ANDOVER — One day into the Trans-Mississippi Championship, Collin Morikawa almost switched putters. Two days later, as he grasped his glass trophy just beyond the 18th green in front of the Flint Hills National clubhouse, Morikawa was glad he didn’t.
Morikawa, a University of California signee, credited his putting for leading him through the remaining 54 holes and to his first tournament crown in more than two years. After slumping a bit on Monday, Morikawa shot six-under par 64 in each of the next three rounds and won the tournament by seven strokes.
“I just switched putters about a week ago, back to a really old putter I think I used in sixth or seventh grade that I haven’t used in a while,” Morikawa said of his Odyssey putter. “I was going to switch after the first round, I had a putter sent into me, but I was rolling it too well. I’m glad I stuck with it.”
The 18-year-old came into Wednesday’s 36-hole marathon in a three-way tie for first place at 6-under par. But he pulled away quickly. By the end of his first nine holes, he was 8 under. Then he birdied 4 of 7 holes to begin his final round to give himself a five-stroke cushion.
Despite a mistake on No. 6 in the final round — his last bogey of the tournament — Morikawa was 3 under on the front nine. On No. 8, he made up for it with a chip from the fringe, about 25 feet from the pin, that dropped in for birdie.
A few holes later, his lead was at eight strokes with six holes to go. Morikawa had seemingly locked up the tournament, and he didn’t even know it.
“I never really had anything locked in,” Morikawa said. “I didn’t have a confident feeling until that last putt, until I saw my name up (on the videoboard).”
That putt was the last of many that put him in that position. In his final nine holes, Morikawa went up and down three times to save par.
“Putting, I think, separated this tournament from almost all of my other ones,” Morikawa said. “Putting has held me back the past… so many years. But it came together this week.”
On Monday, when morning showers soaked most of the players, including Morikawa, his scorecard suffered. Morikawa’s high-arching, spin-heavy style of play hurt him as a rain storm blew through Andover, and he came in with an even-par 70.
Wednesday was a different story. When the rain was on and off on the final nine holes, Morikawa stayed level-headed and consistent, and his game didn’t suffer. He credited that to his caddy – his dad, Blaine.
“Rain or wind have not been my strengths at all,” Morikawa said. “But I was able to stay patient with my dad there. He didn’t say much, but we kept everything, we kept our routine the same.”
LSU signee Philip Barbaree was second at 11 under. At the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions last week, Barbaree pulled away from the field — including Morikawa, who tied for fourth — to win by 14 strokes. It was the opposite at Flint Hills, where Morikawa had no real competition on the final day.
“(Barbaree) didn’t give up, and he didn’t let up any strokes,” Morikawa said. “I had to stay in there… He’s a great competitor, a great guy.”
Now, with six weeks until he heads to Berkeley, and college golf around the corner, Morikawa has his game headed in the right direction. But as his game changes, his putter will stay the same for now.
“This is a good momentum swing for me, to finally get another win under my belt, and this is a really big tournament, too,” said Morikawa. “I don’t think I’ll be changing (putters) for a couple of weeks. “
Trans-Mississippi ChampionshipAt Flint Hills National Golf Club (par 70)
Collin Morikawa, La Canada Flintridge, Calif.70-64-64-64–262
Philip Barbaree, Shreveport, La.69-66-68-66–269
KK Limbhasut, Berkeley, Calif. 69-65-69-68–271
Andrew Presley, Fort Worth 70-65-69-68–272
Max McGreevy, Edmond, Okla. 73-66-67-69–275
Rylee Reinertson, Gibbon, Neb. 75-65-64-71–275
Grady Brame, Hammond, La. 70-68-71-66–275
Andrew Lister, College Station, Texas 69-71-70-66–276
Cristobal Del Solar, Chile 70-67-67-72–276
Sean Walsh, Keller, Texas 67-69-67-74–277
Nick Voke, Ames, Iowa- 71-67-68-71–277
Ryan Zech, Kearney, Mo. 73-70-69-66–278
Sam Johnston, Edmond, Okla. 69-69-69-71–278
Cheng Jin, China 70-65-74-69–278
Kyle Weldon, Des Peres, Mo. 72-67-68-71–278
Ryan Burgess, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.67-69-74-69–279
Zach Zaback, Farmington, Conn. 72-65-74-68–279
Landon Lyons, Baton Rouge, La. 70-70-70-70–280
Andrew Ertel, The Woodlands. Texas 71-68-71-71–281
Mike McCoy, Des Moines70-68-71-72–281
Tyler Saunders, Canada 74-66-75-66–281
Lawrence Allan, Hammond, La. 70-69-69-73–281
Byron Meth, San Diego 75-65-72-70–282
Vincent Martino, Southlake, Texas 71-69-72-70–282
Otto Black, Pinckney, Mich. 70-67-73-72–282
Daniel Hudson, W. Springs, Ill. 68-71-73-71–283
Kolton Crawford, Mansfield, Texas 75-67-69-72–283
Chase Hanna, Leawood 73-68-69-73–283
Blaine Hale, Dallas 75-67-68-73–283
Patrick Murphy, Canada 72-67-75-70–284
John Flaherty, Glastonbury, Conn. 69-65-77-73–284
Juan Serrano, Knoxville, Tenn. 72-69-67-76–284
Graham Brockington, Palo Alto, Calif. 70-70-76-69–285
Carr Vernon, Poplar Bluff, Mo. 70-67-73-76–286
Grant Bennett, Lewisville, Texas 70-71-72-74–287
Henry Simpson, Mission Hills 71-71-71-75–288
Ben Doyle, La Jolla, Calif. 72-71-72-73–288
Sam Horsfield, Davenport, Fla. 71-68-77-72–288
Stephen Summers, Dallas 72-69-75-73–289
Austin Eoff, Benton, Ark. 72-69-74-74–289
Derek Oland, McKinney, Texas 71-69-70-79–289
Jonathan Hudson, W. Springs, Ill. 72-70-72-75–289
Kiran Day, Australia76-66-78-69–289
Wilson Sundvold, Columbia, Mo. 71-70-73-75–289
Nathan Weant, Hallsville, Texas 77-66-74-73–290
Draegen Majors, Tulsa 70-70-72-78–290
Harrison Endycott, Australia74-67-72-77–290
Andre Garcia, Mansfield, Texas72-68-72-79–291
Sam Russell, Oklahoma City 68-70-74-79–291
Fernando Cruz Valle, Mexico 70-72-74-75–291
Teddy Jones, Wildwood, Mo. 71-72-73-77–293
Garrison Mendoza, Clinton, Okla. 72-71-70-80–293
Andrew Romano, Littleton, Colo. 73-68-79-75–295
Andrew McCain, Minneapolis, Minn. 74-69-76-77–296
Trevor Clayton, Clovis, N.M. 69-69-84-76–298
Mario Beltran, Miami 71-69-73-NC–NC