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The Mindset that Won Collin Morikawa The Open Championship

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Collin Morikawa Golf Psychology, a Deep Dive

In episode 143 of The Par Train Podcast we review the processes that led Collin Morikawa to become the winner of The 2021 Open Championship. No matter what level of golfer you are, these are some great takeaways that are improving the way we think and feel about the game.

5’9 160 lbs. He plays his game. At his best he’s the best and he knows it.

Is Collin Morikawa the Ben Hogan of our time?

Collin’s ball-striking has earned him comparisons to Ben Hogan. While it’s still early in his career for comparisons to hall-of-fame players, he is definitely the first Collin Morikawa.

Four stats that expose how Collin got it done:

  1. 15th in driver accuracy

  2. 15th in greens in regulation

  3. 11th in putting

  4. Not in the top 50 in driver distance

What do these stats tell us about Collin’s approach?

He is meticulous about sticking to a plan. He is not going to pull a driver because a longer hitter is getting aggressive. He plays his game and plays to his advantage over the field, approach shots. He is not looking to overpower a course with distance, but to utilize the tee-shot as a means of setting up his iron play. His impressive iron accuracy allows him to play more conservatively off the tee costing strokes. This is something every golfer can do by becoming more observant of their strengths and weaknesses, then strategizing accordingly.

What are your strengths?

For many players, golf feels like a whirlwind of good and bad emotions. It likely feels patternless and chaotic because of a lack of effort to observe tendencies. Emotional distress is a huge part of why so many players are oblivious to their own behavior. In this section we look into building a strategy around your strengths.

The Morikawa Method: a recipe for real confidence

How Collin learns from his successes and setbacks. His approach is extremely focused on what he should do, rather than what he should avoid.

One might say, “Well, I can’t ball strike like Collin, how does this relate?” While Collin is elite and has put in more hours on his game than most people will ever spend in their life, he simply builds a strategy around things he is comfortable with. If a player of Collin’s ball-striking ability only pursues shots he is comfortable with, what result will average players have when trying something outside their comfort zone? Collin is growing what he is comfortable with experientially.

Here’s a situation we’ve all been in: you approach reachable par four surrounded by hazards. The dream of an eagle putt entices us to hit the driver. It flies into the crap. Next comes a stress response, anger and fear compounds errors, and the result is close to double digits on the scorecard. The irony is that the shot might have been terrific if utilized in a 40 yard wide fairway. It was the decision that was poor. The next time the driver is used, a foul memory of a big number is recalled, consciously or subconsciously a thought of “I am not driving well today”, and that is how poor decision-making has reduced a players comfort zone.

We saw Collin hitting shots 20 feet from the pin on purpose. Consider the unconscious “strategy” of so many players: hit it as far as possible, then hit it at the flag. This is not how Collin won two majors. Instead, he stuck to a game plan and focused on shots he knew he could pull off. The combination of commitment and risk management is what led him to avoid big numbers.

What to focus on, not what to not focus on

Collin prepares his behavior before the round. Nerves, excitement, anxiety around something like this… what is something you can focus on as a behavior? Rather than trying to avoid doing bad, avoiding nerves, it is about commiting to a specific behavior that you want to accomplish and accepting the result with curiosity. What worked? What didn’t work? These are the ambitions that keep Collin a constant student of his process. This provides him the freedom to anticipate the results, good or bad, which reduces stress during the big moments.

Testing to get out of Swing Prison

The joy of learning and trying new things makes golf enjoyable. This builds a sense of anticipation and joy in developing, rather than generating stress-responses like fear and anger. This is the opposite of getting stuck in “swing prison”, trying to figure out that move. It feels awful. Playing golf-swing rather than playing golf. We discuss making introspective investment into your tendencies. How to develop a single swing thought or process that works for you. Curiosity is the ultimate antidote to fear.

Last Week’s Pod with Collin Morikawa’s coach Rick Sessinghaus

If you haven’t had a chance, give last week’s pod a listen (link below). This episode functions well as a two part series on Collin Morikawa and the processes that have led him to success.

Summary of Episode #143

To review, here are the main points we discuss from watching Collin Morikawa’s victory:

  • Establish strengths

  • Make a strategy to support strengths, mitigate weaknesses

  • Maintain a consistent process

  • Stick to the plan

  • Interpret results scientifically, curiosity is the ultimate antidote to fear

  • Results matter; focus on the process not the result to stay in the moment and obtain the best results


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