Collin Morikawa has been travelling around the UK playing different links courses ahead of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool.
Two years ago, Collin Morikawa credited playing his first ever rounds of links golf at the Scottish Open as the reason that he made history with his victory at The Open at Royal St. Georges.
His first experience of links golf ended in a tie for 71st, but he came away from that tournament with a few learnings that saw him change several irons ahead of his Major victory.
"I wouldn't be here through these two rounds if I hadn't played last week at Scottish," Morikawa said in 2021.
"I've played in firm conditions. I can think of places I've played in tighter, drier conditions, but just having fescue fairways and the ball sitting a little different was huge to see last week.
"I changed my irons, my 9 through 7-iron that I normally have blades in. I changed to the MCs strictly because I couldn't find the centre of the face. I was sitting these iron shots last week that I just normally don't and my swing felt good, but it was a huge learning opportunity. Last week I wanted to win, but I came out of it learning a lot more, and thankfully it helped for this week."
Despite giving it credit, he followed up his first trip to The Renaissance Club with a missed cut, and this year decided to prepare in a different way.
Choosing to skip the Genesis Scottish Open this year, Morikawa has been using the week ahead of The Open to test his game on several courses, including Royal Birkdale, around the UK.
Starting his trio of courses in England with a trip to Heathland course Walton Heath, Morikawa then played Open Final Qualifying venue West Lancashire on Saturday, and followed it by playing Royal Birkdale on Sunday - which will host The 154th Open in 2026.
"I mean, look, I gave credit two years ago, and I still do," he told media on Tuesday.
"I don't take anything away from that, but I just haven't played well the past two years, I was like screw it. Why not get some extra prep, come out here early, get ready, get adjusted.
"So we played some great golf courses. I was able to play Walton Heath where they're having the Women's Open or the British -- whatever it's called. So that was a lot of fun. Played West Lancashire Saturday, played Royal Birkdale on Sunday.
"I actually loved it [Birkdale]. I haven't played much links golf, but it was probably one of my first links golf that I've truly loved. St Andrews was amazing last year, but this was just really fun to play. You could see how the course was just kind of found within these dunes and within the hills, and just loved it from start to finish.
"I got some really good prep in aside from --even though tournament golf you can never trade that in. It was a well-needed kind of two weeks off, get some prep in, and feels great to come into this major.
"I did some buddies, some college friends that live in London on Sunday. Played with my agent all three days. Had my caddie and J.J. and Stephen Sweeney, my putting coach, play on the weekend Saturday and Sunday, so we had a lot of fun."
Asked if he learnt much, Morikawa said that while he's definitely still learning, he's realised that links golf is all about creativity.
"I am still learning, but I think I've played enough now to know what I need to do. I think I was playing really well heading into the Scottish that year, in '21, and felt like I was playing better than the scores posted. Whole story, blamed it on my irons, changed to different irons, figured it out.
"But I think you have to just learn how to control your golf ball out here, and not just height but also control spin. I think going back to last year, I remember Jordan talking about creativity. Creativity is the biggest thing out here, but also knowing how creative you can be, not getting really stupid with it, but being able to hit your shots, flight it where you want, hit your windows, and I think that's why you see some great players and you see a lot of good players come out of Open Championship wins is because they have to be able to create different shots.
"Especially out here, how 1 through 9 kind of goes out, comes back. You're going to have a prevailing wind I think for the first few days off the left coming off that back nine. Being able to control your golf ball, hitting shots, whether it's drawing it up into that or playing the wind and staying out of those bunkers."
Morikawa arrives at Royal Liverpool having finished second in his most recent start at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on the PGA Tour two weeks ago, where he lost in a play-off to Rickie Fowler. It was his second runner-up of the season, following his second place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January.
He's also had a solid Major showing this year, starting with a tie for 10th at the Masters and following with a tie for 26th at the US PGA and a tie for 14th at the U.S Open.
Now preparing for the final Major of 2023, Morikawa said he's been watching old videos of Tiger Woods' victory in 2006, and likes what he's seen of the course so far.
"I've enjoyed it a lot. The course is in front of you. There's not really many blind tee shots, not many blind approaches, a few coming on the back nine, but everything is in front of you.
"Obviously they've always talked about staying out of the bunkers, but it's really true. It's a shot penalty if you hit it in these fairway bunkers. So that's step number one this week is to stay out of as many fairway bunkers as possible, and then hopefully give ourselves some birdie opportunities.
"There are some short holes out here where you're able to hit a wedge into some greens, and you're going to have to be able to take advantage of some of those and the par-5s.
"I watched some video from when Tiger won in '06. It was as brown as could be and dry as could be out there, right, and like that was his strategy, but he also had a lot of mid to long irons in.
"I think that's a mix. Even today with no wind I was hitting 3-iron, 3-wood, driver. I hit every club off the tee. It's going to be a mix.
"It really is how much you want to take on the bunkers, how aggressive you want to be off the tee. Is that going to give you a 9-iron versus a 6-iron. Out here, it could be the shot penalty that costs you that momentum swing one way or the other. It could be for your benefit, or it could be the other way.
"I think it's a blend of certain ways. A guy like Rory, how far he hits it, yes, he's going to be carrying some bunkers that I can't carry, so he might be playing a little different strategy.
"For me it's really to stay away, plot my way around this golf course, and take advantage of certain holes where I might have a wedge in."