-ending format.
He is seeded 11th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the Tour Championship, beginning Thursday at the East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta. Two weeks ago, prior to the start of the The Northern Trust, he was first in the FedEx Cup standings.
"I think I laid out the blueprint for what this format is," Morikawa told the Golf Channel in their story, titled, How volatile are FedExCup Playoffs? Look no further than Collin Morikawa.
"If you finish the regular season at first and you pretty much don't accumulate any points, you might possibly drop down to 11th,” he said. “The staggered format, I think, is smart. I think it works. So, it's cool to see that who is going to win this week is going to win everything else.”
Per that staggered format, Morikawa begins play at 3-under par. New FedEx Cup standings leader Patrick Cantlay, the winner last week at the BMW Championship, goes off at 10 under. A steep climb for Morikawa.
"I mean, am I OK with it? No, I don't personally like being dropped all the way down to 11th, but like I said, that's the way our playoffs work.”
The top 30 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings advanced to the Tour Championship. The entire field plays all four rounds. The winner on Sunday collects the $15 mil.
Twice a winner on the PGA tour this season, including at the British Open, Morikawa missed the cut at The Northern Trust before finishing in a tie for 63rd place at the BMW Championship last week. That added up to the slide from No. 1 to No. 11.
He says he no longer is feeling any pain from the back injury he suffered in the first round of Olympic competition at Tokyo. Instead, it’s a matter of correcting the issues in his swing that developed while he compensated for his back problem.
“We're working back there. I would call it 95 percent back to the original swing,” Morikawa said. “There's just a couple little kinks here and there that show up.”
For Morikawa, it’s all part of the continuing education of a young professional golfer.
“The biggest thing I've learned,” he said, “(is to) not play injured, because it really built bad patterns into my swing that I had to think about and I had to realize.”
Listed as a 40-to-1 shot to win this week, Morikawa tees off Thursday at 10:10 a.m. PT, paired with Sungjae Im.
Cantlay, the top seed, goes off (minus-10) tees off at 11 a.m. PT, paired with Tony Finau (minus-8). Bryson DeChambeau (minus-7) and Jon Rahm (minus-6) begin at 10:50 a.m.
Golf Channel and NBC Sports will broadcast all four rounds. Here’s the TV schedule (all times PT):
- Thursday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (GC)
- Friday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (GC)
- Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (GC); 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (NBC)
- Sunday: 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (GC); 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (NBC)
Cover photo of Collin Morikawa by Kyle Terada, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo