KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Collin Morikawa sounded relaxed on Wednesday, the eve of defending his PGA Championship title.
“This is my first tournament I’ve ever defended since 2017 Sunnehanna Amateur,’’ said Morikawa, who captured the PGA last August at Harding Park in San Francisco. “I haven’t defended any of my college events, I’ve never defended any of my PGA Tour wins. People came up to me and called me ‘DC’ [this week] and I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ Obviously, it means defending champion.”
But Morikawa doesn’t see the role adding any extra pressure.
“I don’t feel an extra weight,’’ Morikawa said. “I feel like people look at you and they know you won last year, but in my sense, like I’m coming out here to win and I see these guys every single day and I see them every week that it really doesn’t change much.
“We’re at a different venue. I think if it were at the same exact venue and we were at Harding Park again, I might feel a little different. I don’t think there’s an added pressure.’’
Beware of the wounded golfers.
Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, is set to tee it up Thursday after pulling out of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson with a knee issue.
“Health is good,’’ Johnson said. “I just want to spend more time making sure I was feeling 100 percent for this week and done a lot of work at home. [The knee] just didn’t feel right. I got an MRI. Everything was fine. It was the one I had surgery on about a year and a half ago. Just got together with the doctor and physio down there that I use for my rehab and just put together a little bit of a plan to get a little bit stronger. Yeah, it feels good, though.’’
Brooks Koepka, who was No. 1 before Johnson took it over, has played only once since missing the cut at the cut at the Masters just five weeks after having knee surgery, and that was a missed cut last week at the Byron Nelson.
Koepka said he’s in a better place physically this week than he was at Augusta.
“It’s a million times better so it makes it so … I don’t foresee any issues,’’ Koepka said. “I feel like I can hit every shot. I can deal with the pain. That’s not an issue. It’s just a matter of being able to hit shots that I want to hit and do things I want to do, and I’m starting to be able to do that. Even though I’m not 100 percent, I can still hit the shots.’’
For the New York Met-Area fans who want to follow the five local pros playing, Rob Labritz from GlenArbor Golf Club tees off at 7:16 a.m. Thursday alongside Brendan Steele and Harold Varner III; Danny Balin from Fresh Meadow on Long Island plays at 12:25 p.m. with Si Woo Kim and Jim Herman; Frank Bensel Jr. from Century Country Club plays at 12:30 p.m. alongside Robert Streb and Kurt Kitayama; Alex Beach from Westchester Country Club plays at 12:41 with Wyndham Clark and Daniel Van Tonder; and Pete Ballo from Silvermine Golf Club plays at 2:31 p.m. with Chris Kirk and Cam Davis.