Rookie of the Year race down to five at BMW
Im in prime position, but Morikawa is a threat
August 15, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Collin Morikawa drains birdie putt from 25 feet at BMW Championship
MEDINAH, Ill. – It was hard to miss the symbolism as Sungjae Im, 26th in the FedExCup and the current favorite for Rookie of the Year, stroked putts on the practice green after an opening-round, 2-under 70 at the BMW Championship at Medinah No. 3.
That’s because behind him, meeting the press after his 5-under 67, was Collin Morikawa.
Im, 21, has a swing that is the envy of his peers. Morikawa, 22, would be in the top 10 in scoring average, driving accuracy and greens in regulation if he’d played enough rounds to qualify. FedExCup points, wins and career trajectories make them the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year.
“Yeah, it's kind of something that's definitely popped up just kind of out of the blue over the past month since I've got that win,” said Morikawa, who three weeks ago birdied four of the last five holes to win the Barracuda Championship. “But yeah, it's definitely a goal of mine now. I've got to play well here and make it to next week. That's the only thing I've got to worry about.”
Five rookies have advanced to the 69-player BMW Championship: frontrunner Im (FedExCup No. 26), Morikawa (57), Cameron Champ (58), Adam Long (65) and Wyndham Clark (68).
Which one will win top rookie honors for 2018-’19? History provides several clues.
First of all, Morikawa is right in saying he’s got to get to the 30-man TOUR Championship. Since the inception of the FedExCup in 2007, only twice has the eventual Rookie of the Year not qualified for East Lake: Rickie Fowler in 2010, and Chesson Hadley in 2014.
Secondly, no one has won Rookie of the Year without also having the most FedExCup points. Im has a healthy lead, but the Playoffs, where the winner gets 2,000 points, can be very volatile.
And there’s an X-factor: Im and Morikawa are both used to fast starts. Im was the Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year last season, while Morikawa was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
That this could even become a race at all is somewhat surprising. Im has played in a staggering 33 tournaments this season, while Morikawa has played in just eight after spending most of this year earning his Business Administration degree at Cal.At the moment, though, they appear to be first and second among equals, barring a big move at Medinah by the other three candidates.
Champ and Long, who won the long-ago Sanderson Farms Championship and Desert Classic, respectively, haven’t made much noise since then. Both were quiet again at Medinah, with Champ bogeying three of his last seven holes for a 1-under 71, and Long signing for 72.
Clark, who shot 69 in the first round, is just happy to be here; he was one of four players to go from outside to inside the top 70 with his result (T18) at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
That leaves Im and Morikawa, the latter of whom is just two off the lead. On Wednesday, he said, he “found some things” with his driver. On Thursday, he made over 140 feet of putts.
Surprised? Maybe not. Morikawa’s T2 finish at the 3M Open – won by fellow rookie Matthew Wolff, whose season ended at THE NORTHERN TRUST – gave him Special Temporary Member status, meaning he could accept unlimited sponsor exemptions. And when he won Barracuda, he became the first Special Temporary Member to win on TOUR since 2015.
Like Im, Morikawa's future looks beyond bright.
“I have goals,” he said. “Just because I reached those goals for this summer, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop here. I'm not satisfied with just ending my season here. Obviously, it's very fun, and I'm grateful to be here after the win, but it doesn't stop here.”