And we’re away! 2023 kicked off on the PGA Tour these past two weeks with events in Hawaii and what a start to the year it was. First up Collin Morikawa snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, then Si Woo Kim chipped in on the 71st on the way to pipping overnight leader Hayden Buckley by a stroke in the Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club.
Collin Morikawa reacts to his second shot from a bunker on the 14th hole during the final round at Kapalua.
Andy Lyons. Image credit Getty Images
Nothing beats the drama of live sport, and typically, the back nine on Sunday of a golf tournament rarely disappoints. However, amid the gorgeous vistas from Kapalua, Morikawa wasn’t buying in to that theory. He was in cruise control and on the way to a dominant victory, six strokes clear of Jon Rahm with six to play. Then everything changed. Rahm went on a tear with three birdies and an eagle in four holes from the 12th to the 15th turning what seemed a procession, into an enthralling finish. After playing bogey-free golf for 67 holes Morikawa suddenly became human, making three in a row from the 14th, and standing on the 71st tee the Californian found himself two shots back to the Spaniard. Hang on, Morikawa’s a closer, he doesn’t let tournaments slip away. Come to think of it, he did blow a five-shot lead at the Hero World Challenge at the end of 2021. But surely that was an anomaly, right? Its why golf may be the craziest game of all. Rahm shut the door on the last with another birdie to open his 2023 campaign with an unlikely come from behind win. For Morikawa, it will be interesting to see how he handles the defeat.
A week later and a star of last year’s International team at the Presidents Cup, Si Woo Kim, came up clutch when it mattered most. Kim was neck and neck with third round leader Buckley who seemingly had things under control early until a short miss for birdie on the 9th and then another short miss for par on 11 meant it was game on. Back and forth they went. Buckley drained an 18-footer for birdie on 16 to take back the lead, then moments later Kim in the group ahead, answered burying his chip from the back of the 17th green. On 18 Kim hit one of the most enthralling tee shots of the tournament. Teeing his 3-wood at driver height right next to the right-hand tee marker, he blasted his ball over the huge palm trees lining the left side of the fairway in an effort to shorten the dogleg left par 5. Now, I see players doing this in the Wednesday pro-am but with the tournament on the line? Hats off to you Mr Kim for the cajones to tee the ball that high and take it on. For people watching on TV, they were probably (like me) thinking of every possible bad scenario unfolding… a cold top, skying it into orbit, or worse still - taking the tee marker out! His drive finished in the fairway bunker inside the dogleg, no problem. He backed that up with the shot of the tournament, hitting the middle of the green from the bunker and two putting for a closing birdie. It proved the difference as Buckley couldn’t get up and down on the last for birdie to force a playoff. It’s a great start to his second year on the PGA Tour, but he’ll know this one got away. For South Korea’s Kim, it’s his fourth PGA Tour win and showed his gutsy performances at last year’s Presidents Cup were no fluke.
On a side note, and from a selfishly patriotic POV, it was great to see Australian Aaron Baddeley finish T7 by shooting back-to-back 65’s over the weekend after getting in on a sponsors invite. Knew I should have backed the putting wizard for a top 10!
Watch for more posts from me and the D3 team in 2023.
- American Express Championship at PGA West, La Quinta California
- Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, La Jolla California
- AT&T ProAm at Pebble Beach!