Morikawa takes big step toward No. 1

·2 min read

NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods joined the broadcast booth for his Hero World Challenge, and what he saw from Collin Morikawa must have looked familiar.

Morikawa carved up Albany Golf Club to build a five-shot lead Sunday (PH time) over Brooks Koepka, and too many pursuers faded from contention with a series of mistakes that only made another victory look inevitable for Morikawa.

With an 8-under 64 — the first bogey-free round of the week — Morikawa took a big step toward reaching No. 1 in the world.

“You love being in these spots and you don’t get them every week,” Morikawa said. “You wish you did. But when you do, you want to take advantage of them. So hopefully, we can take advantage tomorrow.”

Morikawa chipped in for eagle on the par-5 third hole. His 10-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole gave him the lead. And then he shifted into another gear with a series of smart shots he executed flawlessly, a few par putts to keep momentum and par save from the bunker on the final hole to keep his distance.

Koepka fell back with a soft chip that didn’t get up the hill on the par-3 eighth and led to double bogey. He was bogey-free the rest of the way for a 69 that at least got him into the final group.

Morikawa would stay at the top of the ranking with a victory, but only for only a week based on the two-year rolling formula. Even so, only 24 other players have reached No. 1 since the ranking began in 1986.

Morikawa was at 18-under 198 as he tries to win his second straight start. He is coming off a Sunday rally in Dubai to win the DP World Tour Championship, making him the first American to be the No. 1 player on the European Tour.

Not long after Morikawa finished the opening hole in the final group, a dozen or so spectators lingered behind and headed to the back of Albany’s practice range to watch someone who is not part of the 20-man field: Woods.

He spent another day hitting balls, this time with a driver, fueling speculation that 10 months after his car crash that badly damaged his right leg, he might tee it up in two weeks at the PNC Championship with 12-year-old son Charlie. (AP)

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