First published in the Feb. 24 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
PGA Tour standout Collin Morikawa returned home to his Southern California roots last week to compete in the Genesis Invitational at the historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, a site that has hosted three major golf championships, and the La Cañada High School graduate didn’t disappoint.
Morikawa excelled in the final round shooting six-under 65 with five birdies and an eagle and totaled 17-under throughout the four-day competition. However, it wasn’t enough as Chilean Joaquin Neimann held on to pick up his second PGA Tour victory by two strokes.
The former Spartan tied Cameron Young for second place and both golfers earned more than $1 million in an event hosted by Tiger Woods, a legend in the sport. For Morikawa, it’s the fifth runner-up finish of his Tour career and fourth top-10 finish in as many starts so far this season, which began in September.
“I told J.J. [Jakovac, Morikawa’s caddie] yesterday if I was within nine, I thought I had a chance because you know what’s going to happen,” he said on Sunday.
“Game felt really good coming into the week, especially after the couple of […] fixes and [it was] back to normal and putting was obviously great. I just had to put together a few better rounds and make a few less mistakes, but overall, I’m happy with the way things kind of played out.”
Playing in Los Angeles, Morikawa felt the love from the home crowd and said he was able to spend time with his family and visit his favorite restaurants. He received even more love when he visited his alma mater and spoke to the boys’ golf team Tuesday.
Morikawa gushed about his hometown of La Cañada Flintridge and boasted about growing up in the city and attending La Cañada Elementary and LCHS.
“When people ask where I’m from, that’s where I’m from and I’m very proud of it. It’s cool to see a little city like that just kind of go on the map,” Morikawa, who is ranked No. 2 in the official world golf ranking, told reporters prior to the Genesis Invitational. “And it’s so easy to spout out to some people and just say we’re right next to the Rose Bowl, but I don’t think people realize how beautiful La Cañada is. It’s so peaceful.”
As a four-time Rio Hondo League champion who earned a scholarship to University of California, Berkeley, Morikawa was already touted as one of the school’s top athletes, but his historic run last year — which included winning the WGC-Workday, DP World Tour and British Open championships — cemented him as the greatest to come out of LCHS, an honor that he said was special.
“When you’re growing up as a kid, for me I wasn’t comparing myself to how do I become the best person or best athlete out of La Cañada,” he said.
“It’s just how do I get good at golf. I had a good group of friends, and that’s what’s great, like my group of friends, they don’t care what I do. They’re going to come out and they’re going to support and they don’t care how I play, they just want to see me do well,” he added.
“And they know me for who I am before I was Collin Morikawa, the professional golfer. So that’s what’s cool, it always brings me back to a place where I can just separate myself from golf and that’s the biggest thing I think a lot of golfers and athletes need to learn.”
Last week not only marked a homecoming for the Cal product, but also a return to PGA Tour competition.
“It’s always nice to be home,” he said. “It’s always comfortable to go back to somewhere you just know everything and even though I grew up about 30, 40 minutes away, it’s just very comfortable.
“I miss it,” he added. “I obviously haven’t played on the PGA Tour, I guess this is my first full-field event of the entire season. Feels nice to be back. It’s so good to hear the fans. I wish we had more events in L.A. because I definitely felt the energy from them.”
Prior to the Genesis Invitational, Morikawa revealed that his training leading up to 2022 hit a snag after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I ended up taking a longer break than expected, got a lot of rest, played two weeks in Dubai over there on the DP World Tour and just didn’t have it,” Morikawa said on Feb. 15. “The game wasn’t feeling great, body wasn’t feeling great. Sometimes that happens and I needed a full reset. Coach came out last week, figured some things out and right now I’m feeling great. So, the confidence is back, glad to be back in L.A. and I’m just excited to see everyone and ready to play some great golf.”