Collin Morikawa working through slump in performance

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BROOKLINE, Mass. – Previously on the verge of taking over the No. 1 spot in the world, Collin Morikawa has instead slipped to seventh.

For a player who has enjoyed a smooth, steady ascent through the pro ranks – from one win in 2019, to two in 2020, to three last year – the rare blip in performance has been a source of frustration.

“This entire year has been weird,” Morikawa said Tuesday at the U.S. Open. “I’ve been known for my irons and known to hit cuts. That shot just hasn’t been there.”

Full-field tee times from U.S. Open

Always more of an efficient worker than a ball-beater, Morikawa said he’s logged more time on the range this year than at any point in his career. His recent results haven’t been horrendous – four consecutive finishes outside the top 25, following a solo fifth at the Masters – but he remains without a worldwide victory. If nothing else, it’s been a surprisingly quiet stretch for a rising star who was a high finish away from ascending to world No. 1 for the first time.

“I think it’s taught me a lot about what kind of player I am,” he said. “I want to be able to just play golf. I think the best players out here, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. They’re able to put the ball in the hole, and I’ve been so worried about trying to hit this cut – like, almost forcing a cut. Why not just play my miss or why not play my shot shape? That’s what Rory [McIlroy], Tiger [Woods], all the greats before us, they just worked with what they’ve got.”

Statistically, there hasn’t been a massive drop-off. This season, Morikawa still ranks fifth in approach play, gaining more than 0.8 strokes per round on the field with his irons. Last season, he led the Tour in that department (1.170). It just hasn’t been as reliably consistent.

So, why is it happening?

Morikawa and swing coach Rick Sessinghaus are still figuring that part out.

They know it comes down to face control with his irons, but they haven’t “hit the jackpot yet.” Morikawa has pored over every swing video in his phone and tried every swing thought he’s used since college.

“We’ll get it back,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m going to hit draws for the rest of my life. I’m sure cuts will come back in the next month or so, but it’s a weird little thing in golf.”

Though he has voiced his support for the PGA Tour, Morikawa said the ongoing conversation about the rival tour has been a “distraction,” even for someone like himself, who has largely avoided the headlines.

“When you wake up and I’m texting my agent or I’m texting my friend, Hey, did you hear about this?, it’s fun, it’s exciting, because it’s gossip. And who doesn’t like gossip, right? But it also becomes a distraction, and you don’t want to be focused on this or that. You want to be focused on playing golf,” he said.

“I would say over the past six months – I’m not going to blame it on any part of my golf game. Put that aside. But it is an extra distraction on thinking about this, thinking about that or worrying about who is going to ask what.”