Collin Morikawa already knew his Ryder Cup teammates who came in the week, but he didn’t know them like that. Team competitions offer the world’s best players an opportunity to form deeper bonds than the warmest greetings they share on a PGA Tour driving range. At the team dinner, between games, away from the cameras – this is where real personalities emerge.
In an in-depth interview after an ideal Ryder Cup debut – 3-0-1, deserves the crucial half point and helps the USA to a historic 19: 9 out of Team Europe – Morikawa leads you into the team room to exchange ideas his observations on all eleven of his teammates, Captain Steve Stricker, what the Brooks-Bryson dynamic really was like, that noisy after party, and much more.
This interview has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
“I wish I remember. I left too early, too fast. There are no excuses, I’m 24, just got out of college, I should know what to do. But the only thing I had eaten all day was avocado toast with a few eggs, bacon and potatoes in the morning. I hadn’t eaten anything on the square, I just chewed some chewing gum. So you can imagine how that went with a lot of alcohol. I was the fifth match that was out – finished and just kept drinking during those pressers. Downward spiral from there.
To Xander Schauffele, who really blossomed at the party
“Xander became himself. We all knew who Xander was, of course, a great player, but he created this personality that he exploited. Having a cigar in his mouth throughout the ceremony just felt right for him to take the stage. You have heard from many players, especially Rory, that these individual events do not evoke the same emotions. And they really don’t. There is so much effort going into winning as a team that when you are able to have a few drinks you can relax and unwind after the win, let go. You start to see who everyone is. We don’t drink like this every day – our bodies couldn’t handle it – but we are just beginning to see us as normal people. I think this is the greatest. Each of us has a different story, interests outside of golf. “
About Dustin Johnson, whom Morikawa worked with to win 3-0-0 in team meetings
“We didn’t say too much. When we got up all I said was let’s kick them on the neck. Let’s finish this game. Our conversations ended pretty quickly. It wasn’t a ton, probably less than anyone else. A DJ moment came after Paul Casey punched out at 2pm on Saturday morning. I think our match was now 1 plus. And I’m sure a lot of people would freak out and worry, but he looked at me, shrugged and said good shot. We went to the next hole. Absolutely no talk about the hole-out. That’s the DJ. He leads with calm confidence. His presence was felt throughout the week. When we really needed him to speak up before the captain made the choice he gave his opinion and it was great to hear that.
“And yes, he can outdo us. The guy is there. He is a physical specimen of greatness. Like 6’3 “, clean cut.”
About the dynamic between Bryson and Brooks
“We had the T-shirts that JT made for us and you could make fun of them afterwards. It was something that wasn’t really addressed, at least when I was around. It wasn’t like they were sitting in front of each other at breakfast and talking. But they were warm. You put it aside. Whatever is there or not, for that week it was gone. It was never brought up. If they didn’t want to see each other, they could stay away. There are 12 guys on the team. There are other people they could talk to. It was as simply a team room as could be imagined. We all got along and it made the week so much easier.
We had a practice session on Wednesday where our pods were moved and he and Harris played with me and the DJ, and I got just a little chat with him. I’ve spoken to him during tournaments, but not much off the field. Just to see how much he loves the game – the guy grinded on the range after Saturday’s game! I had no intention of doing that. To see why he’s loved by so many people, it’s because of his work ethic. The amount of work that he puts in to be in a long drive contest takes an incredible amount of work. Props to him. He changes the game.
About Justin Thomas’ fiery leadership style
“He’s always the one who writes to us first, always the one who points out something. I kind of heard about the points stuff with the record and JT texted us that morning saying I want the 19 points. The goal was of course to win, even if we got 14.5, but we wanted 19. He always has an overview. He always urges us to get better, he cheers us all on. It’s great to have someone like that. Sometimes you might have 12 guys like that, or one like him and one like DJ, who are both great leaders, but in very different ways. Having both was key.
