'Sadness' in Hawaii: Collin Morikawa now tasked with making sense of historic collapse

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Collin Morikawa was surrounded by some of the most beautiful views in the world. But Sunday afternoon at Kapalua, no one could blame him if the 26-year-old wanted to retreat to a quiet place indoors and get away from it all.

First, however, Morikawa was tasked with talking through his historic collapse, how he began the day leading the Sentry Tournament of Champions by six shots yet ended it two strokes behind winner Jon Rahm and with his name on a list that nobody wants to be on.

The first word out of his mouth summed up his emotions perfectly.

“Sadness,” Morikawa began, clearly still stinging but trying his hardest to keep his trademarked smile.

He continued: “I don't know. It sucks. You work so hard, and you give yourself these opportunities, and just bad timing on bad shots and kind of added up really quickly. Don't know what I'm going to learn from this week, but it just didn't seem like it was that far off. It really wasn't. Yeah, it sucks.”

Morikawa had begun the new year with 67 straight bogey-free holes. He led the field in strokes gained: putting after 54 holes, his few months of work with putting guru Stephen Sweeney already paying dividends. So, too, were more recent chipping lessons from Parker McLachlin; Morikawa was a perfect 6-for-6 in scrambling through three rounds.

And to top it all off, history was on his side. Only eight players ever on the PGA Tour had lost a tournament after entering the final round with a six-shot lead.

Still, Morikawa had a feeling Saturday evening that this thing wasn’t over.

“I know it's going to take a lot,” he admitted. “There's going to be a lot of guys out there that are going to be firing at pins, making a lot of birdies early on. So, that's just for me to just kind of do what I've been doing, staying patient, give myself opportunities and let 'em fall.”

Spoiler alert: They didn’t fall.

Chamblee dissects Morikawa's Sentry TOC collapse

Morikawa missed several makeable birdies over the first two-thirds of his final round:

• No. 5 – 3 feet
• No. 9 – 7 feet
• No. 11 – 11 feet
• No. 12 – 23 feet (lipped out)
• No. 13 – 11 feet

By that time, Rahm, who had once fallen nine strokes off the pace following an opening bogey, was mid-charge – and a furious one at that. He popped off five birdies on his front nine before stringing together birdies at Nos. 12-14. When he canned a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-5 14th, he was just a shot back.

Moments later, Rahm and Morikawa were tied, as Morikawa bogeyed for the first time all tournament, thinning a bunker shot over the green at the short par-4 14th and failing to save par from 10 feet.

“Normally, 10 out of 10 times, you're putting that to within 15 feet at worst,” Morikawa said.

A chunked pitch at the par-5 15th led to another bogey and knocked Morikawa out of the co-lead.

A missed 7-footer for par at the next hole essentially ended his chances of winning for the first time since the DP World Tour’s finale in Dubai in November 2021. Walking off the penultimate tee box, Morikawa's caddie, J.J. Jakovac, put his arm around his boss and squeezed the back of Morikawa's neck, but it was too late.

Rahm went on to birdie the last as part of a closing, 10-under 63, while Morikawa also circled his final hole on the scorecard, albeit to finish at 25 under, two shots behind Rahm and only one better than where he started the day. Morikawa shot under par, but just barely, and on a windless and defenseless Kapalua layout, he lost almost three-and-a-half strokes to the field on Sunday.

As Morikawa was officially sliding alongside Bobby Cruickshank in the PGA Tour's record book, Rahm was busy getting lei'd.

"I don't know how to answer that without sounding very rude," Rahm said carefully when asked if he felt bad for Morikawa. "As competitors, no, I want to win. That's all I can tell you. I've been where he's been before. I've made a mess of a round before. ... You don't want to see that happen really ever. You want to beat everybody at their best.

"But if the best Collin had shown up today, I wouldn't have won."

In Morikawa’s eyes, this tournament was just as much the one that he lost.

“[Rahm] still shot 63, but I still, you know, I still had it within reach,” Morikawa said. “If I don't make those bogeys and I make par, we're right there. So, he definitely made the birdies when he needed to, but I also made bogeys. When you're getting bogeys at that time of the tournament, they're costly. I definitely felt the weight of that.”

Full-field scores from the Sentry Tournament of Champions

Unlike his five-shot giveaway on Sunday at the 2021 Hero World Challenge, where he “started off bad, never found it, never felt good, just bad,” this time Morikawa said he felt fine. He just made “three poor swings.” And that was enough. That was the difference between a drought-ending, would-be sixth career PGA Tour victory and the lowlight of Morikawa’s young career.

“Can't really think of anything else,” Morikawa said. “Yeah, it's hard to look at the positives, it really is.”

With his next start not until Torrey Pines at the end of the month, Morikawa planned to spend a couple extra days in Hawaii.

The perfect antidote for a hurting golfer who is just beginning a long year and can't afford to heal on island time.

And views impervious even to coughing up six-shot leads.

“It's not going to be as great,” Morikawa said, “but it will still be good.”