Collin Morikawa rolled in a lengthy birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole to join a tie for the lead after one round at the Hero World Challenge on Friday in Albany, Bahamas.
Morikawa shot a 3-under 69, as did Viktor Hovland of Norway, Tom Kim of South Korea and Austria’s Sepp Straka. The quartet is one shot ahead of Sam Burns (2-under 70).
Four of Morikawa’s six birdies on the day came on the back nine at Albany Golf Club, the site of Tiger Woods’ unofficial tournament benefiting his foundation. The field is made up of just 20 players.
Morikawa, the two-time major champion, began his round with two bogeys over his first six holes before getting those strokes back with birdies at Nos. 8 and 9. He added birdies at Nos. 11, 14 and 15, two of which were the two par 5s on the back nine.
After a bogey at the par-3 17th, he bounced back by draining an uphill putt to get back to 3 under.
“It felt really good,” Morikawa said of his putting. “There’s a lot of things that I’m still working on and it’s not easy to like putt when you’re thinking about technique or something like that, but it’s been a really good balance of kind of just understanding what I’m doing, right, and then kind of showing up.”
Hovland is the event’s defending champion and sank an eagle 2 at the par-4 14th. That got him to 4 under for the day before he gave one shot back with a bogey at the 16th.
Hovland’s drive at the 307-yard hole landed on the green and rolled just by the cup, narrowly missing an ultra-rare hole-in-one on a par 4.
“I like kind of drivable holes because when I’m hitting my driver well, I feel like I can be pretty aggressive,” Hovland said. “And that green obviously is not the biggest green, but with how soft it is, if you land it on the green, you can keep it on the green whereas if it was really firm, you kind of have to land it up in the slope and stuff.”
Kim had the only bogey-free card of the day. He parred the opening nine before sinking birdies at 11th, 14th and 18th.
It’s the 20-year-old’s tournament debut after his rapid rise to prominence in the latter half of 2022, which saw him win two events.
“I’m very grateful for it,” Kim said. “I definitely don’t take it for granted and I’m extremely grateful to be 20 years old and to play on the PGA Tour. But I’ve worked really hard for it and I’m enjoying every moment out there.”
Straka had six birdies and three bogeys on his card. He entered the field as a replacement for Woods himself, as the legend had to withdraw due to plantar fasciitis.
“It’s a tournament that I’ve always watched and always wanted to be a part of it and it’s just an honor to be here,” Straka said.
Cameron Young, Max Homa and Englishman Tommy Fleetwood are tied for sixth at 1-under 71. Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau make up a star-studded group tied for ninth at even-par 72.
–Field Level Media