At the 2023 Tournament of Champions, it is not a victor from the 2021-22 season that occupies the top of the leaderboard, but a prolific winner, nevertheless. Collin Morikawa commands the solo lead at 16 under midway through the action at the Plantation Course at Kapalua as the two-time major champion has looked rejuvenated with the 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 putts well, he seriously threatens to enter the winner’s circle. If he doesn’t, an appearance on the third or fourth page of the leaderboard usually takes shape.
This week the former is unfolding as the introduction of putting coach Stephen Sweeney and short-game guru Parker McLachlin to his inner circle is already paying dividends. Over the weekend, the short game will need to continue to cash in if he is to enter the winner’s circle for the first time since November 2022 and for the first time in the U.S. since February 2021.
It will be no easy task as he is followed closely behind by Tournament of Champions debutant J.J. Spaun and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler at 14 under. Jordan Spieth, Tom Kim, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick all find themselves on the first page of the leaderboard and within five strokes of Morikawa with 36 holes to play.
1. Collin Morikawa (-16)
Morikawa may not have won in 2022, but statistically, he was the exact same from a strokes-gained perspective as he was in 2021 when he won three times. This week, he leads the field in strokes gained putting, gaining nearly four strokes with the flat stick through two rounds, and combined with his buttery iron play has made for a lethal one-two punch. As someone who typically lags behind the competition on the greens, it is this club which will make or break the world No. 11’s first start of the year.
T2. Scottie Scheffler, J.J. 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? Every time it appears as if the course is unsuitable for his game or the competition is too stiff, he pops up on the first page of the leaderboard. Paired with former world No. 1 Rahm on Friday, Kim looked at ease despite letting his fair share of birdie opportunities fall by the wayside. Still only four strokes off the pace of Morikawa, if he is to win, not only would it be his third victory in his very young PGA Tour career, but the 20-year-old would also be following in the footsteps of a rather big name (Tiger Woods).
Scheffler looks 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 so, Scheffler will need the putter to begin to cooperate as he currently leads the field in strokes gained tee to green.
In the 16 starts following his victory at 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 ranks 30th in the field. A turnaround with this club could lead to a win and ascending to No. 1 in the world again.
2023 Tournament of Champions updated odds and picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Collin Morikawa: 2-1
- Scottie Scheffler: 13/5
- Jordan Spieth: 7-1
- Jon Rahm: 17/2
- J.J. Spaun: 12-1
- Tom Kim: 14-1
- Matt Fitzpatrick: 22-1
- Tony Finau: 28-1
This is tough. Conventional wisdom suggests Morikawa regresses on the greens, but that is without knowing the staying power of this new-found confidence in his putting stroke. This would also mean Scheffler shows improvement, which I believe to be the more likely scenario, and at just shorter than 3-1 is a worthwhile investment.
Spieth continues to be a human rollercoaster and Rahm is beginning to show similar characteristics making me uneasy about the idea of backing either of them. Unsure if Kim can continue this rapid ascension, if itching for a longer price, my money would be on Finau at 28-1 with the hope of a hot putting performance over the weekend.