By V1 Game engineer Dallas Webster
Justin Thomas Collin Morikawa stole the show
I had already written the opening paragraph in my head on how solid Justin Thomas is with three holes left in the Workday Charity Open. Three up with three to play. It was over…until it wasn’t. I began rewriting the same paragraph when Thomas knocked in a 50-foot putt on the first playoff hole. That clutch putt gained over 1.14 strokes on the typical tour player from that distance…but then Morikawa rolled in his own improbable 24-footer.
I hesitated to pick up the pen again when Thomas had just over 10 feet on the second playoff hole. Morikawa simply would not go away, and, in the end, he survived the three-hole playoff to walk away with the victory. In retrospect, he was certainly a deserving champion. Other than a nervy third round disappointment, Morikawa was solid all week. It was his time.
Comparing any player to Tiger Woods is a somewhat ridiculous exercise. However, the way Morikawa gets it done and his consistency has hints of Tiger. For starters, his streak of 22 consecutive cuts made to start a PGA Tour career is second only to Tiger Woods. At this point in his career, Morikawa has won more events than he has missed cuts. There aren’t many pros that can say the same.
Morikawa’s consistency and brilliance largely come from his ability to separate from the field with ball striking and, specifically, his iron game. Tiger Woods made reliable ball-striking a staple throughout his career. Looking at Morikawa’s performance over the four-round tournament, it is obvious that approach is the most dangerous weapon in his bag. He gained 3.6 strokes on Thursday and more than six strokes on the field Sunday. His approach game kept him in the tournament despite losing strokes with the flatstick.
Enter V1 Game
Morikawa is ridiculously good with his irons. Utilizing the shot distribution chart in V1 Game, we can see he rarely misses the green from close range, and he hits it, on average, inside 25 feet from every distance bucket except from 150-175 yards. In fact, 150-175 yards looks like somewhat of an anomaly for Morikawa. His proximity on average is “only” 32 feet from this distance. In fact, for all buckets over 100 yards, it is the only distance bucket in which Morikawa loses strokes to the field. Again, using V1 Game’s approach analysis we can clearly see the Proximity Trends and Strokes Gained information by bucket. Morikawa gains between a 0.1 and 0.3 strokes with his irons every time he hits a shot. That is a tremendous asset to separate from the field. He simply has more birdie putts from closer distance than the vast majority of the field.
Still Have to Close
Morikawa’s approach game aside, he still has to close. A few weeks ago he was unable to convert from short distance to extend a playoff. In a way, this week was a redemption. Morikawa putted beautifully for the majority of the week, gaining more than three strokes with the flatstick. That does not even include the clutch 24-footer he made in the playoff to extend the match.
However, there is still significant room to improve on the greens for Morikawa. Looking at his putting performance for the week, he did lose strokes from 10-20 feet with one three-putt and very few makes in that distance. Morikawa will need to improve with the putter to continue to convert his ball striking into trophies. However, his consistent iron game should continue to give him plenty of opportunities.
Much can be learned from seeing how the pros manage the course and get it done from day-to-day with different parts of their game. The big takeaway this week: hit it closer and you’ll make more putts. Hitting the green more often takes stress off of one’s putting and short game.
Download V1 Game in the App Store today and start tracking your golf performance like the pros.