Morikawa back after missed opportunity at Memorial Tournament

golf05 June 2024 22:00| © Reuters
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Collin Morikawa © Getty Images

Collin Morikawa recalled that he was nearly moved to tears when he had to withdraw from the 2023 Memorial Tournament on the morning of the final round because of a back injury.

But Morikawa has returned for this year's edition of the Memorial, which starts on Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

Morikawa will be trying to capture the victory that eluded him a year ago while also going for a handshake from the event's longtime host, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, on the 18th green.

"I felt gutted last year," said Morikawa, who was tied for ninth at 4-under par and two shots behind the leaders after three rounds when he suffered back spasms during a workout that Sunday morning.

"I hurt myself on Sunday and I felt like I had a chance," Morikawa said on Wednesday. 

"I went in there and I was nearly sobbing because I had to go tell (Nicklaus) that I had to withdraw. It sucks because you show up to certain events and you just, you have this thing about an event that you just love, and I love this golf course."

Morikawa, 27, is a two-time major champion since turning pro in 2019, having won the PGA Championship in 2020 and The Open in 2021.

Among his six victories on the PGA Tour is his win at the Workday Charity Open held at Muirfield Village in 2020, but that didn't come with a handshake from Nicklaus.

Another shot to win the Memorial came in 2021, when Morikawa lost to Patrick Cantlay in a playoff.

"Oh, it would be so special," Morikawa said of getting a handshake from the 84-year-old Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion.

"Look, what Jack has done for this game, what his voice does, what he represents, it's a lot. You can't replace history, you can't replace someone like that, so to have that chance hopefully come Sunday, it would mean the world. ...

"Yes, you know, he was a little bit before I got into golf, but history is history. When you have someone like that, one of the greats, if not the great, right? It's an absolute honour."

Morikawa is eighth in the Official World Golf Ranking and sixth in the FedExCup points standings. He's made the cut in 11 of 13 events this season, with five top-10 finishes and nine in the top 25.

After landing in fourth at the Charles Schwab Challenge on 26 May, Morikawa is riding some momentum heading into this week's event.

"I love it. I mean, it's a golf course that tests everything," Morikawa said of Muirfield Village. "You could say that about a lot of golf courses, but it truly does. The rough's thick, the greens can get pretty firm out here, depending on weather, and there's not a lot to just kind of get away and get lazy with on any holes.

"The par-5s play tough. They're gettable, but they can still play tough. That's the great thing about this golf course is from Hole 1 you're staying focused all the way through the 18th."