Collin Morikawa is dominating early at Kapalua.
Morikawa flew ahead to take an early two-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Friday. After a 9-under 64 to open the first PGA Tour event of the year on Thursday, Morikawa posted a bogey-free 66 at the Plantation Course in Hawaii on Friday to get to 16-under on the week, two shots ahead of Scottie Scheffler and J.J. Spaun.
He's the only man in the field to get through 36 holes without a bogey.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 7, 2023
"Just similar to yesterday, [it was] pretty solid, made some good putts," Morikawa said. "Obviously it played a lot harder with kind of the wind, and just the fairways rolling pretty fast, you end up in a lot of spots where you're just going to end up in the rough ... You just got to play shots and kind of hit 'em to good spots and thankfully we were able to take advantage of enough holes today to kind of keep those birdies going."
Morikawa got off to a hot start on Thursday. After making just a pair of birdies on his front nine, Morikawa opened the back with a career-best six birdies to surge ahead of the rest of the field. A huge part of that was his short game, something Morikawa finally feels comfortable with after a rough stretch.
"I just have answers," Morikawa said Thursday. "Before when I was putting it was like it was guess work. I might have putted well today and then thought I was doing something, but in reality it was something else.”
Morikawa kept it going Friday, opening with four birdies in his first five holes en route to his bogey-free 7-under. He nearly tied the Tour’s 36-hole scoring record, but his birdie on the par-5 18th was just off the mark.
Morikawa is searching for his sixth career win on Tour, and his first since the 2021 British Open. He had a pair of runner-up finishes on Tour last season, and eight top-10 finishes, but Morikawa failed to lift a trophy. He entered this week ranked No. 11 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Morikawa is 1-2 while holding a lead after 36 holes in his career.
Scheffler, who ended his day with four straight birdies, sits in second at 14-under after his second-round 66. He can reclaim the No. 1 ranking in the world with a solo third-place finish or better this week. Spaun is right with him at 14-under, and Jordan Spieth sits alone in fourth at 13-under on the week. Spieth had two eagles on Friday, too, including one that was nearly an albatross on the par-5 fifth.
While there's plenty of golf to be played, and a lot of great golfers right behind him, Morikawa looks extremely comfortable at the halfway mark of the first elevated event of the season.
"[Morikawa] played good, just very solid," Spaun said of his playing partner. "I don't think he made a bogey. He's a ball-striker, obviously. With conditions where it's windy and pins are kind of in spots where you got to be really precise with your distance control and trajectory, it's tailor-made for him."
Xander Schauffele WDs with back injury
Xander Schauffele withdrew from the event midway through his second round on Friday due to a back injury.
Schauffele said he had experienced some back issues earlier in the week, and that it had become too much to continue on after reaching the ninth hole on Friday.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 6, 2023
It’s unclear specifically what’s wrong with Schauffele’s back, but he’s expected to get an MRI next week. He was dealing with back pain at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last month, and he had to withdraw from the pro-am on Wednesday, too.
“Just trying to figure out what it is,” he said after posting a 3-under 70 on Thursday. “So yeah, it’s just a bummer.”
Schauffele is currently ranked No. 6 in the world. The 29-year-old has played just once this season before Kapalua. He had three wins on Tour last season, including back-to-back wins at the Travelers Championship and the Genesis Scottish Open, and seven top-20 finishes.
Schauffele is due to play next at The American Express in California in two weeks.
“I was back to full everything with my routine,” he said Friday of his actions after the Hero World Challenge, where his injury first started bothering him. “So that was probably a little immature on my part, to be completely honest. I’m 29, I need to preserve my health. I feel like I’ve done a really good job up until this point and the fact that I can’t really pinpoint what it is is a bit frustrating.”