In the 2023 Tournament of Champions, it is not a win from the 2021-22 season that occupies the top of the leaderboard, but a prolific winner nonetheless. Collin Morikawa commands the solo lead at 16 under midway through the action on the Plantation Course at Kapalua as the two-time major champion has looked rejuvenated with putter in hand.
A top three-iron player on the PGA Tour each of the last three seasons, Morikawa’s putter has often held the keys to victory. If he putst well, he seriously threatens to enter the winner’s circle. If he doesn’t, an appearance on the third or fourth side of the leaderboard usually takes shape.
This week the former is unfolding as the introduction of adding coach Stephen Sweeney and card game guru Parker McLachlin to his inner circle is already paying dividends. Over the weekend, the card game must continue to make money if he is to enter the winner’s circle for the first time since November 2022 and for the first time in the United States since February 2021.
It will be no easy task, as he is closely followed by Tournament of Champions debutant JJ Spaun and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler at 14 under. Jordan Spieth, Tom Kim, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick are all atop the leaderboard and within five strokes of Morikawa with 36 holes remaining.
1. Collin Morikawa (-16)
Morikawa may not have won in 2022, but statistically he was exactly the same from a stroke-winning perspective as he was in 2021 when he won three times. This week, he leads the field in strokes gained putting, got nearly four strokes with the flat club through two rounds, and combined with his buttery iron game, has produced a lethal one-two punch. As someone who typically lags behind the competition on the greens, it is this club that will make or break the world No.11’s first start of the year.
T2. Scottie Scheffler, JJ Spaun (-14)
4. Jordan Spieth (-13)
5. Tom Kim (-12)
T6. Matt Fitzpatrick, Jon Rahm (-11)
T8. Luke List, Tony Finau, Corey Conners, Aaron Wise (-10)
What more is there to say about Tom Kim? Whenever it looks like the course is unsuitable for his game or the competition is too tough, he appears on the first page of the leaderboard. Along with former world No.1 Rahm on Friday, Kim looked composed despite letting his fair share of birdie opportunities fall by the wayside. Still just four strokes off the pace of Morikawa, if he is to win, it would not only be his third win of his very young PGA Tour career, but the 20-year-old would also be following in the footsteps of a pretty big name (Tiger Woods).
Scheffler looks set to regain world No. 1 status
The former world No.1 is in position to return to the top spot in the world over the weekend should he finish in a two-way tie for third or better. In order for him to do that, Scheffler will need the putter to start cooperating as he currently leads the field in strokes gained tee to green.
In the 16 starts since winning The Masters, Scheffler has averaged -0.35 strokes gained putting per round. Through two rounds at Kapalua, he has posted -0.69 strokes gained putting per round and is 30th in the field. A turnaround with this club could lead to victory and ascension to No. 1 in the world once again.
2023 Tournament of Champions updated odds and picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Collin Morikawa: 2-1
- Scottie Scheffler: 5/13
- Jordan Spieth: 7-1
- Jon Rahm: 17/2
- JJ Spaun: 12-1
- Tom Kim: 14-1
- Matt Fitzpatrick: 22-1
- Tony Finau: 28-1
This is tough. Conventional wisdom suggests that Morikawa is regressing on the greens, but that’s without knowing the persistence of this newfound confidence in his putting stroke. This would also mean that Scheffler shows improvement, which I think is the most likely scenario, and just shorter than 3-1 is a worthy investment.
Spieth continues to be a human rollercoaster and Rahm is starting to show similar traits that make me uneasy at the thought of rooting for either of them. Not sure if Kim can continue this rapid ascent, if I’m itching for a longer price my money would be on Finau at 28-1 hoping for a hot putting performance over the weekend.