Six-shot leads have been lost before, but Collin Morikawa and his hot putter don’t plan on joining that list
When he arrived at Kapalua earlier this week, Collin Morikawa found himself having a peek at the champions lockers and some of the past winning scores at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
One score that stood out: Cameron Smith’s record-setting, 34-under mark from last year’s event.
“That would be a nice target,” Morikawa said Saturday afternoon after posting 8-under 65 in Round 3 and 24 under – and bogey-free – through 54 holes. “We’re still pretty far away, but I think tomorrow, it’s just really, take it hole by hole and just kind of go from there.”
Smith’s record is likely safe. But so, too, is Morikawa’s whale of a six-shot lead.
It’s just not a foregone conclusion.
In the history of the PGA Tour, just seven players have surrendered a lead of six shots. They are:
• Dustin Johnson, 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions (closed in 77)
• Spencer Levin, 2012 WM Phoenix Open (75)
• Sergio Garcia, 2005 Wachovia Championship (72)
• Greg Norman, 1996 Masters (78)
• Hal Sutton, 1983 Anheuser-Busch Classic (77)
• Gay Brewer, 1969 Danny Thomas-Diplomat Classic (73)
• Bobby Cruickshank, 1928 Florida Open (80)
Scottie Scheffler also lost last year’s Tour Championship after being ahead by six shots, though that event isn’t listed in the record books because of the staggered-scoring start.
Morikawa capped his post-round presser Saturday by responding to a question about the last time he had slept on a big lead. He reminded reporters that he had led by five at the 2021 Hero World Challenge, shot 74 on Sunday and eventually finished T-5, four shots behind winner Viktor Hovland.
“It’s OK,” Morikawa said. “I’m over it.”
For Morikawa, he’d love another place in the Tour’s record books – replacing Smith, of course; not joining DJ and Co.
But really, he’d love to just get back in the winner’s circle.
Morikawa’s last worldwide victory actually came two weeks prior to that Bahamas collapse, at the DP World Tour finale in Dubai. Since then, Morikawa has:
• Dropped from second to 11th in the world rankings
• Lost his fade
• Got his fade back
• Once again finished outside the top 125 in strokes gained putting
• Faced substantial criticism for the first time in his career
• Talked about feeling old, at age 25
But he’s looked refreshed so far in 2023, especially on the greens. Recent work with putting guru Stephen Sweeney is already paying dividends, as Morikawa, a perennial Tour leader in iron play, paces the TOC field in strokes gained putting (6.778).
Said one of Morikawa’s closest pursuers, J.J. Spaun: “He’s putting really good. He doesn’t miss a shot. It’s a hard combo to beat.”
Topping statistical categories, however, isn’t enough.
Morikawa is a results-oriented guy. There are no moral victories. Only actual ones. And to say he’s hungry to end his title drought, in Morikawa’s words, “would be an understatement.”
“Winning the golf tournament,” Morikawa said when asked what’s at stake Sunday. “That’s all it is. I think it is every time you’re in these positions, just winning the golf tournament. It’s nothing else. I don’t care about anything else. I want to win.”
He doesn’t need to shoot 34 under; all he has to do is just not cough up a six-shot lead and the trophy is his.
Then again, with the way he’s played – and putted – through three days at Kapalua, Morikawa’s more likely to catch 34 under before anyone catches him.