Collin Morikawa was on the precipice of history.
All he had to do was hold his five-shot, 54-hole lead at the Hero World Challenge and he would become the second fastest-ever to world No. 1, behind Tiger Woods.
Instead, the 2021 Open champion fumbled his lead with a final-round 76 and Viktor Hovland stormed from six shots back to win. Morikawa finished T-5.
"I think that might have played a factor in how I was performing beginning of the year," Morikawa, the world No. 4, said Wednesday at the Scottish Open. "All I cared about — not all I cared about, that's a lie. What I cared about was trying to get to No. 1 in the world."
For most of 2022, Morikawa, a two-time major champion, hasn't been his dominant self. Outside of a T-5 at Kapalua, a T-2 at Riviera and fifth-place finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open, the 25-year-old has placed inside the top 20 just once (T-9 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play).
In that same time frame, Scottie Scheffler won his maiden Tour title in Phoenix and then, after adding two more wins prior to his Masters triumph, became world No. 1 in just 42 days, smashing Woods' record of 252 days from his first victory to reaching No. 1 in the world.
Scheffler became No. 1 after 92 Tour starts, third all-time behind Woods (21) and Jordan Spieth (77). If Morikawa converted his three-day lead in the Bahamas to a win, he would have done it after 66 starts.
"I've heard players talk about this and I've paid attention to it, and where I'm at now, Scottie has built a gap between us and I just want to get back in the winner's circle," Morikawa said. "That's what it was like since I've turned pro and it hasn't changed. ... But when you know you're on the grass or when you're on the cusp of something and you're so close to that, sometimes that kind of jumps precedent to what you really need to focus on, right? And I was so focused on hitting that perfect cut and hitting these perfect shots that I knew could get me to No. 1 in the world. That it kind of took over rather than me just playing golf."
Morikawa's own advice, however, didn't "hit" him until the U.S. Open, and it was in Brookline where he felt he was finally turning a corner with his game.
"I said, 'Screw it, let's just go play golf,'" he said. "That's what I did. The amount of college, like, swing videos I watched were endless and I think it didn't just show me how I swung it back in college because, yeah, maybe I want to swing it like that."
Now, ahead of his Open Championship title defense, Morikawa plans to keep his focus on winning and let the world No. 1 throne will come naturally.
"I want to be here and I want to compete against these guys and I want to beat every single one," he said. "Doesn't matter what I'm ranked in the world. When I was 1,000 in the world coming out here, I still believed that I could be No. 1 and I still believed that I could beat all these guys. I think when I put my head to that and put my mindset to that point, I'm like, 'OK, we're just here to play golf. We're here to enjoy it and we're here to win.'"