Collin Morikawa shot a third-round 67 at The Concession Golf Club and will enter Sunday’s finale of the WGC-Workday Championship with a two-shot lead.
Highlighted by a run of eight birdies in a 10-hole span, including five straight on Nos. 5-9, the 24-year old American was lights-out impressive through his first 12 holes on Saturday, and appeared headed for a runaway win. But Morikawa ran out of gas down the stretch, and closed his final six holes with four pars and two ugly bogeys on the very scoreable par-5s (Nos. 13 and 17).
“Yeah, just kept rolling birdie after birdie, really didn’t think about it, game was playing really boring, playing simple, hitting fairways and hitting greens and that’s what we try to do out here every day,” said Morikawa, who leads the field with 23 birdies.
“Got off to a really good start and then by the time I hit 13, just had a three-putt kind of stall the round and never really got it going again, just kind of missed some fairways, kind of was struggling to make pars. But overall just a lot of positives to take into tomorrow.”
Morikawa’s late fade set the stage for what should be an exciting Sunday with 10 players separated by just five shots. Two of those chasers will be Billy Horschel and Brooks Koepka, who sit T2 on 13 under, just two off the pace of Morikawa.
Koepka, the overnight leader, got off to a tough start with back to back bogeys on Nos. 1 and 2, but the four-time major winner recovered nicely with a clean card the rest of the way, highlighted by four birdies en route to a 2-under 70.
“It was interesting. I don’t know if the greens were a bit slower today or what, but I just couldn’t get a putt to the hole,” said Koepka, who is second in the field in strokes gained: putting for the week (4.691).
“Felt like speed was off. I hit it, make a couple more and yeah, just came out of a few of them because that’s just me.”
Horschel, meanwhile, was treading water at even-par through 15 holes, but finished birdie-eagle-par to post 3-under 69.
“It was one of those days where I was playing some good golf, hitting some good putts, they weren’t going. And the bogey on 13 and 14 sort of was a little bummer. Sort of in a similar position in Scottsdale on Saturday when Jordan was playing really good and shooting 10 or 11 under par round. Then I didn’t finish that off very well,” said Horschel.
“I made bogeys in the middle portion of my back side and finished really bad. So I did a really good job of learning from that. Got on 15 tee and just said, hey, let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing all week and that’s just commit to the first shot, one shot at a time. I did a really good job of that and it was nice I got rewarded for it.”
One further back was Webb Simpson, who shared the opening-round lead. The former Wake Forest star finished with five birdies against two bogeys to post 69 and reach 12 under, good for solo fourth.
“Yeah, pretty good overall today. You know, a couple loose shots here and there where I scrambled well, but I thought my way around the golf course well. Collin’s playing some awesome golf, but still right in it, have a chance to win,” said Simpson.
“I’m a few more back than I wanted to be starting the day, but it’s all I can ask, a chance to win on Sunday.”
Longtime rivals Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy were tied for fifth on 11 under par.
As he’s done all week, Reed was a scoring machine – carding seven birdies, including three sets of back-to-back gains, but he also struggled at times, making bookend bogeys on Nos.1 and 18 along with a gut-punch double bogey on the par-5 13th.
“It was a struggle. I would say I’ve had more kind of like head-scratching wedge shots this week that I feel like I’ve hit, trying to hit them and trying to hit my numbers and they seem to be a hair off. So obviously I need to work on my wedges a little bit,” said Reed.
“It’s just one of those things that if you get yourself in the wrong spot around some of these greens, you’re going to get penalized for it. The greens are obviously getting a little firmer out there throughout the week and areas where you feel like you could be aggressive and still kind of attack certain wedge shots, it’s not quite happening.
“It’s just kind of one of those days that I’ve missed a couple putts, I felt like I hit good putts, and yet at the same time I hit a couple loose iron shots or tee shots that got me in trouble.”
McIlroy overcame his own double bogey (on No. 2) with a spectacular round of 66, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 13th hole.
“I made a couple birdies in a row like I did on 7 and 8. Like I missed the green on 9. Getting that ball up and down was huge because it just keeps that little bit of momentum that you have going. And then you go to 10, you roll a good putt for birdie. I gave one back at 11, but then I was able to bounce back with a birdie and an eagle,” said McIlroy.
“So I’ve just been sort of shooting myself in the foot a little bit with some of the mistakes I’ve been making, but then sort of over the last 12 holes there I started to — if I made a couple of birdies, I make a good par and then I make another birdie. So just keeping the momentum in the right way.”
One further back, at 10-under par, was the foursome of Victor Hovland (66), Scottie Scheffler (67), Hideki Matsuyama (68), and Matthew Fitzpatrick (71).
Leaderboard: Top 5
Pos-Player-To Par (Today)
1. Collin Morikawa -15 (-5)
2. Billy Horschel -13 (-3)
2. Brooks Koepka -13 (-2)
4. Webb Simpson -12 (-3)
5. Rory McIlroy -11 (-6)
5. Patrick Reed -11 (-3)
Driving: Min Woo Lee (323.1 yards)
Fairways: Brad Kennedy (39/42, 92.9%)
Greens: Billy Horschel (44/54, 81.5%)
Putts/GIR: Hideki Matsuyama (1.500)
Birdies: Collin Morikawa (23)
On Neck Pain
“Yeah, go get some treatment here now and get worked on in the morning, and from there just hope for the best. Hopefully it loosens up. Have to go through a whole bottle of Aleve and Advil just trying to make it for two days. It’s annoying because I spotted a few shots just to the field, but it is what it is.”
– Brooks Koepka