Morikawa (65) grabs first career 18-hole lead at Sony Open

Collin Morikawa set the pace during a blustery opening round Thursday at Waialae Country Club, taking a two-shot lead at the Sony Open. Here’s what you need to know:

LEADERBOARD

1. Collin Morikawa (-5)

T-2. Ted Potter Jr. (-3)

T-2. Matt Jones (-3)

T-2. Ryan Palmer (-3)

T-2. Sam Ryder (-3)

Click here for full leaderboard.

WHAT IT MEANS

Morikawa seems to be enjoying his fortnight in Hawaii. After tying for seventh in his debut last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Morikawa fired the only bogey-free round of the day at Waialae, a 5-under 65, which marks the best round of his young PGA Tour career and ties his best Tour round in relation to par.

For as much as Morikawa has been compared to peers Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland since turning pro last summer, the Cal product is well ahead of both in the world rankings (Hovland is No. 92, Wolff No. 98) and top-10s (Morikawa has six while Hovland has three and Wolff has one, albeit a win at the 3M Open).


Sony leader Morikawa (65): ‘Made the ones I needed to’

Sony leader Morikawa (65): 'Made the ones I needed to'

But despite winning the Barracuda Championship last season, Morikawa, unlike Wolff, is not yet in the Masters field. However, at No. 55 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Morikawa is on the cusp of earning his invite to Augusta National. The top 50 as of March 30 qualify. He is already qualified for the PGA Championship but he could also secure U.S. Open and Open Championship berths via his world ranking. Two top-60 cutoffs remain for Winged Foot while top 50 earns a ticket to Royal St. George’s.

A victory – or even another top-10 – could go a long way in getting Morikawa a spot in every major this year.

HOW IT HAPPENED

On a windy day in Honolulu, Morikawa hit half his fairways and missed five greens. He also led the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green – that’s how tough the conditions were Thursday. Morikawa also topped the field in proximity to the hole (23 feet, 6 inches), which explains why he also didn’t make a single putt of 10 feet or longer.


Sony Open in Hawaii: Full-field scores | Full coverage


Morikawa birdied Nos. 11 and 18 before adding three on his second nine, at Nos. 4, 5 and 9. Three of those birdie putts came from 7 feet and in.

SHOT OF THE DAY

The wind tried to help Brian Harman at the 183-yard, par-3 17th hole. Instead, Harman, who fired 68, settled for a tap-in birdie.

BEST OF THE REST

While the 22-year-old Morikawa tops the leaderboard, the chasing pack, for the most part, is anything but youthful.

Aside from 30-year-old Sam Ryder, the three other players tied for second have a combined age of 108 – Ryan Palmer (43), Matt Jones (39) and Ted Potter Jr. (36). Palmer has three straight top-20s entering this week while Jones is coming off his victory at the Australian Open. Potter, though, has missed five straight cuts and has just one top-10 finish since his victory at the 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The group three shots back includes Rory Sabbatini (43), Pat Perez (43), Tim Wilkinson (41) and Brendan Steele (36).

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

A week after winning in a playoff at Kapalua, Justin Thomas bogeyed three of his first five holes and ended up with an opening 2-over 72. Shockingly, Thomas led the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee. He also lost more than two strokes on the field on and around the greens.

Fourteen players did not finish their first round before play was suspended due to darkness at 6:10 p.m. local time. Those players will resume play at 7:45 a.m. Friday morning to finish their opening round. 

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Scott (67) three back at Australian PGA Championship

Lucas Herbert and Brett Rankin shared the first-round lead at the Australian PGA Championship after carding 5-under 67s on Thursday at Royal Pines.

The Australian pair were one clear of a group of five players including New Zealander Ryan Chisnall, while Adam Scott and Stewart Cink were three back after opening 70s. Two-time defending champion Cameron Smith was 2 over.

Herbert went birdie-birdie-eagle in still morning conditions to begin his round before a run of three bogeys. He added four birdies on the back nine to finish before the breeze picked up.

Scott and 2009 British Open winner Cink were among the later starters and had to deal with trickier conditions.

Scott, the 2013 Australian PGA champion, made long-range putts for eagle and birdie to stay in touch despite a double bogey on the par-4 13th hole, when he hit into the water off the tee.

”I’m putting good. I’m playing good. Unfortunately I really miss-hit that drive off 13 and it cost me,” said Scott, who is chasing his first title since 2016. ”Other than that, it was pretty much stress free. I was very happy with it because it wasn’t very easy out there.

Smith, aiming to be the first player in more than 100 years to win three straight Australian PGA titles, said he lacked energy after an emotional Presidents Cup last week in Melbourne, where he and Scott were part of the International team that gave up an early lead before losing to Tiger Woods’ U.S. team.

He was even at the turn but had two bogeys and a double-bogey in a three-hole sequence.

”I’m just tire. Just a long couple weeks. It was as easy as it’s going to get out there this morning, so it was pretty disappointing to shoot what I shot,” he said.

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Brazil’s Magno hoping for inspiration from his heroes

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Golf Channel to air four-man skins game featuring Woods, McIlroy

American viewers looking to watch a new four-man skins game exhibition in Japan featuring Tiger Woods and newly-minted FedExCup champ Rory McIlroy will be able to watch it on Golf Channel.

The event, called “The Challenge: Japan Skins” and also featuring Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama, will be played Oct. 21 ahead of the inaugural Zozo Championship. All four players are slated to participate in the 72-hole event, with both the exhibition and regular tournament played at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan.

American viewers can tune into coverage on Golf Channel beginning at 11 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 20. Viewers outside the U.S. can watch the four-man match via GolfTV.

Woods, who has not played competitively since last month’s BMW Championship, is expected to make the Zozo his next start. It will mark his first time inside the ropes in Japan since 2006.

“I haven’t played a skins format in quite some time, so it will be fun to try something a little different and add a few strategic elements as we compete,” Woods said in a release. “There has always been some friendly banter between us, and that will continue until we get to the first tee.”

McIlroy, who is in the field this week at the BMW PGA Championship, won the $15 million prize for claiming the FedExCup title last month at East Lake and was recently voted PGA Tour Player of the Year. Like Day and Matsuyama, he’ll be making his debut appearance in a televised exhibition match.

“There are so many fun elements to The Challenge that will have me wanting to take home that title – playing with Hideki on his home turf, Tiger coming back to Japan with a green jacket,” McIlroy said. “The motivation is certainly there for me, and I’m a huge fan of the skins format. I love the way it rewards attacking play and think it suits my game quite well.”

With a 1 p.m. local time start, the exhibition is expected to finish “under floodlights” according to a release, with each hole assigned a monetary value that will increase as the round progresses. Players will have to win a hole outright to take a skin, and the event will also feature “special in-match challenges and surprises.”

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