Let’s be real here. Collin Morikawa does enjoy a No. 1 ranking. He asked his longtime girlfriend, Katherine Zhu, to marry him a few days ago and she said, “yes.”
So, there’s no question about it. He’s No. 1, at least in her book.
On the other hand, the 24-year old will have to wait for another day to don the No. 1 belt as far as the Official World Golf Rankings are concerned.
The number was there for the taking, before the final round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas. Morikawa, who won his second major championship — the British Open at Royal St. George’s — earlier this year, started the final round on Sunday at Albany with a five-shot lead.
If he could protect it, he would leapfrog Jon Rahm — who was not in the field — and become the No. 1 player in the aforementioned rankings.
On Saturday evening, that seemed like an uncontested layup, a hanging curve to Aaron Judge, an open net for Connor McDavid. Coming into the day, Morikawa was working on a second straight win, after capturing the DP World Tour in Dubai. He had rounds of 68-66-64 at Albany and a string of 10 consecutive rounds in the 60s. He was 18-under par, owner of 18 birdies and two eagles, trending in the right direction. He looked en fuego.
“It's just exciting," Morikawa said late Saturday. “You love being in these spots and you don't get them every week. You wish you did, but when you do, you want to take advantage of them, so hopefully we can take advantage tomorrow.”
This was not the 1996 Masters, after all. And he is not Greg Norman, who fumbled a six-shot lead on that fateful Sunday in Augusta.
But on a strange day of odd moments in the Bahamas, nothing was more bizarre than Morikawa’s meltdown. In a matter of two holes, a matter of two lost balls, a matter of minutes, Morikawa’s hopes for another win and the Numero Uno ranking vanished.
The scenario was stunning. After opening the day with three generic pars, Morikawa maintained his 18-under position and a four-shot lead on a charging Sam Burns.
Then came a lost ball and a 6 at No. 4 — his first double bogey in 58 Hero holes. Next came another lost ball and another double at No. 6, as Morikawa’s mud ball in the fairway went flying way left. Meanwhile, Burns was making a third straight birdie at No. 8 to move to 16-under.
And just like that, Morikawa went to 14-under, from comfortably leading to trailing Burns by two shots, It was like a Nicolas Cage movie. A five shot lead, not Gone In 60 Seconds, but gone in six holes.
Try as he might, the 24-year old Morikawa, who is often touted as the game’s best iron player, could not get it back. Burns had his own Waterloo, suffering a triple-bogey at 14 and falling by the wayside. But Morikawa wasn’t around to take advantage. He bogeyed No. 9 to finish the front side with a birdie-less 41.
Two birdies on the back amounted to too little too late. By that time, Viktor Hovland had caught fire and pushed the lead out of reach. The outcome was ordained when Morikawa made one last bogey at No. 18 and finished with a 4-over 76, 12 shots off his score of a day earlier.
In the end, 18-under was the right number. Morikawa couldn’t protect it, Hovland posted it for the win.
Oddly enough, it was Hovland who got out of the way earlier in the week, giving his master suite to Morikawa for his engagement plans on Tuesday night. On Sunday, it worked the other way.
But safe to say the week wasn’t a total loss for Morikawa, who finished tied for fifth. He’s still No. 1 with his fiancé.