Birdied five of last six holes on Saturday at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club
Collin Morikawa knows this week is his last chance to achieve an important goal in 2023.
And his third-round finish at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP has helped to put himself in position to do just that.
Morikawa, who was the first-round leader at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, birdied five of his final six holes Saturday to shoot a 4-under 66. He’s just two shots back of Justin Suh’s lead heading into Sunday’s finale.
The five-time TOUR winner started his third round with a double bogey (he was against a tree and had to take an unplayable lie) and added another bogey on the par-4 fourth after a three putt. At 3 over through five holes, Morikawa was nine back of the lead early.
“I knew there were a lot of holes (left),” Morikawa said. “I just knew I was still hitting my irons good. I just had to give myself opportunities. Just seeing good shots, seeing quality shots going forward, that’s important.
“I’ve seen that the past couple days – even though yesterday was a bad score – and I just kept my head down and kept grinding at it.”
Morikawa turned it around quickly, birdieing Nos. 6-8 and then adding four in a row on the back nine before one more circle on the scorecard on the par-5 18th. His eight birdies were tied for the most on the day.
“I haven’t had a round like that in a while. I think it just shows that my head is in the right space,” Morikawa said. “I’m very happy with how everything kind of came about, and obviously the nice little string of birdies was a nice momentum swing.”
Saving a lengthy par on No. 17 and rolling in a 10-foot birdie on the par-5 closer were two key positives that Morikawa said he’ll take into for Sunday’s finale.
Morikawa struggled off the tee – hitting only four fairways – but still managed to hit 13 of 18 greens in the third round and kept giving himself chances. Despite the low number of fairways found, Morikawa admitted he “missed them in the right spot.”
He hit only three fairways in the second round – “You can’t play golf like that,” he said – on a blustery day in Japan, but that struggle continued Saturday off the tee, too.
“It wasn’t an inability to handle the wind, it was just an inability to hit fairways. And that continued today, so it wasn’t just the wind,” Morikawa admitted. “I want to figure it out because playing out of these fairways, you can hit some long drives with how firm the fairways are getting. Greens are getting a lot firmer, so it’s going to be even more apparent to want to be in the fairway and on those greens (on Sunday).”
Morikawa hasn’t teed it up on the PGA TOUR since the TOUR Championship in August where he finished tied for sixth. He earned one point in a losing effort at the Ryder Cup.
His sixth-place result at East Lake was his sixth top-10 finish of the season, but half of them came between Jan. 1 and mid-February. His last win on TOUR was at The Open Championship in 2021 – although he came close in July, falling in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic after a final-round 64 left him tied with Adam Hadwin and eventual winner Rickie Fowler.
Speaking pre-tournament, Morikawa knew he hasn’t quite been able to close out a victory this season. But he’s given himself a solid chance in Japan.
“I know what my goal is, and I know what I want to do and accomplish this week is really just stand up and find a way to win,” Morikawa said Wednesday.
He’ll be chasing Sunday. But in his final round of 2023 on TOUR, Morikawa is keen for a very specific result and knows exactly what he needs to do to get there.
“My focus tomorrow is just to give myself a chance. I had to do that today,” Morikawa said. “Today was very crucial. Gave myself an opportunity (for Sunday). I’m going to prepare like I always do for final rounds and just kind of let it play out.”
Source : PGA Tour