Collin Morikawa played nearly flawless golf over a stretch of 10 holes Saturday, but he scuffled a bit over the final six holes and had to settled for a two-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Workday Championship.
The 24-year-old Cal grad made eight birdies — and one bogey — between the third and 12th holes to forge a five-stroke lead over the field. Starting on the fifth hole, Morikawa made five birdies in a row — a career-long run.
“I just kept rolling in birdie after birdie. I didn't really think about it," he said. “Golf was simple.”
But he had two bogeys and no more birdies over the final six holes while those chasing him warmed up.
When the day was done, Morikawa was in the clubhouse at 15 under par, with Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel each just two back minus 13. Webb Simpson is at 12 under and Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed at 11 under. A total of 10 golfers are within five strokes at the top of the leaderboard.
“Anything can happen,” Morikawa acknowledged.
The reigning PGA Championship winner will need to be sharp on Sunday to hold off the field and capture his fourth career tour title.
Armed with his new claw putting grip, Morikawa made 23 birdies over the first 48 holes at The Concession Golf Club at Bradenton, Florida.
Morikawa’s fellow Cal grad Max Homa fired a 67 on Saturday to move from a tie for 35th place to 19th. Homa, 30, is coming off his second career victory a week ago at The Genesis Invitational.
While Morikawa was reeling off birdie after birdie, Homa suggested their shared alma mater was taking charge of the sport:
A day earlier, Morikawa carded nine birdies and one bogey to score 64, leaving him one stroke behind 36-hole leader Koepka.
On Saturday, Morikawa made par on his first two holes of the third round, then had a birdie on No. 3 before a bogey on No. 4.
Then he birdied No. 5 with a 15-foot putt. Then No. 6, where he knocked in a 30-footer. And 7 and 8 and 9. Five in a row was a career-best streak, leaving him at 31 for the front nine.
After a par on the 10th, Morikawa birdies Nos. 11 and 12.
But he three-putted the 13th for a bogey and his torrid stretch was over.
“I never got it going again,” Morikawa said.
Meanwhile, his rivals were just getting warmed up.
Koepka shot 3-under par over the final 7 holes and Horschel had a par on 16 and an eagle on 17. McIlroy had four birdies and an eagle over the back nine to finish with a 66.
From the seemingly sturdy five-stroke edge, Morikawa now has a fight on his hands Sunday.
Cover photo of Collin Morikawa by Mike Watters, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo