LOS ANGELES — If you see Collin Morikawa squatting instead of leaning to tee up the ball differently at this week’s U.S. Open, there’s a reason why: he’s not taking any chances with his back.
After withdrawing from the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago with back spasms and not playing in last week’s RBC Heritage Open, Morikawa is back on the course. He said Tuesday he has no pain swinging but is taking every precaution he can to avoid making any damaging movements.
“I’ve hit out of rough, I’ve hit out of bunkers, no pain,” Morikawa said. “Nothing lingering anywhere else in the body either, so that’s good.
At Memorial, Morikawa was just 2 shots off the lead going into the final round when, as he explained, he experienced back spasms during a morning workout of “reactive exercises.” According to him, it was not because of anything golf- or swing-related.
“It was weird. I’ve had, I wouldn’t say back problems, but I’ve had a little back pain here and there,” Morikawa said. “It sucked. … I took a few days off, got some rest, got some rehab, talked with my team, we got started hitting balls late last week, and we’re swinging fine.”
Morikawa, who grew up in the nearby San Fernando Valley, said he feels golfers do so much leaning and bending with their backs that it’s easy to develop bad movement patterns, so he has been working on bending properly from the hip so as to not put extra stress on his back. There have been no changes to Morikawa’s practicing, warm-up routine or approach — only the move he will do every time he has to tee up the ball, making sure he uses his knees and not his back.
“I pretty much squat down and tee it up,” Morikawa said with a smile. “Don’t take too much into that, it’s just precautionary.”
His health notwithstanding, Morikawa added that this is a major he’s had circled on his calendar for a long time. He wasn’t going to miss it.
“This is a major that I cared about when I was in college and I knew about LACC hosting a U.S. Open,” Morikawa said. “I didn’t know where I was going to be, but this is the one that I wanted to make it and be at just because it is home for me. This week means so much. It always will be. It’ll always be really special.”