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Collin Morikawa leaves the Stadium in good spirits after nearly breaking back-nine record

March 14th, 2021

The back nine of the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass saved a decent 72-hole score for defending PGA champion Collin Morikawa in the final round of The Players Championship on Sunday.

In fact, at the time he finished, it was the best score anyone had posted on the inward side all week.

Morikawa, who won his last start at the World Golf Championship event in Bradenton, birdied four holes in a row after turning at even-par for the day and went on to shoot 6-under 30 on the back for a 66 and a 72-hole total of 2-under 286.

He had a chance to tie the Players record for the back-nine score of 7-under 29 but missed the fairway and the green at No. 18 and settled for a par save on a 4-foot putt.

Rory McIlroy, Kevin Chappell and Shane Lowry set that record, all in the 2016 tournament.

It’s been a struggle most of the week for the world’s No. 4 player, but he can’t wait for another crack at it next year and beyond.

Morikawa opened with a 72 that included three bogeys in his last six holes. He overcame a horrendous start on Friday (four bogeys on the front) to make the cut on the number, then shot 40 on the front on the way to a 76 on Saturday.

“I was a little frustrated after Friday and Saturday’s round because my game feels good,” he said. “I didn’t figure out how to read these greens. It’s something that I’m going to have to learn as the weeks go on. Obviously, every course is going to be different, every green, grass is going to be different. But I needed a little more prep on really figuring out my lines.”

Morikawa was a combined even on the back nine for the first three rounds, with five bogeys and five birdies. After a 2-under front on Thursday, he was 6-over on that side for the rest of the tournament.

He began his birdie streak on Sunday with a 7-footer at No. 10, added another birdie putt of similar length at No. 11, drove right of the green at No. 12, hit an indifferent pitch, but made an 18-foot birdie putt and then dropped a 21-footer birdie at No. 13.

Morikawa missed a long birdie attempt at the 14th, had to make an 8-foot putt for par at No. 15 and made a 5-footer for birdie at the 16th.

Morikawa then nearly went into the water at No. 17, with the ball hitting the green and rolling back into the rough. He was able to get a putter blade on the ball and nailed it from 20 feet away for his last birdie of the day.

He said the 17th green seemed especially firm and had a warning for players who will follow him in the final round.

“Yeah, good luck,” he said. “I thought I hit a great 51-degree wedge. Landed yard and a half, 2 yards on, and I could barely find my ball mark. So I’ll definitely want to watch the last few holes. But should be interesting.”

Counting a 68 in the first round of last year’s aborted Players that isn’t official, Morikawa has 22 birdies in five tours of the Stadium Course. He believes that the test matches his skills.

“Absolutely … I feel comfortable,” he said. “A lot of tee shots I feel comfortable. I need to figure out how to hit a draw 3-wood off 2 because I was 0-4 this week, but promise you in a year I’ll figure that out.”

Morikawa will defend his PGA title in May at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, but wasn’t sure if getting four rounds at the Stadium Course, then playing at Harbour Town next month will help him.

Pete Dye designed all three courses, and there are similarities from one to the other.

“I haven’t played Kiawah,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you what it looks like, a single hole out there. So for me I’m going to have to figure out lines and everything.”


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This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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