Morikawa hits ‘reset button’ ahead of Dubai Desert Classic

Jan 24, 2022, 1:17 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2022, 3:19 am
Collin Morikawa from the U.S. follows his ball on the 18th hole during the first round of the Abu D...

Collin Morikawa from the U.S. follows his ball on the 18th hole during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament at the Yas Links Golf Course, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Collin Morikawa had plenty of thinking to do on the short drive up the coast from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.

The British Open champion had just finished tied for 62nd at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday and the guy with one of the purest swings in golf was concerned.

“I didn’t know where the golf ball was going,” Morikawa said of his tough week on Yas Links when gusts of up to 40 mph (64 kph) caused havoc to a strong field.

So, ahead of the Dubai Desert Classic that starts on Thursday, the No. 2-ranked Morikawa said he has hit the “reset button.”

“I had my agent and my caddie, and we were just literally sitting on the range for hours trying to figure out what to do,” Morikawa said of what he called a “deep dive” on his first day in Dubai.

“We know what’s not working. It’s just trying to get back to my old swing and trying to get back to what I know I can do. So I still have a couple of things I’ve got to work out and feel, but I’m in a much better position right now, at least if I had to go play tomorrow or right now, versus where I was last week.”

The 24-year-old Californian said his practice on Monday was “probably the hardest, longest I’ve worked in a while pre-tournament.”

“Sometimes you just have to find the center again. It happens,” he said. “Thankfully I was still able to learn a lot from it and show up this week with a fresh mind and ready to go.”

Coming off a run of five straight top-10 finishes that included a win at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on the European Tour, Morikawa shot four rounds in the 70s in Abu Dhabi and only made the cut on the number. He was 15 shots off the winner, Thomas Pieters.

Rory McIlroy said after the final round that he felt he had not hit a full iron shot for several days, and Morikawa no doubt felt the same.

Unlike with Yas Links, a new host of the Abu Dhabi Championship, Morikawa is back on familiar ground at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. He played the Desert Classic last year so knows the set-up, even if that week didn’t go so well, either, as he finished in a tie for 68th.

“What happened last week, I wasn’t really in my head. I wasn’t playing to my strengths. Obviously I had no clue where the ball was going out, which makes it a lot harder,” he said.

“But out here, I know the golf course and I know where I need to hit it. And so at that point it’s just going out and playing golf, executing the shots I know, talk to my caddie like we do all the time when we’re playing really well and just stick to the same process.”

The field is similar to that in Abu Dhabi, with McIlroy and Viktor Hovland joining Morikawa in playing in back-to-back events in the United Arab Emirates.

The No. 8-ranked McIlroy will look to keep the momentum going following a strong finish in Abu Dhabi that saw him shoot 67-69 over the weekend and briefly challenge for the lead on Sunday. Hovland, ranked No. 5, tied for fourth, two shots behind Pieters.

Paul Casey is the defending champion and played in Singapore last week.

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More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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Morikawa hits ‘reset button’ ahead of Dubai Desert Classic