Collin Morikawa’s ball-striking prowess is undisputed.
The 25-year-old had a down year by his standards: He only finished 3rd in SG: Approach The Green on the PGA Tour last season.
Because of the unique rerouting to Quail Hollow at this year’s Presidents Cup, Morikawa and partner Cameron Young were able to take advantage of his strength by having Morikawa tee off on even-numbered holes in their 2-and-1 foursomes win over Tom Kim and KH Lee on Thursday.
The routing of Quail Hollow for this week has every par-3 as an even-numbered hole and two out of the three par-5s. The one par-5 that isn’t an even hole? The 7th which was very reachable in the opening round, played to just 527 yards, downwind. Morikawa put the second shot on that hole to 17 feet for eagle from 171 yards.
In all, Morikawa hit the approach to the green on 15 of 17 holes in the match. That’s all eight of the odd numbered par-4s, the four par-3s and all three par-5s – the 7th being an attempt under GIR. He hit six of them within 10 feet.
This also played into Young’s strength as one of the premier driver’s on the PGA Tour. He was second on the Tour in SG: Off-The-Tee.
“This course really sets up where, like, if you play the odds or you play the evens, you hit the majority of a certain shot,” Morikawa said after the match. “Cam hit a lot of drivers. I hit a lot of irons. That’s kind of what you describe our golf games like. We were able to feed off that.”
It’s not a strategy that can only benefit strong iron players and strong drivers, it can also benefit stronger putters.
Jordan Spieth teed off on the odd holes and set himself up to hit nine of his and Justin Thomas’ birdie putts.
Spieth struggled on the greens last season, but has finished in the top-10 of SG: Putting three times in his career, and was known for outstanding putting in the run that led him to three majors in as many seasons from 2015 to 2017.
Thomas is certainly not weak with a flatstick, however, and Spieth said the decision of who would play odds and evens was not an easy one.
“We had a really hard time deciding who was going to go odds and evens,” he said. “We didn’t decide until late last night. If we got the chance again, we might even switch it.”