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Morikawa's putter change gamble pays off at Masters

golf14 April 2024 04:12| Ā© AFP
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Collin Morikawa Ā© Getty Images

Collin Morikawa's decision to switch to a different putter before the second round of the Masters raised some eyebrows but paid off with the Californian heading into Sunday's final round just a stroke off the lead.

Morikawa shot a three-under 69 on a Saturday in which putting on the notoriously difficult greens at Augusta got harder and faster to sit just a shot behind leader Scottie Scheffler.

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After Thursday's opening round, when he shot 71, Morikawa switched from his recently adopted mallet head putter back to a more familiar blade putter.

While it is not unusual for top professionals to switch putters, it is rare for them to do so in the middle of a major championship.

"I came into this week not putting well or not feeling comfortable with the putter that I had in my hands. Went full 180, switched to the mallet and was feeling great, to be honest," he said.

"I felt better than I've kind of felt all year. But sometimes you don't know how it's going to feel in the tournament. Through that (first) round... I just wanted to get the putter out of my hands because I couldn't get comfortable with it.

"Thankfully I had a backup, something ā€“ a copy of what I've putted with in the past, pretty much the past year and a half. Felt like old times and nice to have that in the back again.

"I didn't make the putts I necessarily wanted today. Missed a few out there, but everything still feels comfortable. That's the biggest thing is feeling comfortable going into tomorrow."

Morikawa looked comfortable on a day that was far from so for most of his rivals atop the leaderboard ā€“ starting off with three straight birdies before his solitary bogey on the sixth and a bounce-back birdie on the eighth.

While others struggled through the back nine, during an enthralling final two hours of play, the two-time major winner kept his cool, collecting nine straight pars.

The 27-year-old won the PGA Championship in 2020 and the British Open the following year but his only win since was in Japan at the Zozo Championship.

Now he feels he is approaching the form that saw him capture those majors.

"It has been a struggle the past few years. It hasn't been fun, but it has been fun to learn about the game and learn about myself," he said.

"The past few days, I've seen some shots that I haven't seen in quite some time, and that's really exciting for me because it's just being able to point-and-shoot and find the ball, and hopefully you've got a birdie chance."

- 'It doesn't scare me' -

As well as the putter change, Morikawa has also adjusted his swing recently and admits he was trying a number of ways to recapture his best golf.

"Sometimes you're searching, and I had to search," he said. "You have to find something. Where my game was last week, if I took it out here, first few days, I probably wouldn't be here. I probably wouldn't be playing today. So you have to find something.

"Sometimes you're just trying to find a feel. That's all it is. Once you find a feel, you can repeat and just put it on repeat all throughout the week.

"That's what I've stuck to, this one feel in my golf swing, and hopefully we can just put that under pressure tomorrow and just continue that kind of shot-shaping I like."

Standing between Morikawa and a third major is Scottie Scheffler and a tightly compressed leaderboard behind him.

"There is still quite a handful of guys beneath us, and I think the conditions are going to be pretty mellow for the most part compared to what we've seen all week," he said.

"It's going to depend how the first five to nine holes go. Look, Scottie is the No 1 player in the world for a reason and what he's done over the past few years is incredible.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't scare me. Thankfully I've got 18 more holes to figure it out and hopefully play some really great golf."

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