Start with a Rubik’s Cube. Twist it and crank it, make it as hopeless looking as you can, and it won’t matter. Put that thing in front of a certain subset of nimble-fingered geniuses and they’ll figure it out in a matter of seconds. They’re just too good.
What’s happening at the sun-splashed World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession, where Collin Morikawa (67) will take a two-shot lead over Billy Horschel (69) and Brooks Koepka (70) into Sunday, is essentially the golfing version of that.
Whoever wins, it will be a victory for that ineffable quality known as golf IQ, that unseen but still very real attribute that separates the elite of the elite on the PGA TOUR.
“I’m kind of good at resetting,” Morikawa said after a round in which he reeled off eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch. “And figuring out what I did well, and just kind of pushing that forward into tomorrow and really figuring out what I didn’t do great, obviously, those last few holes and just learn from them.” (After building a five-shot lead, Morikawa bogeyed two back-nine par 5s.)
This marks the second time Morikawa will take at least a share of the lead into the final round. The first was the 2019 3M Open, where he tied for second. He leads the field with 23 birdies.
Webb Simpson (69) will go into Sunday at 12 under, three back, while Rory McIlroy (66) and Patrick Reed (69) are by no means out of it at 11 under. Even Viktor Hovland (66, 10 under), is still in the mix. He has made 12 birdies and an eagle the last two days but showed how fast the course can bite back when he made a quadruple-bogey 8 on his last hole Friday.
They’ve been the fastest to solve the Rubik’s Cube that is The Concession.
Before this week only a handful of players had ever seen the course that members call The Concussion. There’s water everywhere, and sand, plus the odd alligator. Then there’s the roller-coaster greens. And yet the best players in the world are figuring it out.
Morikawa, who at 24 already has three TOUR wins, including a major, is an especially fast learner, and this week he’s been buoyed by a chipping lesson from Concession member Paul Azinger. What’s more, the young Cal graduate has built his putting stroke, which he calls “kind of the saw,” with input from PGA TOUR Champions member Mark O’Meara.
Here’s how fast the best in the world adapt to a new course: Koepka, who has come from behind in four of his eight TOUR wins, had never seen the back nine until the first round Thursday.
“I mean, Rick walked it,” he said with a shrug after the first round, a reference to his longtime caddie, Ricky Elliott. “I get a yardage book, it’s not too difficult.”
Well, it is, actually. But these guys just make it look like it isn’t.
“You can make this golf course as easy or as hard on yourself as you want to be,” McIlroy said after vaulting up the leaderboard with a back-nine 31, including an eagle at the par-5 13th hole. “If you want to take something on and put it into sort of smaller spots to give yourself better looks, you can, or you can lay back if you’re more comfortable doing that.