Morikawa leads WGC-Workday by two over Koepka, Horschel

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American golfer Collin Morikawa
American golfer Collin Morikawa
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images via AFP

World number six Collin Morikawa fired eight birdies in a five-under-par 67 on Saturday to hold a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship.

Morikawa, who claimed his first major title at the PGA Championship in August, led by as many as five strokes after an impressive run of seven birdies in eight holes at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida.

"Got off to a really good start and just kept rolling birdie after birdie, really didn't think about it, game was playing really boring, playing simple, hitting fairways and hitting greens and that's what we try to do out here every day," Morikawa said.

Two late bogeys -- and strong finishes for both Koepka and Horschel saw his lead shrink.

Koepka got off to a rocky start with bogeys at the first two holes. He pulled a shot back at the third and was back to even for the day after a six-foot birdie at the 12th.

The four-time major winner, seeking his second victory of this month after a win at the Phoenix Open, drained another six-footer at the 16th, then rolled in a 33-foot birdie putt at the 17th on the way to a two-under par 70.

He was joined on 203 by Horschel, who nailed a 14-foot birdie at 16 and a 12-foot eagle putt the par-five 17th -- the easiest hole on the course.

Morikawa wasn't able to take advantage of 17, finding a fairway bunker off the tee and a greenside bunker with his third shot and missing a seven-foot attempt to save par.

He had also dropped a shot at 13 -- unable to maintain the momentum that saw him streak ahead of the pack.

A 13-foot birdie at the fifth launched a run of five straight birdies that included a 31-footer at the sixth.

He was still rolling with birdies at 11 and 12 before things got shaky coming in.

"By the time I hit 13, just had a three-putt kind of stall and never really got it going again," Morikawa said. "Missed some fairways, kind of was struggling to make pars. But overall just a lot of positives to take into tomorrow."

Former US Open champion Webb Simpson was alone in third after a 69 for 204.

- Rory rollercoaster -

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy carded a 66 to join former Masters champion Patrick Reed (69) on 205.

McIlroy, whose double-bogey at the second was his second of the week, was buoyed by an eagle at the par-five 13th and seven birdies.

The Northern Ireland star said patience was key on the unfamiliar course, which is hosting the event after coronavirus pandemic logistical issues forced the move of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

"It seems like it's one of these courses where it gives up a lot of birdies and some eagles and stuff, but it can bite you very quickly without really doing much wrong," McIlroy said. "I've been riding the rollercoaster a little bit, but it felt a little better today."

Morikawa said the potential for disaster at so many holes meant his two-shot lead was far from safe.

"Oh, anything can happen," he said. "I know all the guys behind me, they're very capable of going low.

"That's why I've got to be ready from hole one and be ready all the way through the round tomorrow."

Leaderboard:

201 - Collin Morikawa 70-64-67

203 - Billy Horschel 67-67-69, Brooks Koepka 67-66-70

204 - Webb Simpson 66-69-69

205 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 69-70-66, Patrick Reed 68-68-69

206 - Viktor Hovland (NOR) 71-69-66, Scottie Scheffler 69-70-67, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 72-66-68, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 66-69-71

207 - Abraham Ancer (MEX) 71-66-70, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 69-68-70, Tony Finau 68-67-72

208 - Sergio Garcia (ESP) 67-74-67, Jason Kokrak 70-69-69

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