Collin Morikawa shakes things up, parts ways with longtime coach

NASSAU, Bahamas – When Collin Morikawa won the Zozo Championship in Japan last month, he was coy about the fixes to his putting stroke that helped him shoot a final-round 63 and coast to a six-stroke win, snapping a two-year streak without a victory. It turns out he also buried the lede.

“Right before the Ryder Cup, I let go of my long-time coach, Rick Sessinghaus for — we’ve been working for just over 18 years, which wasn’t easy,” Morikawa shared for the first time publicly on Tuesday during a press conference ahead of the Hero World Challenge, a 20-man unofficial event held at the Albany Club. “He’s more than just a coach, he’s one of my really good friends. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to, someone that’s been there for every step of my life essentially, not just in golf but just kind of living life, right?

“It wasn’t easy, and sometimes things happen like that. But 18 years is a long time. Not many relationships that I can say with a lot of people that I’ve had relationships for 18 years, and real relationships where I’m talking to them every week, right? So that wasn’t easy at all.”

After Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park, the PGA of America was quick to celebrate the special bond as part of an advertising campaign. Sessinghaus is a longtime teacher in Southern California and heads up the FlowCode Golf Academy in Burbank. He began working with Morikawa at age 8.

“I was on the right side of the driving range at Scholl Canyon Golf Course when his dad walked over to me and asked if I’d work with his son,” Sessinghaus once told Golfweek. “Collin was with him and he had this big smile on his face and his cute little golf bag. And after two swings, I said, ‘You bet I will work with him.’”

But Morikawa also noted it was time.

“I had to do it, I just felt like it was time to make a change at some point. What I saw kind of over the past two years wasn’t to my expectations and standards and goals what I wanted,” he said.

Morikawa, 26, won two majors and reached No. 2 in the world in short order but he struggled to produce his once reliable fade that allowed him to take the left side of the course out of play. He began working with short-game coach Stephen Sweeney late last year to remedy shortcomings in his putting and chipping and it paid quick dividends.

He raced out to a big lead at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January but couldn’t finish the deal as Jon Rahm blew past him with a 63 on Sunday. He also lost a playoff to Rickie Fowler at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. Despite going 27 months without a win, he finished in the top 30 this season in the FedEx Cup and represented Team USA in the Ryder Cup in September.

Morikawa said he began working with noted instructor Mark Blackburn, the 2020 PGA of America Coach of the Year, whose stable includes Max Homa and Justin Rose, before the win at the Zozo.

“Obviously, there’s no better way to start, but this is just the tip of the iceberg for us to kind of dig in and really know what we’re going to do,” Morikawa said.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek