Collin Morikawa set for final round chase: Can he catch Stewart Cink at Harbour Town?

The veteran Cink leads Morikawa by five shots heading into a final round of The RBC Heritage that is a battle of the generations.

Stewart Cink claimed his first PGA Tour win in 1997, a mere four months after Collin Morikawa was born.

Later today, the pair will make up the final pairing in the last round of The RBC Heritage, with 24-year-old Morikawa seeking to chase down 47-year-old Cink's five shot lead at Harbour Town Golf Links.

The contrast in their ages is both ludicrous and brilliant.

25 years ago Morikawa was nothing more than a bump in his mother's tummy, meanwhile Cink was earning graduation to the main tour with three wins on the second tier.

By the end of the following year, Morikawa was wearing nappies and Cink was changing those of his son, Reagan - now his caddie.

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The first time Cink won at Harbour Town, in 2000, Morikawa had just turned three.

And when Cink won the Open at Turnberry in 2009, overcoming 59-year-old Tom Watson in a playoff, Morikawa was just 12.

Now, the boot is on the other foot.

Cink has defied his age all week to amass an 18-under total of 196, but Saturday's third round was more of a fight than the pair of 63s that preceded it.

He was resilient in posting a 69, but his putting became deliberate, opportunities to go even lower were missed, and his stroke, with its deliberate early shake, looks a little vulnerable.

Morikawa made four birdies in five holes late in the day to emerge as his principle threat going into the final round, eventually signing for a 67 to sit alone in second on 13-under 200.

Emiliano Grillo is a stroke back of him in solo third, with Matt Wallace and Sunjae Im sharing fourth on 11-under.

Is it a done deal? Is Cink's advantage enough or can Morikawa chase him down?

Last week Hideki Matusyama led the Masters at this stage by four and was priced 5/6.

With an extra shot in the bag, Cink is rated a 2/5 shot with Paddy Power who also offer Morikawa at 9/2.

Let's take a closer look at the situation.

Cink - the breakaway leader

It was all so easy through 36 holes.

Which is not to say that he struggled on Saturday, simply that he looked like a golfer playing great golf but suddenly thinking about it a touch too much.

He gained over two strokes on the greens in the first two circuits and then lost more than one in the third lap. He gave himself plenty to looks at birdie, but he kind of guided the ball towards the hole rather than stroked it.

That sense of becoming deliberate is a threat, as is a charge from the pack, but he'll also have a wealth of experience on his side and the father-son caddie combination appears to be strong.

He's a two-time winner on the course, closing out those victories with rounds of 65 and 64. Moreover, six of his last seven Sunday scores at Harbour Town have been par or better.

He's had three significant 54-hole advantages over the field in his career: he turned a three shot lead at the 1996 Nike Tour Championship into a four shot win and was five strokes clear of an elite field at the 2004 NEC Invitational, eventually winning by four. In the 2000 Colonial he lost by two having led by three.

Morikawa - chief chaser

At first glance Morikawa's debut in this tournament last year was a little flat - nothing better than a cut made and an ordinary weekend for T64th.

But it came a week after playoff defeat in the Colonial and his exceptional approach play was always a good fit for Harbour Town on paper.

So it has proved: he leads the field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green (12.020) and no-one has hit more greens in regulation (83.3%).

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He'll needed to maintain that log game excellence because he's ranking outside the top 50 for SG Putting.

He won this year's WGC Workday Championship with a 54 hole lead, but his three wins before that came from lying second, third and fourth, before posting rounds of 64, 66 and 65 to lift the trophy. A repeat of that would ask questions of Cink.

Grillo, Wallace and Im - head of the peloton

Grillo went 47 holes without a bogey - and then made two in three. He ranks top six for SG long game categories, but is struggling when he misses the target (61st for Around the Greens).

Wallace doesn't rank top 10 in any individual stat category, modern or traditional. He's also seeking a breakthrough win on the PGA Tour.

Im is a powerhouse from the tee (ranking first SG Off the Tee), but is a best of 20th for approaching, around and on the greens.

Slipstreaming?

Last year Webb Simpson thrashed a 64 to complete the win here so he knows how to go low with the Sunday pins. Matthew Fitzpatrick and Harold Varner III both currently rank first for Par 4 Performance, alongside Cink. All three are currently tied sixth and eight shots back.

Harbour Town trends

The last five winners all ranked first or second on the par-4s.

There have been five 54-hole leaders with an advantage of three or more strokes since 1996; three lifted the trophy, two didn't. Cink himself overcame the biggest pre-final round deficit: nine in 2004. No-one else was more than six back.

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Rather incredibly, only two winners in the last ten years were tied third or better at this stage (both leading). Four of the last 25 winners were outside the top 10 with 18 holes to play.

Conclusion

Hefty hitters might want to back Cink at 2/5 with Paddy Power, the rest of us might want to look elsewhere.

If Morikawa can make early birdies he can apply pressure at 9/2, also Paddy Power.

Given the frequency of wins from a little further back in the field Simpson 45/1, Fitzpatrick 55/1 and Varner III 125/1 (all at Bet365) might prompt a little interest, but they need to go low and have help.

READ MORE: What they said: A round-up of the best quotes from the third round of The RBC Heritage

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