Morikawa builds 2-shot lead going to weekend at Kapalua

Jan 6, 2023, 5:31 AM | Updated: 8:28 pm
Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the 13th tee during the second round of the Tournament of Champ...

Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the 13th tee during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

              J.J. Spaun hits from the bunker on the 12th fairway during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              J.J. Spaun acknowledges the gallery after his shot on the 12th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Jordan Spieth tosses his ball to his caddie o the 10th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Jordan Spieth watches his birdie putt come up short on the 10th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Scottie Scheffler watches his shot from the 13th tee box during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Scottie Scheffler reacts after making birdie on the 12th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Collin Morikawa hits from the bunker on the 12th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Collin Morikawa acknowledges the gallery after his shot on the 12th green during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the 13th tee during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Winless last year for the first time in his young career, Collin Morikawa is playing as though he wants to put that behind him quickly.

Morikawa was dialed in with his irons early and took advantage of some of the scoring holes late in his second round Friday for a 7-under 66 that gave him a two-shot lead in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

He was at 16-under 130 and without a bogey over two rounds on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

“With conditions where it’s windy and pins are kind of in sports where you’ve got to be really precise with your distance control and trajectory, it’s tailor-made for him,” said J.J. Spaun, who played with Morikawa and posted a 68 to fall two behind.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler had a good laugh on the first tee with U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and then ran off nine birdies in his round of 66, leaving him two shots behind along with Spaun, a newcomer to Kapalua.

Scheffler can return to No. 1 in the world this week with a two-way tie for third at better, with Rory McIlroy choosing to sit out this week.

Jordan Spieth had two eagles — one a 7-iron that came inches away from an albatross on the par-5 fifth hole — and had a 66. He was three shots behind.

Morikawa ordinarily wouldn’t be at Kapalua for the winners-only start to the year. But in this new year of trying to bring together the top plays more often, the PGA Tour expanded the field from exclusively winners in 2022 to include those who reached the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake.

Morikawa shared the 18-hole lead by running off six straight birdies to start the back nine. On a gorgeous Friday afternoon on Maui with a little more wind, he did most of his damage early. It started with a 20-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, followed by short irons to 3 feet and 8 feet.

From there, everyone else did well to keep pace.

Scheffler was introduced on the first tee with a mention of all four of his wins last year, from the WM Phoenix Open to the Masters. Next up was Fitzpatrick, who beat Scheffler by one shot at Brookline. He was introduced as the U.S. Open champion.

“There’s one you didn’t win,” Fitzpatrick said as they laughed.

Scoring remained low enough that only two players were over par — Billy Horschel (71) and Chad Ramey (76) were 2 over.

Morikawa had a chance to tie the 36-hole scoring record that Cameron Smith set last year at 17-under 129. He was just off the front of the 18th green when he muffed his chip and saw it run out to only 30 feet, and his long birdie putt banged off the lip.

Those are mistakes that happen and he can live with that. He’s more interested in a bigger picture of moving forward from what felt like the first real struggle he’s had in golf since longer than he can remember.

Morikawa graduated from Cal and had a PGA Tour victory within two months. After his first two full years on the tour, he already had two majors. A year ago, he had a chance to reach No. 1 in the world.

He had only one top 10 in his final eight tournaments last year. More than anything wrong with his swing, or his putting, Morikawa attributed it to a poor attitude forged from the frustration of knowing he wasn’t playing to his abilities.

“It was tough, but it’s golf and I’ve kind of learned from it,” Morikawa said. “You just realize look, it’s going to happen. You just dig yourself out of it and learn and get better from it. And if I didn’t get better from it and I didn’t push myself to work a little harder and motivate myself in certain ways to know where I want to be and set my goals, then there’s no reason to be frustrated.

“But it was frustrating because I know where I want to be.”

For now, he is in the lead by two shots, his first time with at least a share of the 36-hole lead since the U.S. Open last summer. He wound up in a tie for fifth at Brookline.

Missing from Kapalua is Xander Schauffele, the No. 6 player in the world who withdraw after eight holes because of an ailing back. Schauffele said he was headed home to Las Vegas to figure out what’s going on.

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak celebrates with teammate Pavel Zacha (18) after scoring a g...
Associated Press

Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season. They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up. “We’re still in a good position […]
1 day ago
FILE - Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt holds the Super Bowl trophy during a rally in Kansas Cit...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Hunt, Eagles’ Lurie behind Super Bowl-winning teams

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Clark Hunt proudly held aloft the AFC championship trophy bearing his father’s name, the one signifying that his Kansas City Chiefs were headed back to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years, and reflected that not so long ago, success seemed elusive. It had been 50 years […]
1 day ago
Atlantic Division's Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (88) and Aleksander Barkov, of th...
Associated Press

Panthers hope All-Star weekend showcased team’s investment

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Tkachuk is under contract to the Florida Panthers for much of the next decade. So is fellow All-Star Aleksander Barkov. And right there are two compelling reasons for players to join the Panthers in the coming years. The last few days might have helped the recruiting pitch, too. Many of […]
1 day ago
FILE - North Texas football coach Todd Dodge, left, speaks to the media in Denton, Texas, Tuesday, ...
Associated Press

Mahomes, Hurts latest Texas prep QBs on Super Bowl stage

DALLAS (AP) — Texas high school quarterbacks guru Todd Dodge got what he wanted when Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts of Philadelphia won their conference championship games. “I really like Joe Burrow,” Dodge said with a chuckle in reference to Cincinnati’s star quarterback, “but I’m not going to root for Joe Burrow over […]
1 day ago
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, drives to the rim as Atlanta Hawks forward Onyeka Okongw...
Associated Press

Nuggets beat Hawks 128-108, tie Boston for NBA’s best record

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray scored a season-high 41 points, Nikola Jokic had his 18th triple-double of the season and the Denver Nuggets won their third straight game, beating the Atlanta Hawks 128-108 on Saturday night. Jokic finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists and recorded the 94th regular-season triple-double of his career. […]
1 day ago
Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors gu...
Associated Press

Curry injures left leg leading Warriors over Mavs 119-113

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Curry went down and the Golden Warriors once again had to fight like crazy to close out a game. Curry had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds before injuring his left leg defending a drive late in the third quarter, and the defending NBA champions defeated Dallas 119-113 on […]
1 day ago
Morikawa builds 2-shot lead going to weekend at Kapalua