About Patrick Cantlay’s thoughtfulness
Pat is an interesting guy. With it you can get into a deep, dark hole with many things. I heard his presser during the playoffs when he said he doesn’t like to talk about things he doesn’t know about. It’s absolutely true when you talk to him away from the media cameras. He is very knowledgeable about many things. He’s a completely different character and I enjoy that. He has many perspectives in the way he explains things. I think his comment earlier in the week comparing golf to gambling made sense. He thinks a lot about cause and effect, whether it’s golf or something else. “
About Tony Finau’s ubiquitous smile
Tony really is the nicest guy in the world. After our training, I flew with him to an event for the Tiger Woods Foundation. There were only two of us on the plane and it was the first time I had really spoken to him. He doesn’t say bad things about anyone. He sees the good in everyone. I didn’t really see him in the morning because he played in the afternoon, but he was someone who put a smile on your face when you saw him. His wife too. She was amazing and screamed loudly from her head. You could locate their scream above everyone else’s. He’s a great role model. He’s almost like a father figure. He will always give you a good answer and never see anything negative. So it was with me.
What does Harris English’s fashion sense say about him?
Harris is a very gentle guy. No matter where you take it, it has that laid-back southern vibe. We have these dinners and some are casual. For me, LA Casual is a completely different casual than Southern Casual. I’m wearing a t-shirt, maybe shorts. Harris always has the buttoned, tucked shirt, belt, it’s the southern boy. This is Harris from head to toe.
About the authenticity of Jordan Spieth
He understands when he’s in public and when he has to say something, and I’m glad he was in the press for saying good things. This is Jordan. He is someone you want to be. Lots of children, you wanted to be like Jordan Spieth. It is not fake in any way. That’s him. There are a lot of people out there, not just in golf but everywhere, who are outwardly wrong and when you meet them they are a completely different person. But that’s not Jordan, and that’s the coolest thing about getting to know him. He really is a real guy.
About how Daniel Berger is a completely different person away from the cameras
Boog is the child of our team. You have to make sure he’s awake, that he shows up. He’s only there to have fun. Since I’m under contract with the same agency, I was able to hang out with him for a few hours. Even though I was the youngest, I’ll say it: I’m much more mature than Boog. He is the kid. He’s ready to do things, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He is there to be.
About Scottie Scheffler, who cheered the team on by killing the dragon
It was great to see how he beat the world number 1. It was massive and built that momentum. When I made the turn and looked at a board there was just so much red. I’ve known Scottie for at least 10 years now. I’ve played Wyndham Cups, Palmer Cups, Walker Cups with him and now the Ryder Cup. He could always rise. I am sure that he will take his win very quickly. He is just one of those who rise when called. There is something in him – patriotism, something he pulls out of himself in order to play well.
In the meetings before the games, you could see how much time went into his decision and that of his vice-captain. He really stuck to the plan. He could have changed it to Friday afternoon or Saturday afternoon, but he stuck to what he believed in – putting us in those capsules, getting us out there the week before. Not enough is said about that. The two training lap days we got were great. Just bring everyone together. It wasn’t, play an alternate shot, but go into each other with the team. It was the best we could do. He made our week a lot easier than past Ryder Cups. I know he said no to a lot of the things we could have done, dinner and so on. He’s a quiet guy, but you can see it in his eyes. He gave us a speech in our training and he’s an emotional guy. These emotions rubbed off on us and made us fight a little harder.
To the best dancer on the team
Tony Finau. He’s a big man, but he’s flexible.
He laughed the hardest all week
Probably during the press. We were pretty relaxed about it, and the things that were being said – this press secretary who will hopefully be considered one of the best press conferences ever.
About the funniest guy on the team
From watching as a spectator, Boog. He will do childish and stupid things at times. He can be serious, but he will always make you laugh.
About one thing that surprised him on his first Ryder Cup experience
How much the fans pull you together. It will be different when we go there, but last week every time you heard a cheer, you knew it was for us. So that has brought us forward. That gave us extra motivation. When we came back from COVID for the first time and there were no fans, it was dead. Somehow you had to cheer yourself on inside. You could rely on these fans and draw energy from them. When I hit the 30-something hole on Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t so drained because of them.