NORTH BERWICK, Scotland (AP) — Collin Morikawa was one round away from reaching No. 1 in the world, staked to a five-shot lead in the Bahamas and needing only to win.
Seven months later, No. 1 feels like a mile away.
Morikawa shot 76 in the final round last December and began the new year thinking so much about it that he started going in the wrong direction. He hasn’t won, and really hasn’t come particularly close until the U.S. Open last month.
“I think that might have played a factor in how I was performing beginning of the year,” Morikawa said Wednesday at the Scottish Open. “What I cared about was trying to get to No. 1 in the world.”
He now is No. 4 but still so far from Scottie Scheffler that even wins at the Scottish Open and the British Open next week might not be enough to catch him.
But that’s no longer his concern.
“I just want to get back in the winner’s circle. That’s what it was like since I’ve turned pro and it hasn’t changed,” Morikawa said. But when you’re on the cusp of something and you’re so close to that, sometimes kind of jumps precedent to what you really need to focus on.”
This would be a good time to turn it around. Morikawa has fond memories of the Scottish Open, more from the experience than the result. He tied for 71st, but his taste of links revealed that he needed to change his irons. A week later, he was a British Open champion.
“So if I had just shown up to The Open Championship last year, it probably just would have been a repeat of what I saw last year during this event, maybe hitting fairways and then missing every green, which is not the case for trying to win major championships,” he said.
Different about this Scottish Open, which starts Thursday, is the field.
This is the first example of the alliance between the PGA Tour and the European tour. The Scottish Open counts for both tours, and the field is the strongest in the tournament’s history, with each tour getting equal spots in the 156-man field that features 14 of the top 15 in the world. Rory McIlroy is the only one not playing.
Well, the field is a little more than 156 players.
Ian Poulter and Branden Grace were among four players who signed up for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series and won a temporary stay from the European tour suspending them. They were added to the field, going off in twosomes at the front end of each side of the draw.
Not everyone is happy about that.
“I believe they made their bed,” Billy Horschel said. “They shouldn’t be coming back over here to play the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour. To say that they wanted to also support the DP or PGA Tour going forward, while playing the LIV tour, is completely asinine in my opinion.”
And not everyone cares, least of all Robert MacIntyre, the lefty from Oban and Scotland’s highest-ranked player at No. 102, out of the top 100 for the first time in nearly three years. These two tournaments are the highlight of his season — his national Open and the ultimate Open at St. Andrews. He was in no mood for any chatter about rival leagues or innuendos.
“I’m here to try and win the Scottish Open, next week try to win The Open Championship. These two weeks are massive for my game and my career,” he said. “I have a chance the next few weeks to do something special and I’m not worrying about what’s going on.”
The wind was ripping across The Renaissance Club on Wednesday, flags of the DP World Tour (commercial name for the European tour) and FedEx Cup from the PGA Tour sharing space on the grandstands.
“The weather today was fun. I don’t know if it would be as fun if it was a tournament,” Scheffler said. “I don’t know if we could have played this golf course if it was a tournament.”
Scheffler is among several stars who have had all week to acclimatize. He arrived over the weekend to play Lahinch and Ballybunion before going to the J.P. McManus Pro-Am. Stepping off the plane and onto the tee, he noticed 100 or so people who came out to watch.
“No stretching and warming up and right on the first tee and everyone is sitting there watching you,” Scheffler said. “We warned them starting the round, ‘You won’t be seeing what the No. 1 player looks like.’”
It counts on Thursday, consecutive weeks of the best players in links golf, ending with the final major championship of the year at the home of golf.
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