Collin Morikawa Is Back With His Old Coach and Back in the Hunt at Majors

The two-time major champion is well-positioned for the weekend, reuniting with an instructor who he first worked with at age 8.
Collin Morikawa is in contention for a third major and second PGA Championship.
Collin Morikawa is in contention for a third major and second PGA Championship. / Clare Grant/Courier Journal / USA TODAY

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Collin Morikawa made a phone call earlier this spring to an old acquaintance. Old as in long-time. Going back to his youth. When the golfer was just 8 years old.

That’s when Morikawa, 27, began working with Rick Sessinghaus, an instructor he took lessons from at an executive course in Glendale, Calif.

Morikawa had made the tough decision to split from his longtime coach last year prior to the Ryder Cup as he was going on two years without a victory.

Going through another rough period earlier this year, Morikawa decided it was time to get some thoughts from the guy who had helped him win two major championships.

He first had decided to end his short relationship with Mark Blackburn just a few weeks prior to the Masters.

“And that’s when I kind of started talking to Rick, just to reach out as a friend, to be honest, not even for the golf swing, just more to talk,” Morikawa said Friday after a 65 put him in contention at the PGA Championship. “Sometimes you need that. Sometimes you need someone to just talk it through and get back to playing golf.

“We've always been the kind of player-coach where it's just more about just being creative and hitting shots. That's what we've kind of gone back to. Just keeping things simple right now and just being able to see our shots, visualize them, things that I've done in the past. Not really trying to reinvent the wheel right now.”

Morikawa’s 65 at Valhalla Golf Club followed a first-round 67 and saw him finish with the clubhouse lead at 11 under before Xander Schauffele began his second round and eventually surpassed him with a 68 that got him to 12 under. Sahith Theegala moved into third place, two shots back, with Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau among the players tied for fourth, three behind.

Morikawa has been on a nice run of success recently, contending at the Masters, where he tied for third and played in the final group with eventual winner Scottie Scheffler.

He finished ninth a week later at the RBC Heritage and tied for 16th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

This after some frustrations early in the year coming off a victory last fall at the Zozo Championship and a playoff loss to Rickie Fowler at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last summer.

“It was a pretty flat start of the year,” Morikawa said. “For me, the confidence doesn't go away. I think the confidence is always there. Even when I wasn't playing well, I still felt like when I teed it up on that first hole, like I can go out and shoot 65.

“Sometimes you learn the lesson really quick and you run into a brick wall, and you realize that day is not going to be that day. But the confidence is always there, it's just a matter of if I can go on the range and see eight shots in a row or five shots in a row that are all the same and exactly what I want, the confidence is even more. That just gives you the trust. It's not confidence is up, but the trust is there. So the confidence never went away, it's just being able to trust the golf swing and free it up from there.”

Morikawa, who won the PGA Championship in 2020 and the British Open in 2021, saw his ballstriking abilities fall off during a tough 2022 where he tied for fifth despite fighting his swing at the U.S. Open and then missed the cut in his Open defense.

The move away from his longtime coach last year was necessary, he said, because he sought a change.

”I don't regret it at all,” he said. “Look, at the time, let's call it last fall, I thought I had to, and to be honest, if I did it again, I probably would do it again because I thought we had exhausted all of our resources and all the things we tried and nothing was working. So I couldn't get that shot what I wanted. So what do you do? You change. If I kept going down that path, who knows where I'd be.

“So I'm happy that I went out a different way, but you also learn about yourself and you learn about what kind of golfer you are and what you need. It took that little span of so many months, and here we are today.”

Which is—seemingly—in a pretty good spot with two rounds to play at Valhalla.


Published |Modified
Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a golf writer for SI.com and the author of the book "DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods," which publishes in March and can be ordered here.