The PGA is the second major of the 2021 golf season and is set for May 17-23 at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Dakota.

After a top 20 finish the Masters, defending champion Collin Morikawa made the short trip from Georgia to Kiawah Island for this years’ media day.

Following is Morikawa’s Monday press conference.

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, Collin Morikawa, our defending PGA champion, is with us. If you could allow us a peek behind the curtain as to what your year has been like as a major champion for the first time.

COLLIN MORIKAWA: I get to sleep with the trophy in my bed. No, a lot of great opportunities, a lot of things have happened from there, just people recognizing me, people thanking me on the great play. Just a lot of good things, and I couldn’t be happier for the position I’ve put myself in. Really grateful for this opportunity, and to finally be defending, even though it hasn’t been a full year, counts for something. Very excited for this tournament. This course is pretty, pretty good.

JULIUS MASON: Speaking of Ocean Course, you played 18 holes out here today for the very first time. Do you like the golf course, and can you talk a little bit about it?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I think it’s definitely a ball striker’s course. You have to be able to control your ball. You have to be able to flight different shots, work it left to right, right to left, and that kind of suits me. Greens are pretty small, but man, talk about that back nine, starting from hole 9 and on, it’s a very good finishing stretch of golf, especially with the wind, the way it picked up. You’re going to be tested on every shot. I was hitting a bunch of 6-, 5-, 4-irons into greens, even had a couple 5-woods. Yeah, you really can’t get lazy on any of these shots. You can’t take anything for granted because it’ll bite you in the butt for sure.

  1. You’ve played a lot of tournaments since you won. You’ve even played some majors since you won. I think you’ve played Augusta twice since you won. Is it going to be any different coming here as defending champion than being PGA champion at any of those other places?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: I hope not. I hope to come into the week — obviously where I sit in the world, people still look at me, and even though I’m young they know I can come out and win, so yeah, there’s going to be maybe billboards of me here and there, which I won’t be used to. There are guys out here that have had way more experience on this golf course than I have. You look at a guy like Rory who won here nine years ago. He’s going to have great memories. I’m going to have memories of the 18 holes I just played, so it’s just like coming to a new course even though I’m the defending champ. It’s a brand new golf course. Thankfully I got to see it today and got kind of a head start on what it’s going to be like because I know it’s going to be tough now.

Q. Roger Warren, president here, was bragging on the fact that the PGA tends to have exciting finishes. Would you take to care us through the last few holes of your win last year at Harding Park?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I’d say it was fairly exciting. 14 is kind of where it jump started. I made some key putts for par on 11 and 12 and even 13 really. 14 was a chip-in. Huge on that. 15 I actually hit better shots than I did on 14 and made par. And then 16, heading to that drive, having a drivable par-4 and taking advantage of that, getting a good break on the bounce and then just making the putt — I had to make the putt. Even if I won and I didn’t make the putt, I don’t know if the drive would be talked about as much, but I’m fairly glad I did.

Q. We’re seeing more and more fans coming to every PGA TOUR event and the majors. How excited are you to have fans out here for this PGA Championship?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Oh, we love it. It’s good to see a few people out here just enjoying the day, but they’re like the life and they’re the energy that they bring to this event. To see grandstands slowly being built over the next month, it’ll be exciting to see what 17, what 18 are going to look like because we haven’t seen that many stands. We haven’t seen that many people. But we do miss them. I missed them a lot. It was fun for about a month just kind of doing our own thing, not caring if you walk through the ropes or whatever. But it’s so enjoyable to see because they love the game. They’re excited to see us play good golf, and they’re going to see some really interesting shots for this week.

Q. Obviously you know the Ocean Course, but you don’t know it until you get here. How different is it than you thought or the same is it from reading and looking on the internet and whatnot?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: I actually had no clue what this course was going to be like, so sorry to not answer that question. But it’s good to see it for the first time because if I showed up on a Monday like I normally would before this event, it would take me actually a little longer on this course because this course is so unique on the second shots, not just the tee shots but the approach shots on where you have to hit it, where you have to miss it. Because there’s some spots where you could easily miss it and there’s some spots where you definitely don’t want to be. We talked about these — I guess they’re not called bunkers, the sandy areas, the waste bunkers, whatever you’re calling them. Usually we like bunkers. Usually you can get away with it, especially with greens that aren’t too sloped out here, but you don’t really know what kind of lies you’re going to get, so we’re going to have to kind of readjust and figure out what the best strategy is out here to make some birdies.

Q. This stretch of golf has really been different than any others with so many majors packed together. Has that been frazzling or fun? How would you describe this stretch?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Oh, I love it. We love majors. That’s what we’re trying to win, and I’m trying to win every week. I’m trying to win this week, I’m trying to win next week. But in about five weeks, I think that’s roughly when it is, it’s a big star on my calendar. Now that I’ve had one, you realize why guys want to win majors, why major championships kind of define what a player’s resume is going to look like at the end of their career, and I just want to — I want that energy again, to have that feeling of being in contention with nine holes to go, with five holes to go, hitting a great shot. That’s what we live for. That’s what we love to do.

Q. What surprised you out here today?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Nothing surprised me because I didn’t really have any thoughts about what I was going to expect out here. But the wind, the wind picked up the last our and a half, two hours, and those final few holes, even though it was downwind, does not play easy. You get the greens, I’m sure they’re going to be a little firmer, a little faster. It’s not going to be easy to stop shots, whether it’s with a wedge or a 4-iron.

Q. I wondered what you thought of watching Hideki yesterday?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Oh, it means a lot. Seeing Hideki win, not only for Asian golf but for his own country, obviously he’s been grinding and he’s been close at majors for a long time. It means a lot for the game of golf. It means a lot just for golf, it means a lot for sports in general, and it just shows you how good the game is around the world. We bring guys — golf brings everyone together, no matter where you’re from, and again, as long as you have that opportunity to hopefully touch a club and see what the game is about, that’s what puts a smile on our face even after maybe a bad round here and there.

Q. I realize when this was played here in 2012 you were still a teenager, I believe, but are you at all a golf historian? Do you have any awareness and knowledge of things that have been here before all the way back to the ’91 Ryder Cup?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: No, I’m not. I’ve heard about it and I’ve learned about it over the past couple weeks. Sad to hear that Rory’s tree is unfortunately not there and there’s a new tree for someone to hit into this year. But no, and hopefully we can make some history in the next month or so.

Q. What is the state of your game right now? Are you pleased where you are and how you’re peaking for what we get back here in about five weeks?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, actually the game feels really good. The game felt really good after the win at the WGC Workday at Concession. Still a few things I need to tweak here and there, but I’ve got a couple weeks. Game at Augusta felt really good, just made too many mistakes. Out there mistakes are going to happen, but I can’t be giving away shots like I did, but I learned a lot out there. We’re peaking at a good time, and we’re really looking forward to this kind of next few months of golf because there’s a lot of good golf to be played.

Compiled by ACES editor Dennis Miller