ANDOVER, Kan. — Collin Morikawa made good on a promise he made to himself yesterday. After blistering most of the course at Flint Hills National Golf Club on Wednesday, at one time on a pace to break the course record, he momentarily lost focus on the final hole. He still managed to set the Flint Hills National competitive course record with a 6-under 64.
“I just lost focus there on the last hole,” he said. “I rushed and wanted to get in. It’s a good lesson for tomorrow. I’ll wipe that off and get ready for 36 holes tomorrow.”
Morikawa, who will be a freshman at Cal-Berkley this fall, didn’t rush things on Thursday. He wiped the memories of yesterday’s three-putt at 18 away, then wiped the rest of his opponents off the course on his way to a seven-stroke win at the 112th Trans-Mississippi Championship.
Morikawa came into the final day tied at 6-under-par 134 with soon-to-be college teammate KK Limbhasut and John Flaherty from Glastonbury, Connecticut.
“I knew that I had some of the guys (with whom he was tied at the start) playing right behind me,” Morikawa told AmateurGolf.com after he won the tournament, “so having a good first 18 was really important to get ahead of everyone. Luckily, I did get a nice 6-under again.”
His first round started with a birdie on the first hole, but followed that up with the only mistake of the round, a bogey on the par-4, 422-yard second hole.
While Flaherty and Limbhasut couldn’t get anything going during the final round, birdies on holes 4 and 5 put Morikawa at 8-under par after five holes. Four birdies and five pars on the back nine pushed him to 12-under, six-under for the round to match the competitive course record he set yesterday.
“I felt comfortable but with another 18 holes, anything can happen,” Morikawa said. “But if I just stuck to my game plan that I’ve had for the past couple of days, I knew I could pull it out. I didn’t see a scoreboard, but I was guessing my lead was 3 to 4 at that point. I just wanted to maintain focus.”
With a seemingly insurmountable lead at 12-under, Morikawa was able to maintain the focus well enough to birdie two of the first three holes of his final round.
“I felt good after the first round. My driving wasn’t that great, but I kept the ball in play and my ball striking from the fairway to the green was some of the best I’ve ever seen, and I was able to make some putts, too, so that helped,” Morikawa humbly said. “I just wanted to get out and make more birdies.”
A mistake for a bogey on No. 6 was a just a brief glitch in his round.
“That was terrible golf right there. But I was able to overcome it and play well,” he said.
He birdied the next two holes to go 3-under on the front side and 15-under overall. That gave him an 8-stroke lead going into the final nine holes.
Morikawa continued his waltz through the course, earning his third consecutive birdie on the par-5 No. 11. Another birdie on No. 14, a 216-yard par-3, he was at 17-under, seven strokes ahead of Phillip Barbaree.
Barbaree, of Shreveport, La, came into the final round only a stroke behind the leaders at 5-under. His late charge on the final day tightened things up a bit. The first round of the day was a good 2-under 68, placing him 7-under par for the tournament. But good sometimes isn’t good enough.
Although Barbaree, a 2017 LSU commit, finished with four birdies on the back nine for a 66 and 11-under for the tournament, it didn’t matter. The 17 year-old Morikawa, from La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., finished in style with three more birdies, including one on the 18th, to card his third consecutive round of 64.
Grady Brame of Hammond, La., had an amazing start to his final round of the tournament. His front-side 29 started with a birdie the first, but a bogey on No. 3 brought his round back to even. He then went on a run of six consecutive birdies to put him at 7-under. He finished his day with a 4-under 66 and a 5-under 275 for the tournament.
Morikawa will try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur on Tuesday, and will play in the Pacific Coast Amateur and the Western Amateur, as well.