Jon Rahm left Maui with a trophy he didn’t expect, all because of a Collin Morikawa meltdown that no one saw coming.
Rahm started the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions seven strokes behind. He bogeyed his first hole. He was six shots behind at the turn to Morikawa, who had not bogeyed all week in Kapalua.
“A little crazy day, I’m not going to lie,” said Rahm.
It ended with Rahm making a final birdie for a 10-under 63 and a two-shot win over Morikawa (72) that went from a surefire win to a footnote in PGA Tour history as the ninth player to who lost a six-shot lead going into the finals.
“It will hurt but I have to get over it because we are still at the very beginning of the season,” said Morikawa.
So began a bold new year on the PGA Tour with upscale tournaments averaging $20 million in prize money to bring together the best more often and reward them amidst the challenge of Saudi Arabia-sponsored LIV Golf.
Rahm is riding a big wave, winning for the third time in his last five starts worldwide.
“In my opinion I feel like I’ve been the best player in the world since August,” he said.
For Morikawa, it was an epic obliteration, even by Maui’s standards.
He was still three shots up when he shot a 25-yard bunker shot down the 14th green and bogeyed. On the par-5 15th, his 5-wood licked to the right just enough to go down the slope and leave him a discouraging chip, up the hill with the strong grass grain in him. He muffed the chip and took bogey. And then, on the 16th, his wedge wasn’t long enough and rolled off the wrong face of the green about 70 feet from the pin for a third straight bogey.
“He still shot 63,” Morikawa said. “He definitely made the birdies when he had to. But I’ve also done bogeys. If you get bogeys at this time of the tournament, they’re expensive. I definitely felt the weight of it.”
He ended up setting a PGA Tour record by losing the largest 54-hole margin in six shots. Eight other players have done so, most recently Scottie Scheffler at the Tour Championship last year. This event has a staggered start based on the FedEx Cup leaderboard. Dustin Johnson last ensured regular stroke play in 2017 at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Morikawa appeared to be in a state of shock as he went down the 17th fairway, leading by seven shots during the final round and suddenly found himself two shots behind and with no hope left.
Rahm was surprised too. He knew he was back in the game and as he walked down the 17th fairway and looked at the video board he saw his image on screen with a “1” next to his position – not even a “T1” to indicate a tie.
Rahm said he looked over at caddy Adam Hayes and said, “What’s up?”
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ontario placed 17th in 18th place. Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ontario placed 16th in 21st place while Adam Svensson of Surrey, BC placed 5th in 37th place.
Masters champion Scheffler had a chance to return to No. 1 this week if he finished third or better in a two-way tie. He had to settle for a 70 and finished seventh.
Rahm finished 27-under 265, and it was a small relief. Last year in Kapalua he finished 33 under par, which was a PGA Tour record that lasted just a few seconds. Cameron Smith finished 34 under and won by a margin.
He won $2.7 million from the $15 million purse at Kapalua, the first of the “elevated” events on the PGA Tour schedule. He also gets 25 percent of his bonus money from the Player Impact Program – he ranked #5 in the PIP for $6 million.
The Spaniard has now won in each of his seven full years on the PGA.
Tom Hoge had a 64 and finished third with Max Homa (66). Hoge made his way to the airport to drive to Los Angeles to watch his school, TCU, play Georgia for the national championship. Hoge will then return to Hawaii for the Sony Open.
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