KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jon Rahm began the bold new year on the PGA Tour by coming from seven shots behind to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Sunday with plenty of help from Collin Morikawa, who had a spectacular wipeout even by Maui standards.
Rahm was six shots behind on the 13th hole at Kapalua when he ran off three straight birdies and a 12-foot eagle putt, and his final birdie gave him a 10-under 63.
Morikawa was two groups behind him. He had gone bogey-free over 67 holes on the Plantation Course when it all fell apart with his wedges and his putter, the two areas that had carried him to a six-shot lead at the start of the day.
From 25 yards short of the 14th green, he blasted out of a bunker and over the green. He muffed a wedge from a tight lie with the grain of grass into him on the par-5 15th. His wedge to the 16th didn’t go far enough and rolled some 60 feet back into the fairway.
Morikawa looked to be in a state of shock as he walked down the 17th fairway, leading by as many as seven shots during the final round and suddenly finding himself two shots behind and running out of hope.
“It’s going to hurt, but I’ve got to get over it because we’re still in the very early parts of the season,” Morikawa said.
He wound up tying a PGA Tour record for losing the largest 54-hole lead at six shots. Eight other players have done that, most recently Scottie Scheffler at the Tour Championship last year. That event has a staggered start to par based on FedExCup standings. For regular stroke play, the last occasion was Dustin Johnson in 2017 at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Rahm finished at 27-under 265 to win by two shots over Morikawa, who birdied the 18th hole – his first birdie since No. 6 – to close with a 72.
It was the second such collapse by Morikawa in a little more than a year. He closed out 2021 at the Hero World Challenge and had a five-shot lead with a chance to reach No. 1 in the world with a victory. He shot 76 and finished fifth.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler had a chance to return to No. 1 this week if he finished in a two-way tie for third or better. He had to settle for a 70 and tied for seventh.
It was a small measure of redemption for Rahm, who last year finished at 33 under par at Kapalua which was a PGA Tour record for that lasted only a few seconds. Cameron Smith finished at 34 under to win by one.
Rahm now is 60 under in his last two appearances at Kapalua. The victory was his eighth on the PGA Tour and 17th worldwide, and assure he will be back on Maui to start 2024.
Rahm now has won three times in his last six starts worldwide – he won in Spain and Dubai late last year – and he goes home with $4.2 million.
This is one he didn’t see coming – not after starting the final round seven shots behind, and then making bogey on his first hole. But he found his rhythm on the 12th hole, and when he stood over the eagle putt on the 15th, he knew he was back in the game.
“Fifteen is when it truly became a reality,” Rahm said.
Morikawa opened with three birdies in six holes and appeared to be sailing toward his first win since the DP World Tour Championship in November 2021. But the putts stopped falling – birdie chances from 7 feet on No. 9, from 12 feet on the par-3 11th, from 12 feet on the 13th hole.
That didn’t seem like it would matter, until it did.
Morikawa still was in decent shape after Rahm caught him with the eagle on 15. Morikawa had two par 5s in front of him. But on the 15th, his 5-wood leaked enough to the right that it bounded down the steep slope, leaving one of the tougher chips on the Plantation Course.
He knew it was short as it was in the air, and all he could do was watch it roll back down the hill. The next chip was to 8 feet, and that par putt hung on the lip.
“Practiced that chip a bunch, too, and obviously not enough,” Morikawa said.
Rahm missed a good birdie chance on the 16th, and then got up-and-down from just off the green at the par-5 18th for a birdie that all but clinched it.
He won $2.7 million from the $15 million purse at Kapalua, the first of the “designated” events on the PGA Tour schedule. He also gets 25% of his Player Impact Program bonus money – he finished No. 5 in the PIP for $6 million.
The Spaniard now has won in each of his seven full years on the PGA Tour.
Tom Hoge had a 64 and tied for third with Max Homa (66). Hoge headed for the airport to go to Los Angeles to watch his school, TCU, playing for the national championship against Georgia. Hoge then will go back to Hawaii for the Sony Open.