Collin Morikawa has slipped out of the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings and is trying to climb back in.
Morikawa (pictured), who is down to only No. 11, shot a bogey-free, 9-under-par 64 and is tied for the lead with fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain and J.J. Spaun after the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
However, Morikawa didn’t take all the credit.
“It’s good to have someone who knows a lot about short game and you just kind of bounce ideas off them,” Morikawa said of his putting coach, Stephen Sweeney and putting coach, Parker McLachlin. “I just have answers now. Before when I was putting, it was like guess work. I might have putted well today and then thought I was doing something well, but in reality it was something else
“It was just to go out and be patient and give yourself opportunities. At the beginning of the week, the prep felt great, but I didn’t really see many putts go in. It was nice to see one go in on No. 4 from like 30 feet. That just kind of got the round propelled from there.
“I’m just making things a little more simple. For me, it’s always been kind of just feels, where do my hands feel in this right position, try to get it there. You take two weeks off and feels versus reals are a little off.”
Morikawa, from La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who has won five times on the PGA Tour including two majors, rattled off six consecutive birdies to start the back nine and added his ninth of the round for good measure on the last hole.
Spaun, from Los Angeles and San Diego State, birdied five holes on the front nine and added four more in a row through No. 15 in his own bogey-free 64, while Rahm overcame his only bogey at No. 14 with eight birdies and a 19-foot eagle putt at No. 5.
Rahm lost by one stroke to Cameron Smith of Australia last year at Kapalua despite playing brilliantly, and wouldn’t say if the course owes him.
“I can’t make a case for that on a lot of golf courses,” Rahm said. “I can’t say much, man. I shot 33 under. I got beat by 34 under. That’s just what it is. We both played really good golf. It was a great battle. Hopefully, if we get to that point again, hopefully it’s me and hopefully I end up winning by one.
“I made a lot of good swings out there and played well again today, and I like this course.”
Said Spaun: “I drove it nice. I putted nice, so I really can’t complain about anything today.”
Tom Kim of South Korea eagled the sixth and 15th holes in a 65 and is one stroke back in solo fourth, while second-ranked Scottie Scheffler birdied four of the last five holes in a bogey-free 66 and is tied for fifth with Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore, who had five birdies on the back nine; Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, who holed out from 80 yards for an eagle at No. 9; Tom Hoge, who birdied the last two holes; Sungjae Im of South Korea, who birdied four of the last five holes, and ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who birdied five of the last seven.
Tenth-ranked Viktor Hovland is tied for 11th at 67 and seventh-ranked Will Zalatoris shot 69 and is in a tie for 23rd, while fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA shot 70 and is in a tie for 26th that includes sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele La Jolla and San Diego State, and two-time Sentry TOC champion and eighth-ranked Justin Thomas.
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