It's all about control for defending PGA champ Morikawa

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Defending champion Collin Morikawa will try for back-to-back major titles when he tees of Thursday in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island

Defending champion Collin Morikawa says keeping ball control in the fast-changing winds of Kiawah Island will be the key to his chance of back-to-back PGA Championship victories.

The 24-year-old American captured last year's title at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in only his second major start, joining Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the event before turning 24.

Only Woods and Brooks Koepka have won in back-to-back years since it adopted a stroke-play format in 1958.

"I don't think there's added pressure," Morikawa said. "We're at a different venue. If we were at Harding Park again, I might feel a little different. I'm doing all my prep work that I normally would. I'm sticking to what I know works."

For Morikawa, statistically the PGA Tour's top iron player, that means being comfortable hitting long irons into greens while the blustery winds of the Ocean course threaten to blow every shot off target.

"Doesn't matter what wind you're going to get. We're all going to have to play it. It's who's going to be able to adapt and adjust," he said.

"I definitely think I can compete here. Obviously my ball-striking helps and I feel comfortable with a 6-iron or 5-iron in my hands.

"You have to control your golf ball. Out here with the wind no matter what it is, it's going to be blowing over 10 (mph) all day everywhere. You have to be able to know where you're going to land certain shots, where you're going to miss them."

That control could make the difference this week, Morikawa said.

"Everyone is going to have a long iron in. What helps me is that I can control my ball flight. That's what you have to do to have a chance at winning," he said.

"It's who can control it in the wind, who can play it the right direction, who can know where they're going to miss it, and I think that just shows to my ball-striking abilities is that I have control over my ball."

Morikawa won February's WGC at the Concession, an event moved from Mexico to Florida due to Covid-19, to join Woods as the only players with major and WGC wins before age 25.

"I feel really good," Morikawa said. "Game is trending in a great direction and I've just been really trying to go out and play golf and I think that's the best thing you can do coming into a major."

- Remember the process -

Morikawa said he will use his memory of last year's success for more than just a confidence boost.

"It's not remembering the good shots. It's remembering the process to get there. Because there's more than just us stepping up and hitting a good shot," Morikawa said.

"I remember those feelings. But I can't just think about that feeling and go hit 60 good shots out on the golf course. There's a process to get there, a pre-shot routine, everything that's involved. There's just so much more that people don't realize that go into hitting a shot. You tweak a little bit here and there and just feel a little better for the week."

Morikawa's trouble will come once he reaches the greens and pulls out the putter.

"It's definitely my weakness," he said. I'm like 180-something on tour this year, which isn't great, but I feel like I'm doing the right things to try and get better. Still some things to work on, but this week I feel good."