On August 9th, 2020 Collin Morikawa had just won the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. It was his first major championship and moved Collin to #5 in the Official World Rankings. He won the tournament executing near robotic ball striking, highlighted by one of the most memorable drives in major championship history. You may remember his 70th hole of the championship, he drove the 294-yard par 4 16th hole with his driver, leaving him a 7-foot eagle putt. He made the putt. Unfortunately, there were no roars from the crowds as COVID protocols had emptied Harding Park of fans and the course was relatively empty. A 7-foot eagle putt on a par 4 to take the lead in the PGA Championship by a 23-year-old Californian and nary a cheer.
But make the eagle putt he did. It wasn’t the only putt Collin made that week, far from it, and while the drive on the 70th hole of the PGA Championship will certainly be the “shot of the tournament” it was as much Collin’s putting as anything that helped him capture the tournament. Consider this, entering the Championship Collin ranked 164th on Tour in the “Strokes Gained Putting” category. Not good. But that week Collin ranked first in the category gaining 8 shots on the field! He ended up winning by 2. The putter was a BIG factor in why Collin is a Major Champion.
Statistically, even leading the field for a week in strokes gained putting only moved Collin from 164th on Tour to 140th. By season’s end Collin had moved to 128th in the category but maybe more telling, 147th in putting in final rounds of a tournament. Middle of the pack. Compared to another telling category, “Strokes Gained Tee to Green” where Collin finished 2020 in 5th, Collin’s putting was darned uninspiring. He has a pretty simple formula; putt well, win. Average putting and even one of the best ball strikers in the world can’t capture victory, not on the PGA Tour. Even with fans returning to the Tour Collin wasn't hearing any roars. He wasn't putting well enough. And if it got worse?
It did. By the time Collin had found his way to Riviera this February he had dropped to 190th in “Strokes Gained Putting”, losing nearly a half shot to the field every round. He had changed putters to the TaylorMade Spider FCG, going away from the putter he had used to win the PGA, but still, statistically, Collin was one of the worst putters on Tour. (190/237) Imagine being one of the best ball strikers on the planet, a rising star, being lauded for your classic swing, and not being able to win, or even barely contend, in another golf tournament since the PGA Championship.
Enter Mark O’Meara. A few days before leaving for Riviera Collin found Mark O’Meara in Las Vegas where they both practice and asked him about the putting style Mark used to resuscitate his putting…. The Saw. They talked for about an hour and Collin was, not sold, but willing to experiment.
So, Collin Morikawa made big news using the Saw putting grip at Riviera where after the cut was made, he was statistically…the worst putter in the field for 4 rounds. But Collin liked it, so he stuck with it. He liked the way the ball rolled. Next week he made even bigger news as he waxed the field for his most recent win at The World Golf Championships at The Concession. During the tournament he ranked 10th in Strokes Gained Putting, gaining nearly one shot a day on the field, certainly enough for a guy who is currently 3rd on Tour in ball striking. A tremendous improvement and a formula that if repeated could mark the beginning of “The Collin Morikawa Era”.
Here’s the part most people don’t know. Collin changed his actual putter grip two days before Riviera. Then he changed it again and again. He didn’t just change the way he gripped his putter; he changed the grip of his putter, finally landing on an oversize Super Stroke 1.0 Putter Grip, a radical change from the standard size grip he had on his Spider. If you’ve ever tried one of these grips you know this feels significantly different than a standard grip and it can also change the balance point of the putter. So, while the golf media has made some pretty significant noise about the “Saw”, I’m here to tell you the other changes Collin made to his putting, specifically the grip and balance point of his putter, had a little something to do with his end result. Sure, the Super Stroke grip isn’t as “thrilling” to highlight if your in the media lookin for eyeballs on your story, but I think in this case, “The Grip” should probably be as much about “what” it was as it is “how” it was.