Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the ninth tee during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Gregory Shamus
By Brian Wacker
Collin Morikawa has endured a roller-coaster ride worthy of a Six Flags amusement park since his thrilling victory at the PGA Championship any TPC Harding Park last August.
There’s been the good: a chance to capture the European Tour’s Race to Dubai (without ever actually playing in Europe last year) before a T-10 the season-ending DP World Tour Championship to finish fifth in that circuit’s season-long race. The bad: three missed cuts in nine starts. And the in-between: two top-10s, but not a week in which Morikawa was in contention on a Sunday.
Then there’s this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, where the 23-year-old enters the final round just a stroke off the lead of Ryan Palmer and Harris English after a bogey-free, eight-under 65 on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say I was driving the ball as well as I did the past couple days, but I still hit some really good shots,” Morikawa said. “I made some putts. Overall, you just got to keep momentum going, that’s what I did.”
Thirteen players shot six under or better on Saturday, including Palmer, whose 64 led the way. And seven players are within five strokes of the lead, including Justin Thomas, who won the tournament in a playoff a year ago and in 2017.
With a soft golf course and little wind through the first three days, conditions have been perfect for scoring all week. That could continue on Sunday, though the forecast does call for winds between 15 and 25 mph, which would make things interesting.
A victory by Morikawa would also be his first since August and already the fourth of his career.
It would also be his first on home soil. Sort of.
Morikawa’s fraternal grandparents are from nearby Lahaina, and it’s believed that a member of his extended family once owned a restaurant there. He also still has a lot of family on the island and has spent much time visiting while growing up in Los Angeles. He’s played more rounds than he can remember on the Plantation Course.
He’s played like it most of the week, too.
Through 54 holes, Morikawa has made just two bogeys. His last one came on the 12th hole of his second round, which means that he’s gone the last 24 holes without a blemish on the scorecard.
And on Saturday he never really came close to making one. Though the course’s fairways are wide and greens massive, he missed just one fairway and three greens in the third round. He also putted well, missing just one putt from inside 10 feet.
As for what it would mean to win in Hawaii?
“It would mean a lot,” Morikawa said. “Hopefully I can tell you come [Sunday], but for now I’ve got 18 more holes and there’s a lot of guys that can make a lot of birdies and I’ve just got to be ready to come hole 1.”
He’ll have plenty of company.