Morikawa’s late stumble gives Workday contenders a chance

PGA champion Collin Morikawa made seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch on Saturday to card a 5-under 67.

Collin Morikawa watches after hitting from a bunker onto the 17th green during the third round of the Workday Championship.   -  AP

PGA champion Collin Morikawa made seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch on Saturday and made it look as though no one could catch him. All it took was two bad holes to turn the Workday Open into a chase.

Morikawa shot a 5-under 67 at the Concession Golf Club, a reasonable score except for what it could have been. When he drove to the front of the green on the 316-yard 12th hole and made an 8-foot birdie, he was at 17-under par and no one else was closer than five shots. He wound up leading by two shots over Brooks Koepka, who got his mistakes out the way early and shot 70, and Billy Horschel, who had a 69.

Rory McIlroy, who made a double bogey for the second straight day, was hopeful of getting to 10 under to at least give himself a chance. He did one better with a 66, including an eagle on the par-5 13th that gave so many players fits, and wound up just four shots behind.

Morikawa was at 15-under 201.

His troubles began on the par-13th, and it looked harmless enough when he put his approach from the rough into the bunker and blasted out to just under 25 feet for look at yet another birdie. Except that he left his putt 6 feet short, and missed the next one to take bogey. “I never got it going again,” Morikawa said.

He also made bogey on the par-5 17th, the easiest hole at Concession on Saturday, by finding a bunker off the tee, having to lay up short of the water, and then hitting into another bunker.

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Morikawa found plenty of positives. He still had a two-shot lead. His putting stroke feels better than ever, and a chipping tip from Concession member Paul Azinger has left him confident on the short-game shots off the Bermuda grass.

Koepka is thankful he still has a chance.

Staked to a one-shot lead at the start of the third round, he opened with two straight bogeys, answered with a two-putt birdie on the third but then followed with eight straight pars and found himself seven shots behind.

Koepka finished with three birdies.

Horschel played alongside Morikawa, and he also felt like he gave one away on the 13th when he chipped from behind the green into a front bunker and made bogey, and then fell six shots back with four holes to play with another bogey. But he birdied the 16th and made a 12-foot eagle putt on the 17th, and he was back in the game.

 

Webb Simpson had a 69 and was three shots behind, followed by McIlroy and Patrick Reed (69), who will play together on Sunday. Also in the mix was Viktor Hovland, who represents what this course can do.

Hovland was 7 under for his round on Friday when he bladed a bunker shot at the wrong time and finished with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the ninth hole. He put that behind him and had a better day. He holed out a wedge from thick rough 45 yards short of the green for eagle on No. 7, and he chipped in for birdie from 80 feet on the par-3 14th.

Hovland had a 66 and joined the group five shots behind at 206 that included Hideki Matsuyama (68).

Morikawa will be going for his fourth PGA Tour victory with a chance to join the list of players who have won majors and World Golf Championships.

His stretch of birdies began with a 15-footer on No. 5, included a 30-foot birdie on the next hole that rammed into the back of the cup, and the rest of them were putts from 10 feet or close.

“I just kept rolling in birdie after birdie. I didn’t really think about it,” he said. “Golf was simple.” And as he looked back over three days, and the amount of calamity that can happen at the Concession, he realised that no lead is safe on this course. Anything can happen,” Morikawa said.

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