Collin Morikawa was in the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings a few years ago and is trying to get back there.
Morikawa, from La Canada Flintridge and Cal, posted a bogey-free 64 to take a one-stroke lead over five other golfers after the opening round of the Zozo Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan, on the outskirts of Tokyo.
“There’s obviously a little bit more meaning to this tournament for me,” said Morikawa, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent. “But look, a win’s a win, I’ll take a win anywhere, right? I’m doing everything I can in the next three days and kind of tonight to make sure I give myself the best opportunity to do that.
“It’s been nice. We’ve kind of been able to travel over here and play golf to just learn a little bit more and kind of reconnect with the culture and essentially my history. Chef Jiro (at famed Sukiyabashi Jiro Restaurant in Tokyo) made the sushi for us, which made it even that much more special. Man, I almost don’t want to have sushi again because it was that so special.”
Morikawa, a two-time major champion who now is ranked 20th in the world, started on the back nine and birdied five of his first eight holes before adding one more on the sixth hole as he seeks his sixth PGA Tour victory, but first since the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England.
Rookie Eric Cole of Palm Springs collected six birdies against a single bogey in a 65 and is one shot behind in the tie for second with Robby Shelton, who made his sixth birdie on the last hole to cap a 65; Mikumu Horikawa of Japan, who also had six birdies and a single bogey; Nikolai Hojgaard, who made three birdies on each nine, and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, who was tied for the lead before making his only bogey while finishing on the ninth hole.
“So, oh, that’s not me,” Horikawa said when he saw Morikawa’s name on top of the leaderboard. “Oh, but I want to catch up with him.”
Zac Blair made three straight birdies to start his back nine in a 66 and is two down in solo seventh, one stroke ahead of a huge, nine-way tie for eighth.
Sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State had two late birdies in a 67 and is in that tie with defending champion Keegan Bradley, who birdied the last two holes in his 67; Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills and Pepperdine, who birdied the last three holes; Cam Davis of Australia, who had two birdies early and two more late; Sungjae Im of South Korea, who made three birdies on each nine; Will Gordon, who had four birdies on his front nine; Joel Dahmen, who birdied two of the last three holes; Satoshi Kodaira of Japan, who birdied his last two holes, and Andrew Novak, who made four birdies on the front nine.
“I need a lot of help with the language,” said Schauffele, whose mother grew up in Japan. “The more time I spend here, the more I pick up on phrases. Whenever my parents didn’t want me to understand anything, they spoke in Japanese. It’s been around me my whole life.”
Local favorite Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who won the 2021 Zozo Championship, made an eagle on the 14th hole on his way to a 69 and is in a tie for 26th that includes Min Woo Lee of Australia, winner of the SJM Macao Open last week on the Asian Tour, who also had a birdie a No. 14 in his 69.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard