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Collin Morikawa acknowledges the crowd after making his putt on the 18th hole during the first round of The Sentry golf tournament at Kapalua Golf – The Plantation Course. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Collin Morikawa has won two major championships and experienced the heights of the game but the honor of hitting the first tee shot at The Sentry on Thursday at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course on Maui he said was as good as it gets.

“I can talk about final rounds, last shots, first tee, final group and those in the majors, but that was as big of an honor as I could have had,” he said. “Not because it was the first tournament of the year, but because it was out here in Maui, everything that this week represents for me. It just means that much more.”

That’s because a series of wild fires broke out in August in the state of Hawaii, predominantly causing devastation in Maui and not far from Kapalua at Lahaina’s Front Street. Morikawa’s grandfather once owned a restaurant there.

“I wasn’t on the first tee for the opening ceremony, but I heard it as I was walking up to go to the range. It got a little bit emotional,” Morikawa said. “I think just because I know what everyone has gone through, you hear it from these families, and you meet everyone out here on the island that knows someone or has been affected firsthand. Maui’s small. Hawaii’s very, very small. People know everyone. Just got emotional. Being able to hit that first tee shot, it was an honor just to be able to do that and, yeah, it’s a great way to kick off the new year.”

So is shooting a bogey-free 8-under 65 in the first round. Morikawa is donating $2,000 for every birdie and $4,000 for every eagle. Six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 ninth equaled $16,000 for the first round, a figure that his apparel sponsor Adidas agreed to match.

Morikawa, who blew a six-stroke lead heading into the final round last year at The Sentry, is just one stroke off the lead and playing for a higher purpose this week. He was most pleased with how he flighted the ball and controlled spin.

“Out here you just got to be able to hit shots and I think the next three days with the wind probably picking up to normal or higher winds you just got to be able to see the shot and really feel it and have control of the spin on the golf ball, that’s the ultimate thing,” he said. “It’s all about spin control, it really is. Especially as soft the greens are,…


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