Saturday's golf: Morikawa’s late stumble gives Workday contenders a chance

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press
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Bradenton, Fla. PGA champion Collin Morikawa went from feeling he could do no wrong to wondering if he could do anything right, and that was just over the final hour Saturday in the Workday Championship.

What mattered at the end of the third round was he had a two-shot lead as he goes for his first World Golf Championship title, even knowing it could have been a lot bigger.

Collin Morikawa hits from the 18th fairway during the third round of the Workday Championship.

Morikawa walked off the 12th hole with his seventh birdie in eight holes, stretching his lead to five shots with two par 5s still to play. He made bogey on both, shot a 5-under 67 and suddenly had four-time major champion Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel on his tail.

“I didn’t play great the last six, but a lot to learn from heading into tomorrow,” Morikawa said. “Just to kind of clear my head to get ready for the 18-hole grind tomorrow.”

Koepka, who says his neck has been stiff for the last month, got his mistakes out of the way early by opening with a pair of bogeys and rallied late for a 70. Horschel also had a late rally with an eagle on the par-5 17th hole and shot 69.

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Another shot back was Webb Simpson (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.

“It seems like it’s one of these courses where it can give up a lot of birdies and some eagles and stuff, but it can bite you very quickly without really doing much wrong,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, it’s one of these places where you just have to stay patient and know that you’re going to have chances.”

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.

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. He had three birdies over the last seven holes.

Webb Simpson had a 69 and was three shots behind, followed by McIlroy and Patrick Reed (69).

“It’s definitely a course that no lead is big enough to kind of be safe because anything can happen,” Reed said.

Also in the mix was Viktor Hovland, who represents what this course can do. He 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.

Hovland 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 23 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 realized that no lead is safe on this course.

“You hit one bad shot and it could cost you big time,” Horschel said.

PGA

At Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, local favorite Rafael Campos took a share of the lead in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open, waiting out a series of rain delays to shoot a 5-under 67 at windy Grand Reserve.

The 32-year-old from San Juan followed a birdie on the par-4 17th with a bogey on the par-5 18th to drop into a tie for the lead with Grayson Murray at 14-under 202.

“I know there’s a lot of things that can basically change my life tomorrow,” Campos said. “But truth is, I’m just really happy. I have been playing good golf the last two weeks, and I really want to keep that mindset of the work I have been putting in the last four months, I’m starting to see good results.

“I think I will just focus on that, focus on playing the golf course the way I know how to play it, be aggressive when I have to be aggressive, and be conservative when I obviously don’t feel comfortable. So, yeah, I really don’t want to think about tomorrow. I just want to go out and hopefully play some good golf.”

Murray bogeyed 17 and birdied 18 in a 65. Cameron Percy (67) and Branden Grace (68) were a stroke back.

Ryan Brehm (Michigan State) shot a 69 and is at 8 under, tied for 14th.

Play was delayed three times for about an hour total in the afternoon because of the short, heavy downpours. With expected heavy rain overnight and into the morning, the final round will feature threesomes off split tees.

Campos has two top-10 finishes in the event, tying for eighth in 2016 and tying for 10th in 2017. After missing the cuts in seven of eight events to start the PGA Tour season, he tied for seventh last week in Florida’s in a Korn Ferry Tour event. In 2019, he won the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic to become the first Puerto Rican in Korn Ferry Tour history.

The former Virginia Commonwealth player played the front nine in 3 under, with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-5 fifth. He also birdied the par-4 10th and 12th.

“I felt today I hit the ball very well, with the exception of the last couple of holes,” Compos said. “But I’m really happy with where I’m standing right now, and I really think can’t be in a better position basically for tomorrow. Hopefully, just kind of keep doing the same thing we’re doing. I really feel comfortable with my swing.”

He won’t get to play in front of many of his fans Sunday because of coronavirus restrictions.

“It feels very weird only seeing them for like three holes out of 18 holes,” Campos said. “So I got my mom, I got my wife, I got family supporting me. So that’s all I really need right now. And, obviously, I feel the great positive energy the fans actually give me, either text messages or out hereon the course.”

The tournament is being played opposite the World Golf Championship event in Florida. The winner will get into the PGA Championship in May but not the Masters in April.

Murray won the 2017 Barbasol Championship, also played opposite a WGC event, for the 27-year-old former Arizona State player’s lone tour title.

“It’s been a long time since I have been in a situation like this, but I’m not afraid of the moment,” Murray said. “And at the end of the day, you still got to play good golf, no matter – no matter who’s chasing you or who I’m chasing.”

He birdied five of the first nine holes.

“I had the putter rolling and just kind of kept it rolling throughout the round,” Murray said. “We had to stop and start. We were a little unfortunate, but they were quick. And the PGA Tour did a good job of kind of keeping us out there and not bringing us in each time.”

Second-round leader Brandon Wu (71) was 12 under with Andrew Putnam (67) and Nelson Ledesma (68).

“Had to scramble a little bit harder today,” Wu said. “I think it was playing tougher, the start and the stop, the rain, crazy conditions.”

