Collin Morikawa’s pinpoint iron play doesn’t let him down often.
But when it does, like on the opening and final holes of Sunday’s third round of the Tour Championship, he can rest easy knowing he’s got some sand chops to dig his way out.
After knocking an iron from 170 yards into the bunker on No. 1, Morikawa peeked up three times looking at the flag, then took a difficult stance that saw the ball just below his hip.
No problem for Morikawa, who has won twice in his last six starts, including the PGA Championship.
He calmly lined up well right of the hole and hit a shot that had the NBC broadcast team in awe.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 6, 2020
He joked after his round that this was how he mapped out the hole.
“Obviously, I was playing for it to be plugged in the right bunker. Who wouldn’t? No, I mean, I just flared out a 6-iron. I didn’t actually think it was going to fly that far, so when I walked up I was really surprised it was going to be in that lip,” he said. “But if you’re going to have it plug in a bunker, you kind of want it on a lip because you can just hit it hard and it’s going to pop straight up. Granted, it’s not like I had an easy shot there, and I was really just, kind of just trying to get it below the hole to the left, five, ten feet for par.
“I hit it, got a great bounce, and from that point it just looked like it was going to go in. And I just wanted to see the replay. I finally saw it a few minutes ago. Yeah, wow, what a shot.”
Unfortunately for Morikawa, the trouble didn’t stop in that bunker. After the birdie on the opening hole, wayward shots on Nos. 3, 4 and 7 all wound up as bogeys on his card.
On 12, however, he stuck his iron to four feet, then slumped in jest after hitting the putt, as if to say a weight had finally been lifted. He played like it from there on, as well, posting birdies on five of the last seven holes to finish with a 67.
He finished the day just like he started it, in the bunker, with a nice shot to make birdie. Although the bunker shot on No. 18 didn’t go in, it gave him a short putt.
“I just feel really good out of bunkers,” Morikawa told NBC after his round. “(On 18) it wasn’t an easy shot but, you know, I had a really good line. I was able to take advantage and it’s nice to walk off with a birdie to finish the third round.”
Although he trails Dustin Johnson by a wide margin heading into the final round, there isn’t much traffic above him, so it’s not inconceivable to make a run. And considering that he didn’t feel he had his best stuff, Morikawa was pleased with his position heading into Labor Day. He’s 12 under, seven shots behind the leader.
“You know, today was kind of a grind,” he said. “I was able to scrape out a 3-under, but I’m glad I still have somewhat of a chance hopefully tomorrow and see what happens.”