Kapalua, Hawaii “John Rahm is starting to get used to the poor performance on the plantation field in Kapalua. He can only hope that this start leads to a better finish in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
A year after being 33 under par and still finishing second, Rahm hit three of his last four holes at 9-64 and shared Thursday’s lead with Colin Morikawa and JJ Spawn for an idyllic start to the year.
Morikawa started the back nine with six in a row, his longest such streak on the PGA tour. Spawn, who competed in Kapalua for the first time, had four straight birds on his back and only one complaint.
“My toes hurt,” he said. “It’s a long walk, even if it can play the role of a short distance.
Cameron Smith won last year at the age of 34, a PGA Tour record, in a week with almost no wind. Whether more records will be set this week depends on the trading win, who, like most of those who come to Maui, was on vacation on Thursday.
As for whether Kapalua owes him, Ram didn’t buy.
“I can’t justify this on many golf courses,” Ram said. “I can’t talk much, man. I shot below 33. I was beaten by 34 less. That’s what it is. We were both very good golfers. It was a great battle. Hopefully if we get to this point again, hopefully it will be me and hopefully I win by one in the end.”
The plantation field is in great shape, fast but not firm due to the steep slopes which can take longer for shots to roll on the ground than to fly in the air.
Morikawa is one of the 10 players who failed to win last year and still made it to the Tournament of Champions. In line with the bold new PGA Tour high-revenue schedule – this week’s $15 million purse – the Kapalua field has been expanded to include everyone who has made it to the tour championship.
The two-time major champion is determined to correct the shortcomings that slowed him down last year by hiring putting coach Stephen Sweeney and turning to former player Parker McLachlin for help with his short game.
“I just have the answers,” Morikawa said. “Before, when I put it on, it was like guesswork. Maybe today I took a good bite, and then I thought I was doing something, but in fact it was something else. ”
Everything he had on Thursday worked and it helped him see the 20-footer earlier. And then he ran away from those six birds in a row, only two of them were outside 10 feet.
Tom Kim had two eagles, hit 116 yards on the sixth hole of the descent and drilled fairway metal up to 5 feet on par-5 15th. He was 65, one shot behind.
Jordan Spieth was at his best, missing a 2-foot par on one hole and scoring slap from the collar of the bunker just behind the back of the 16th green to keep steam. He finished with 67.
Billy Horschel was the only player out of 39 who couldn’t beat par with 76.
Those 66 included Masters champion Scotty Scheffler, who could return to world number one with a third-place finish, and Tom Hoge, who has a big travel schedule ahead of him.
Hoge played college golf at TCU. He has earned his place in Kapalua for the first time, and next week he will be in Oahu for the Sony Open, a journey that will be about 5,000 miles. Hoge said he would leave Maui Sunday night for Los Angeles to watch the Horned Frogs play for the national championship against Georgia before returning to Honolulu.
“We haven’t won since 1938,” Hoge said. “I may not have another chance in my life.”
Xander Schauffele, who won at Kapalua in 2019 and lost in the playoffs the following year, scored 70 points, solving a problem that first arose a month ago in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He’s not sure what happened, only that he couldn’t swing much.
“I’m 29 and Hero was the first release I’ve ever had, so this is new to me,” Schauffele said. “That’s why I don’t know how to answer these questions. I never had to do this. I hope we don’t have these conversations more often.”
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