“To get to No. 1 in the world, I’ve put myself in a position to possibly do that,” he said. “The short-term goals are to work on my body and the mental stuff. But the big goal is to get to No. 1 in the world, and not just to get to No. 1 in the world but to sustain it and stay up there.”

At the season-opening tournament on the PGA Tour earlier this month, the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, Morikawa did not shy away from what he needed to work on to accomplish his goal. After nearly driving the par-4 14th hole, Morikawa had the type of chip that many professional golfers relish: just off the green and uphill, an invitation to chip it in or at least leave a short tap-in putt for birdie.

As he stood over the ball, the TV commentators noted how much Morikawa had been struggling with this aspect of his game — something he acknowledged he needed to improve. In certain chipping and putting statistics, Morikawa is outside the top 100 players on tour, statistics that are incongruent with him as an elite player. However, he did hit that shot close.

“When you’re ranking below average, which I am over the past few years with my short game and putting, you have to work on it,” he said. “I’ve been able to get hot and have some good weeks for me, but it’s about the level of consistency for me. Being 170th in putting or whatever in chipping, it’s not good enough for me.” His putting is not quite that bad: He ranks 147th.

From an early age, Morikawa had his sights set on being a professional golfer, and he said a focus on constant improvement was at the heart of that.

Unlike many elite professional athletes, he attended and completed a top school, the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in business administration and won five times as a college golfer.

But those four years were not a hedge for a different career, he said, but a way to gain more knowledge for when he became a professional golfer. “People said, Cal was a great backup plan,” he said. “I never thought I had a backup plan. I knew I could use my degree for my professional career and my brand. There was never any wavering.”

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By MD Abdullah

Abdullah is a former educator, lifelong money nerd, and a Plutus Award-winning freelance writer who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.

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