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Morikawa on threshold of world No.1 ranking in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi - A win for the American, and any finish below tied-seventh for Jon Rahm in the PGA Tour’s American Express Championship, will do the trick



By Joy Chakravarty

Published: Tue 18 Jan 2022, 3:25 PM

Just when it was about to sit on Collin Morikawa’s head, the world No.1 crown was cruelly snatched away from him in the idyllic surroundings of Bahamas in December last year. However, the American star insists it was a great learning opportunity and it could lead to a UAE double this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

A couple of weeks after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and finishing the season as the European No.1, Morikawa went into the final round of the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in Albany leading by five shots. Sunday seemed nothing more than a perfunctory walk to the podium for the 24-year-old. That would have helped him end the reign of Jon Rahm on the top of the world ranking.

However, the Open champion made two early double bogeys and never recovered from there, eventually finishing tied fifth after a closing round of 76.

Theoretically, Morikawa again has a chance to seal the top place in men’s professional golf in his maiden Abu Dhabi appearance. A win for him, and any finish below tied-seventh for Rahm in the PGA Tour’s American Express Championship, will do the trick.

“Kind of bittersweet tastes in Bahamas. But that got me going. It has just motivated me to come out here and play as best as I can,” said Morikawa.

“I felt great warming up. And then you pull one in the bushes, and then the first four holes, I was pulling putts. Normally, if you are not swinging well in a round, I know what to fix. I know what shot to go to if I need one shot for the day. But I just could not figure out the putting. I could not figure out why I was pulling my putts and I tried so many things for the rest of the round.

“But like I said, it motivated me to get really well rested over the off season and come back as strong as ever. It’s gonna happen, but there was a lot of positives to take through those first three rounds in a field like that.

“The frustration goes away quickly. If I was still frustrated about it, I would not be able to play this tournament to the best of my abilities. You get over it and now I’m motivated.

“I don’t look at it as highs and lows. I think that’s the wrong way of how I put it in my head. For me, it’s just you having a good week, or you having a bad week. We’re playing half the weeks of the year. There’s going to be some bad days.”

A completely new test awaits the world-class field in the first Rolex Series event of the season. Played at the parkland course of Abu Dhabi Golf Club ever since it was established in 2006, the $8 million tournament has moved to Yas Links Golf Club this year. Exposed to the mangrove on one side, it has been built like a links course that you’d usually find in the British isles.

It should not be much of a bother for Morikawa, who won the 149th Open Championship at the demanding Royal St George’s course in his debut appearance at the oldest golf tournament in the world, which is played at some of the finest links courses.

“I played nine holes here and it’s fantastic. Knowing what the weather’s gonna be like, especially on Friday with it being really windy, this should be a really interesting test. The greens are pretty undulating and they have a lot of slopes, a lot of run off areas.

“I don’t know what course suits me anymore. Which, to be honest, is a good thing. I show up to these courses thinking I can win. I haven’t yet showed up at a course where I felt my game can’t play here. It’s huge thing for me to be able to travel around the world and bringing my game to these places that I feel comfortable.

“This is a golf course that really is not similar to a lot of places I’ve played. But I think I'm going to be able to work certain shots around, especially if the wind picks up, and hopefully control my ball a little better than everyone else.”

The tournament, which is the first DP World Tour event of 2022, begins from Thursday and also features world No.7 Viktor Hovland and No.8 Rory McIlroy.


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