LPGA

At Orlando, Florida, Nelly Korda surged into the lead in the Gainbridge LPGA with a 4-under 68 that left her in position to make it consecutive wins for the Korda family to start the season.

Annika Sorenstam sank to the bottom.

Korda, whose older sister Jessica won the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions last month to start the new LPGA Tour season, dropped only one shot on a breezy day at Lake Nona to lead by one over Patty Tavatanakit.

Sorenstam, playing for the first time in more than 12 years after retiring, had no expectations and no excuses. She kept leaving herself in bad spots around the green and finished with a 79. That put her in last place by four shots, 22 shots behind Korda.

The 50-year-old Swede was making a one-time appearance because the tournament was brought to her home course, and she was happy enough to make the cut on the number.

“We put every effort into every single shot,” she said. “Just wasn’t meant to be today. Another day tomorrow. I got two bonus days this week, so that’s a good thing.”

Korda was at 13-under 203, one shot ahead of Tavatanakit, the blossoming Thai star who needed only a half-dozen starts on the Symetra Tour to earn her LPGA card when she left UCLA.

Tavatanakit closed with four birdies over her last five holes, including the last three, for a 66. She will be in the final group Sunday with Korda and Angel Yin, who had a 65 and was three shots behind.

Lydia Ko, the 36-hole leader trying to win for the first time in nearly three years, also was three shots behind. Ko fell back with a double bogey on the 12th hole, and then a bogey on the 18th.

Also at 10-under 203 was Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, who shot a 66 to get in position.

All of them will be chasing Korda.

“Any time you can get ahead of the pack going into Sunday is a positive,” Korda said. “There are some good players there, so it’ll take good golf to win.”

Tavatanakit said she didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the leaderboard. When she did, she wasn’t sure where she stood because she kept missing the front page of leaders.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m probably still up there.’ So I didn’t think too much about it until 15. I saw that I am two back,” Tavatanakit said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s see what I can do here.’ Not going to lie, coming down the stretch, those putts were a little shaky.”

But she made them, and she’s in great position going for her first LPGA Tour victory.

For Sorenstam, it will be a ceremonial stroll before family and friends on a home course where her neighbors for years were more likely to see her at Easter brunch or the pickleball courts than on the golf course.

Her troubles began with a bogey on the par-5 15th, the start of five bogeys in an eight-hole stretch.

“Normally, I hit the ball straight, and today was everything but straight,” Sorenstam said. “Maybe I have to tweak my swing a little bit – not really sure what to tweak at the moment. We have to figure that out. But I need to hit it straight to have a chance at all to shoot under par again. Because that would be fun to leave it on a high note.”

Champions

At Tucson, Mike Weir shot a 5-under 67 to build a two-shot lead after the second round of Cologuard Classic, putting Phil Mickelson in a deep hole in his bid to win his three straight PGA Tour Champions events.

Weir shot 66 in the opening round and had eight birdies in breezy conditions at tricky Tucson National. The Canadian left-hander was at 13 under, with Kevin Sutherland second heading into the final round.

Tim Petrovic became the second player in PGA Tour Champions history to have a hole-in-one in consecutive rounds with an ace on No. 14. He was 8 under after a 67.

Mickelson is bidding to become the first player to win his first three career starts on a PGA Tour-sanctioned tour. The five-time major champion was nine shots back after a 72 that included a second straight day of hitting out of the mud on No. 15.

Mickelson was the last amateur to win a PGA Tour event as 20-year-old in Tucson 30 years ago, but has burned the edges of holes through two days in his return.

Lefty hit into the large wash dissecting the course for the second straight day, pulling a drive on the par-5 second after doing the same on No. 13 Friday. He had a stretch of three birdies in four holes after the double bogey on No. 2 and another on the par-5 12th when he got up and down from a greenside bunker.

Mickelson hit out of the mud on the par-5 15th in Friday’s opening round after a 5-iron rolled farther than he expected and trickled into the pond on the dogleg right. He hit driver in the second round and ended up with the same result when his ball landed on the fairway and caromed hard right.

Mickelson left his shoes on for his mud shot in Friday’s round and made a 4-foot birdie putt after slopping it out. He opted to take his shoes off for his second muddy go-round and had another birdie chance despite spraying himself with mud, only to watch the putt slide by the hole.

Weir shot 1-under 35 on the front nine before going on a birdie binge. The 2003 Masters champion ran off a string of seven birdies in eight holes to start the back nine, but a pulled approach shot on the par-4 18th led to a bogey.

Petrovic had an ace on No. 16 in the opening round and pulled off rare consecutive-day aces on the 186-yard 14th Saturday. Petrovic raised his hands in the air as the handful of fans cheered, then curled up into a fetal position on the tee box after watching another improbable ace.

The only other PGA Tour Champions player with aces in consecutive rounds was Graham Marsh at the 2004 Senior British Open.

Sutherland had four birdies and eagled the par-5 17th to shoot a bogey-free 67.

Scott Parel was three shots off the lead after a bogey-free 67 that included five birdies.

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