Collin Morikawa found the perfect ending to his 2023 PGA Tour season.
With a nearly flawless final-round 63, Morikawa cruised to a six-stroke victory over Eric Cole and Beau Hossler to capture the Zozo Championship near Tokyo.
It ended a two-year winless period for Morikawa, whose last victory came at the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s and included two near-misses earlier this year.
“It feels incredible,” Morikawa said Sunday after his bogey-free 7-under final round at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan, capped a 14-under 266 total. “Every win's so different, and every experience, whether it's winning or losing, you learn a lot, but this one just meant the world.
“Obviously having this kind of two-year drought, just struggling at times, not really contending, to do what I did through this entire week, Thursday, Friday, and then how I started my round yesterday with a double bogey, it just – that's the golf I miss playing.”
After opening with a 64 to take the first-round lead, Morikawa found himself in a crowded pack near the top of the leaderboard through the weekend. While Cole and Hossler were chasing their first tour wins, Morikawa looked like the world-beater who won two majors in a 12-month span in 2020-21 again.
For Morikawa, 26, a native Californian whose great-grandparents lived in Japan before moving to Hawaii, the Zozo Championship has found a place on his short list of must-play events each season.
It was his last official PGA Tour start this year and put a nice bow on a year that began with Morikawa losing a six-stroke lead entering the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January. He also lost a playoff to Rickie Fowler in the Rocket Mortgage Championship during the summer.
Always one of the game’s most consistent ball-strikers, Morikawa has found that his putting rarely has been as reliable as his long game. In 2021-22, Morikawa ranked 178th on tour in strokes gained putting, 131st last year and is 111th this year.
At the Zozo, Morikawa installed a change that made a difference.
“We found something, and we're going to stick to it,” said Morikawa, who earned $1.53 million from the $8.5 million purse for his sixth career victory. “Look, you never know whether it's going to be right or wrong, but something was off. Something I just couldn't figure out.
“[Caddie] J.J. [Jakovac] and I were just looking at each other very confused and trying a bunch of different things. We weren't changing too much. We were just trying to look at putts a different way. We stuck to it. It was nice to see putts roll in in the first round, and then that continued.”
The Japan stop, the PGA Tour’s lone visit to Asia this season, represents the first of three tournaments outside of the U.S. After a week off, the tour will visit the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula on November 2-5 for the World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante, a Tiger Woods design, in Cabo San Lucas. The Butterfield Bermuda Championship will follow on November 9-12 before the tour returns to the U.S. for the last of its seven fall events, the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Ron Green Jr.