Exclusive: Collin Morikawa on adjusting to the life, and jet lag, of an elite golfer ahead of Omega Dubai Desert Classic debut

The 23-year-old American won the PGA Championship on just his second major start and will be teeing it up at Emirates Golf Club this week

So rapid has been his ascent, Collin Morikawa has skipped the bit where he is touted as golf’s Next Big Thing and gone straight to being The Big Thing. Or at least one of them.

It is less than two years since he left college in California and went pro. Yet he has already raced up as high as No 4 in the world rankings, and has a major trophy in his possession. All by the age of 23.

So rapid has his rise been, he has played as much of his career without crowds as with them.

So rapid has it been, he has not yet had the chance to treat himself to anything lavish to toast last year's PGA Championship win.

He has not even worked out where to keep all his hastily achieved loot yet.

“A couple of them [his trophies] are on display, but the PGA one is still locked up in a box,” Morikawa said.

“I’ve taken it out a couple of times. I just don’t have the space to put a trophy like that in my tiny little house. We are going to have to make some space one day.”

He is also happy to report that the Wanamaker Trophy – or, at least, his version of it – is still in pristine condition, without any bumps or scrapes.

When he raised the vintage vase in celebration at winning the PGA Championship in San Francisco last August, the lid went crashing to the floor.

The champion gets a replica trophy to keep, in lieu of the real one, and Morikawa says he has been taking good care of it.

“I have made sure this one I keep on a nice pedestal, and make sure there are no scratches or marks that I might have left on the other one,” he said.

This week, the resident of Las Vegas has his eyes on another prize of distinctive shape and size: the Dallah Trophy, presented to the winner of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Morikawa might be debuting at the city's oldest golf event, but is already on his second trip to Dubai. He came to the DP World Tour Championship last month, and finished tied 10th.

He arrived back in Dubai on Saturday night from the United States. He is grateful for the extra time he has had to acclimatise, after a week without competition since finishing tied-seventh at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

“I’m learning this,” Morikawa said of the perils of navigating the jet lag that comes with international travel.

“To move over a 12 hour time difference is something you can’t even prep for. You have to try and change your time-zones before you leave, but it is still the hardest thing to so.

“Luckily, being here a month ago for the DP World Tour Championship helped. It is actually not that hard for my body to adjust when I come here, it is harder when I come back to the States.

“It is nice to get here a little early and slowly work the week in. It is about pacing myself.

"Naps are an absolute disaster. If I take a nap in the afternoon, that is when the schedule falls apart.

“If I can somewhat get a routine, eat at the right times, and keep myself awake, that is the biggest thing I’ve learned. If I take a nap in the afternoon, I’ll be awake at 2am.”

Movement restrictions brought about by Covid meant Morikawa’s first Dubai experience was limited to the course, then a brief jaunt out at the end of the championship.

“We had the bubble, but we were thankful that the European Tour let us out on the final night,” he said.

“My girlfriend and I were able to head up to the Burj Khalifa and see Downtown, and it was absolutely beautiful.

“There are so many things we didn’t get to do last time that we are actually going to get to do a few more of when this week is over. But we are here to play golf. That is our main focus.”

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I certainly don't feel like I have achieved everything I have wanted ... There are thousands more goals I want to keep accomplishing

Covid has also meant celebrations for his summer of glory in 2020 have also been on hold.

He also says he is craving the return of massed galleries, suggesting that playing with spectators absent can occasionally border on “dull”.

His outlook is unwaveringly positive, though, and he has even found the odd benefit in the situation.

The PGA Championship win raised his profile far beyond what it had been, and he acknowledged having a mask to hide behind can be handy at times.

“I get recognised here and there, but not a lot,” he said of how life has changed for him over the past year.

“The avid golf fan might recognise me, especially if I am wearing a hat. That is very different to what it was like coming out of college and onto the PGA Tour.

“You could travel on a regular plane no problem, and just breeze by. Now I get people recognising me if I’m carrying my luggage.

"Other than that, if I’m going out for dinner for example, the mask obviously helps a lot. I can stay behind the curtain.”

Morikawa became the third youngest PGA Championship winner with that success last August. Only Jack Nicklaus in 1963 and Rory McIlroy in 2012 had done it younger.

The victory had come on just his second start in a major. He says he did not feel that achieving so much so early in his career was beyond the realms of possibility. And, rather than feeling sated by it, it has made him hungry for more.

“I never thought it was impossible,” Morikawa said. “I thought I had the game and the head to do it. But there is the realisation that guys who have played so many majors get comfortable with these courses and how they are set up.

“That being my second major, I had to adapt really quickly. Being able to check something like that off so quickly, I’m able to take a deep breath, and I just want more.

“I certainly don’t feel like I have achieved everything I have wanted. I have only checked off one box.

"There are thousands and thousands more goals I want to keep accomplishing.”