With most of the country following stay-at-home ordinances for more than two months, people are looking for some semblance of normalcy and professional golfer Collin Morikawa is ready to deliver it.
The PGA Tour is scheduled to restart its season with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 11, and the La Cañada High School graduate will be one of more than 120 golfers to compete in the tournament.
“I’ll be there at Colonial [Country Club],” said Morikawa, who was a member of the LCHS class of 2015. “We have the opportunity to be one of the first [athletes] back.”
Professional golfers were assured that PGA Tour officials would adhere to strict health guidelines such as having no fans present and providing extra space for athletes and caddies when they travel.
“Things to keep in mind as we go through all of this is it’s really a layered approach that we’ve taken, and the heart of it is social distancing,” Tour Senior Vice President and Chief of Operations Tyler Dennis recently told reporters in a conference call. “ … We’re excited about how the PGA Tour can play a role here in the world’s return, if you will, enjoying things we love and doing so in a responsible manner.”
Morikawa said the PGA Tour sent him a 40-page document outlining the new safety procedures that include multiple tests each week and guidelines when in contact with people.
“From my end, I feel as safe as I can be,” he added. “There’s a point where you have to step outside and go out but understand the risks and who you’re going to be around, especially children and elderly. We have to be respectful with whom we’re going to be in contact when on the golf course. … It’s going to be tough and different but we’re ready.”
The four-time Rio Hondo League most valuable player said he was “excited” to renew the season, which will now combine with next year’s tournaments to form a singular 2020-21 campaign.
“It’s crazy what’s going on, but it’s good to finally have a schedule ready,” Morikawa stated. “For us as athletes, we just want to compete. In the beginning part of the delay, there was a lot less motivation. There wasn’t much motivation to do much because we didn’t know if this was going to be a one-month thing or five months.
“It was relieving [to learn of PGA’s continuation of the season] as long as everything is safe and we’re going to feel fine. We’re excited to get out there and compete and play golf.”
The PGA Tour was suspended one day after the Players Championship began in March. Morikawa was in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, competing in what is considered the biggest golf event of the year and was worried how he and his colleagues would get home during a hectic time.
“It was crazy because the day before we got canceled, the NBA [had postponed] its season,” he recalled. “It all escalated so quickly. Even during the beginning of the year, I was following what was a big thing in China and it was slowly spreading everywhere else around the world.
“It was not a surprise [the Players Championship was canceled]. It’s shocking to see the world full of panic, and it was a tough time because everyone was in a place where they might not have a house [nearby] or might be living somewhere else. … It was a crazy experience and hopefully something we don’t go through again. … At that point, we all had to book a flight and find a way to get home.”
Morikawa was able to fly to Las Vegas, where he lives and has trained the past two months. Golf courses were closed in April but reopened in May, allowing him to work on his craft and prepare for the next tourney.
“I’ve spent a lot of time at home and had an opportunity to relax and get ready for this tournament schedule that is going to be ramped up,” he said.
After graduating from LCHS, Morikawa become one of the all-time greatest golfers at Cal, where he reached the top position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and was named the Pac-12 player of the year. He graduated last year with a degree in business administration and broke into the professional scene by claiming the Barracuda Championship in only his eighth start at the age of 22. The victory earned him PGA Tour membership through the 2020-21 season.
“It’s crazy to think only a year ago I was literally still in college [and] to finally be out here on the PGA Tour and have my first win,” Morikawa said. “I checked off so many boxes that I wanted to do as quickly as possible. My game feels great, and there are a lot of positives heading toward the season, especially with the break to work on many things. Knowing my game is going to feel 100% as I go into this is great, and I’m prepared to go out and compete and win again.”
Television audiences showed their desire for live sports on May 24 as nearly 6 million viewers tuned into The Match: Champions for Charity headlined by PGA standouts Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and NFL legends Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The event was the most-watched golf telecast in cable television history.
“It’s going to be different for us not having fans around, but we have a chance to slowly transition to normality and coming back to not worrying about everything,” Morikawa said. “I understand it’s a long time until things get back to normal, but this is our opportunity to bring back live sports. … There’s obviously a big responsibility on our hands that we stay within the guidelines and get tested. But we’re excited because [we saw] that live golf brought in viewers. People are excited to watch because they haven’t had it.”