KAPALUA, Hawaii — Collin Morikawa already has received two majors and performed within the opening session twice within the Ryder Cup. His opening tee shot Thursday at Kapalua felt as particular as any second.
Lengthy earlier than Sahith Theegala rolled in his tenth birdie for a 9-under 64 to steer The Sentry, the PGA Tour started a brand new yr with a ceremony on the primary tee. It featured a Hawaiian blessing and chants geared towards renewal and regrowth, with emphasis on the lethal Lahaina fires.
Morikawa has a deep connection to Maui and hit the opening tee shot.
The place it went — straight and so lengthy it rolled by way of the green into the tough — was of little significance to him.
“As particular because it’s ever going to get,” Morikawa stated of the primary of his 65 photographs on Thursday. “I can speak about last rounds, final photographs, first tee, last group and people within the majors, however that was as huge of an honor as I might have had. Not as a result of it was the primary event of the yr, however as a result of it was out right here in Maui, every little thing that this week represents for me.
“It simply means that rather more.”
He performed prefer it meant extra, with six birdies and one eagle when he carved a 3-wood as much as the elevated inexperienced for eagle on the par-5 ninth.
On this wonderful day of surprisingly little wind and typical magnificent views, Morikawa had loads of firm. His 65 was the perfect of the day till Theegala warmed up, beginning the again 9 with six straight birdies. He acquired up-and-down on the par-5 18th for one final birdie.
Theegala made his Kapalua debut final yr by reaching the Tour Championship as a rookie. Now the sector at The Sentry — for years restricted solely to PGA Tour winners from the earlier yr — has been expanded to winners and the highest 50 within the FedEx Cup. Theegala could be there it doesn’t matter what, because of his win in Napa, California, in September.
The 59-player discipline is the biggest ever for Kapalua, and so they all had their approach on a forgiving Plantation course lacking its nice protection with solely a tropical breeze.
Theegala nonetheless needed to work — an 18-foot putt on No. 10, a tee shot to 2 ft on the par-3 eleventh, after which his favourite, a 10-foot birdie on a twelfth gap with a lot slope and grain he wasn’t positive how the putt was going to interrupt.
“I simply aimed it lifeless heart and tried to hit it arduous,” he stated. “That settled me down slightly bit extra, as a result of I knew 13, 14, 15 had been very gettable, too.”
And he acquired them, capping his streak with a two-putt birdie from 20 ft on the par-5 fifteenth.
It felt that approach for everybody.
Eighteen gamers had been at 67 or decrease, and that was to be anticipated. The Plantation course’s greatest protection is the wind, and it laid down for a lot of the day. Even dangerous begins turned out effectively. Justin Rose went out in 40 and had six birdies on the again to salvage a 71.
Jordan Spieth hit the primary foul ball of the yr, pushing his tee shot effectively proper on the third gap into the tall native grasses, resulting in a double bogey. He answered with nine birdies and was within the group at 7-under 66 that included Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler, the two-time PGA Tour participant of the yr and No. 1 participant on the earth.
“I did not must battle an excessive amount of for pars,” Scheffler stated.
The wind arrived later within the afternoon, however so many gamers had been dialed in.
“You are enjoying golf on the facet of a volcano. It is fairly totally different than lots of the golf we play,” Scheffler stated. “It is positively a enjoyable technique to begin the yr, enjoyable golf course to play. Though the scores are low, I nonetheless really feel such as you’re challenged quite a bit since you acquired to maintain the pedal down the entire time.”
That is what Morikawa tried to do from the opening group, making his strongest transfer alongside the again 9 with its two par 5s and two quick par 4s.
But it surely was the beginning that meant a lot.
His grandparents had been born in Lahaina and way back had The Morikawa Restaurant, which closed some twenty years earlier than he was born. However the 26-year-old Californian got here to Lahaina throughout household holidays as a boy.
He was warming up throughout the ceremony however nonetheless heard the drums, the chants. It was chilling on a balmy day on the west finish of Maui.
“It acquired slightly bit emotional,” he stated. “I feel simply because I do know what everybody has gone by way of, you hear it from these households, and also you meet everybody out right here on the island that is aware of somebody or has been affected firsthand. Maui’s small. Hawaii’s very, very small. Folks know everybody. Simply acquired emotional.
“With the ability to hit that first tee shot, it was an honor simply to have the ability to try this and, yeah, it is a good way to kick off the brand new yr.”