Collin Morikawa
Collin Morikawa

ANDOVER, Kan. — Collin Morikawa from La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., had a split-second loss of focus Wednesday at the 112th Trans- Mississippi Championship and because of it there’s a three-way tie for the lead headed into Thursday’s 36-hole finale.

An incoming freshman at California-Berkley, Morikawa is tied at 6-under-par 134 with his college teammate KK Limbhasut and John Flaherty from Glastonbury, Conn. Jin Cheng from Bejing, China, Philip Barbaree from Shreveport, La., and Andrew Presley from Fort Worth, Texas, are one shot back at 5-under 135 and share fourth place.

Morikawa played brilliantly through 17 and a half holes on a mild day with perfect scoring conditions at Flint Hills National Golf Club. A thoughtful golfer who keeps his head down and favors conservative lines, Morikawa put on a clinic: fairways, greens, putts that found the heart of the cup with perfect pace over and again.

At one point he was 8-under through 12 holes, on pace to threaten the course record and a possible 59. An unfortunate bogey on the 229- yard, par-3 fourth hole – Morikawa’s 13th, as he started on No. 10 – halted the torrid pace, but he got the shot back quickly with another birdie on his 16th hole.

A rare loose swing with a short iron caused Morikawa to miss the green on his final hole, the 488-yard, par-4 ninth hole. He proceeded to feather a nifty chip to the top of a ridge on the green, which funneled his ball to five feet from the hole. Instead running it the short par putt for an 8-under 62 and two-shot outright lead, he three-putted and took double-bogey.

Regardless, Morikawa’s 6-under 64 was good enough to set the competitive course record at Flint Hills National, which has hosted two USGA national championships.

“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.”

Indeed, the 72-hole Trans-Miss Championship culminates with a 36-hole final day, contested over two rounds. Fifty-six players made the 36- hole cut at 3-over 143.

Limbhasut, a Cal-Berkley sophomore, grew up in Berkley about an hour from Morikawa. The two played junior golf with and against each other, and Limbhasut helped recruit Morikawa. Limbhasut played nearly as dazzlingly as his buddy, posting a 5-under 65. He made six birdies, none longer than 15 feet.

“I only missed two fairways and one green,” he said. “I was hitting it pretty close, too. These greens are really receptive.”

Flaherty equaled Limbhasut’s 5-under 65 to earn his piece of the lead. A senior at the University of Connecticut, he went out in the morning wave and struggled early.

“I was grinding through the first six holes,” he said. “I only hit two greens. On my seventh hole, I thought I holed it from the fairway, but I hit it to a foot and a half.”

The tap-in birdie sparked something in Flaherty. He went bogey-free from there and poured in five birdies, including a 35-foot bonus on the final hole.

“The greens are rolling great,” Flaherty said. “I just pick a spot about halfway between my ball and hole and try to roll it over that spot.”

Twenty-five players are within five shots of the leaders. Without the rain and winds players saw Tuesday, Flint Hills National was imminently more playable in the second round. Only 10 players broke par in the first round; 49 posted red numbers Wednesday. The course played about three shots easier overall for the elite, 144-player field; the stroke average in the second round was 70.99.

“This set up is really great,” said Toledo senior Otto Black, who is tied for ninth place at 3-under 137. “Usually you get one funky hole out there, but not here. This is a well-designed course. The hole locations were difficult but very fair.”

Carved expertly from fertile Kansas farmland by Tom Fazio, Flint Hills National opened in 1997. It’s already hosted two USGA championships: the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur and 2007 U.S. Senior Amateur. A third national championship will be contested on the 6,912-yard, par-70 course when the U.S. Junior Amateur arrives in 2017.

This 112th version is the third Trans-Miss Championship to be played at Flint Hills. It also came to the sublime venue just minutes outside of Wichita, Kan., in 2003 and 2009.

The third round begins Thursday at 7:30 a.m.

Results: Trans-Miss Championship
1CACollin MorikawaLa Cañada Flintridge, CA120070-64-64-64=262
2LAPhilip BarbareeShreveport, LA90069-66-68-66=269
3ThailandK.K. LimbhasutThailand70069-65-69-68=271
4TXAndrew PresleyFt. Worth, TX70070-65-69-68=272
T5LAGrady Brame, Jr.Hammond, LA70070-68-71-66=275

View full results for Trans-Miss Championship

ABOUT THE Trans-Miss Championship

The Trans-Miss is one of the oldest and most storied golf tournaments in the United States. For 106 years the championship was played in a match play format. Past champions include Jack Nicklaus (1958 and 1959), Charles Coe (1947, 1949, 1952 and 1956), Deane Beman (1960), George Archer (1963), Ben Crenshaw (1972), Gary Koch (1973), Bob Tway (1978), Mark Brooks (1978) and other professional tour notables. In 1987 the championship was changed to a mid- amateur age requirement, and a senior division was also added. Starting in 2010, the Trans- Mississippi Championship, returned to its roots as an open amateur tournament, and immediately established itself as a "must-play" among top collegiate and mid-am players, while changing to a 72-hole stroke play format. The field size starts at 144 players from Trans- Mississippi Golf Association member clubs (or players receiving a special invitation from the Championship Committee). After 36 holes, a cut is made to the low 54 and ties who play the final two rounds.

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