Collin Morikawas late birdie run puts him 6 shots up at Kapalua

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KAPALUA, Hawaii — Collin MorikawaGolf can seem simple when he does it well. He has a shot in his mind and the ball goes where he is looking. Sentry Tournament of Champions has shots on the green.

He was especially effective Saturday on the stretch where he scored holes on the back nine at Kapalua. This is a common opportunity for players to gain ground quickly. Morikawa birdied four out of the five last holes and pulled away.

He finished the round with a 15-foot birdie shot for an 8-under 65. This gave him a 6-shot lead going in to the final round. It was also a great opportunity to forget about the bitter taste of last year.

Morikawa smiled when he was asked if he was hungry for another win — his last victory was in Dubais DP World Tour Championship in November 2021.

He said, Yeah that would be an understatement.

Stephen Sweeney, the two-time major champion, was hired as his putting coach late last year. His stroke is not significantly different, but it does give him a better understanding about how to do things. He is the leader at Kapalua in putting and his pure iron play. It can be scary.

Morikawa has never made a bogey on 54 holes of the Plantation Course. He hit a 10-footer on the fourth hole for par to avoid a long 3-putt, making it as pure as all his birdies.

Its been quite simple today. Its been pretty simple over the last three days. Ive been looking at where the balls been heading for the past three or four days, he said. I know what Im doing well and what happened when I missed a shot. Thats the most important thing.

Morikawa was 24-under 195, 6 strokes clear of U.S. Open champion Matt FitzpatrickBecome a Masters champion Scottie SchefflerTexas Open winner J.J. Spaun.

Morikawa is one of the 10 Kapalua players who did not win last year. Now its a more prestigious event, with a $15million purse. The PGA Tour decided to expand the field so that anyone can reach the FedEx Cup Finale at East Lake.

Morikawa and one more round like this will guarantee a tee time next year.

Scheffler, Spaun and Spaun were 2 shots behind Morikawa. Scheffler tried to catch Morikawa. Scheffler missed a 4-foot putt on the par-5 18, which could have put him in a final group. He settled for a 69.

Fitzpatrick made five birdies in his seven last holes of his round of 66. He will be in the final group on his first trip to Hawaii.

Spaun lost 2 shots on the back nine. One was when his ball spun off of the 13th green and rolled 50 yard down the fairway. The other was when his second shot to par-5 15th was left and into native grass. He scored a 69.

Max HomaHe made a career-high of 10 birdies for a score of 63. It was no problem. He was only 8 shots behind the lead.

He stated that he didnt feel as if he had played four more shots than his previous two days, but he did. Its not a good game for your brain. It was enjoyable to shoot 10 under.

Jordan SpiethTo begin the third round, he was 3 shots behind. He lost ground with three birdies in his round of 72.

Everyone is after Morikawa and it seems to be futile.

Morikawa started his scoring with a 12-foot eagle shot on the par-5 fifth hole. He then made a 20-footer for birdie the next hole.

The pivotal moment came on the sixth hole, after Scheffler and Morikawa each made an eagle. Morikawa hit his 20-footer for birdie. Scheffler, however, went from a fluffy lie in rough to just short of the green and took three putts before he got down. The lead was four shots and no one came closer than three shots throughout the round.

Only seven players have ever lost a lead of six shots in PGA Tour history. Scheffler was the last to lose that lead at the 2022 TOUR Championship.

When asked what was the last time he had a big lead he smiled and mentioned the Hero World Challenge in 2021. That was when he led by 5 and shot 75, and tied for fifth.

He said, It is OK. Im over this.

Morikawa stated that he expected lighter winds in the final round and that he expected players to fire at flags and try to catch him.

Spauns second round observations of Morikawa suggest that this may not be enough.

Hes putting in really good shots. Spaun said that Spaun doesnt miss any shot. Its a difficult combination to beat.

This story was contributed to by The Associated Press.

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