Collin Morikawa makes waves at The Open Championship
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Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
SANDWICH, England – Collin Morikawa has a chance to become the first player to win two separate major championships on debut after a scintillating 6-under 64 in the second round of The 149th Open.
Morikawa surged to nine under 131 through 36 holes, a record for Opens at Royal St. George’s that only stood for an afternoon until Louis Oosthuizen backed up his opening 64 with a 5-under 65 to take a two-shot lead at 11-under 129.
Oosthuizen’s mark is the lowest opening 36 holes in 149 years of Open Championships, besting the previous 130 held by Nick Faldo from Muirfield in 1992 (66-64) and Brandt Snedeker from Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012 (66-64).
But while Morikawa didn’t finish the round with the lead, the 2020 PGA Championship winner is playing his first Open Championship and will now look to emulate Ben Curtis – the last player to win an Open on debut.
Coincidentally Curtis won at Royal St. George’s in 2003.
Willie Park Sr (1860), Tom Kidd (1873), Mungo Park (1874), Jock Hutchison (1921), Denny Shute (1933), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Lema (1964) and Tom Watson (1975) are the only players pre Curtis to all win The Open on debut.
But no one has ever won two of golf’s four majors in their first attempt.
“We have four of them a year, and you're trying to definitely win these four because they're that big,” Morikawa said of the majors. “Sometimes you have those days where you're very fortunate to have good numbers, and today was one of those days.”
Morikawa opened the round with a birdie and had added three more at the turn to set up his special round. Further birdies at 11, 12 and 14 had the California kid at seven under on the day and on track to equal the course record 63 or perhaps better Branden Grace’s all-time major championship low 62.
But a leaked drive on the 15th resulted in a missed green from the left rough and he was unable to get it up and down to save par. Morikawa then had a chance at 63 via an eight-foot attempt for birdie on the 18th only to see it slide by.
“I had no clue what any course record was. I don't know any of those numbers. Now I do know.
But I was just trying to make a lot of birdies,” Morikawa said.
And besides. He was more proud of some of his par saves, including a great one on the 13th after a drive into a pot bunker.
“Out here in links golf you're going to hit bad shots. You're going to hit bad approach shots, bad tee shots. To see the par save on 13 I'm really going to draw on that for the rest of the week because sometimes you have to just bite your tongue, play safe, and try and make par best you can. Sometimes bogey is going to be your friend,” he said.
Bad shots were rare on Friday for the 24-year-old. For most of the round it was a ball-striking clinic, incredible considering his first real foray into links golf was at last week’s Scottish Open and he’d changed some of his scoring irons in the lead up to the tournament.
The changes came directly from what he learned after his T71 result in Scotland.
“I wouldn't be here through these two rounds if I hadn't played last week at the Scottish. I've played in firm conditions… I can think of places I've played in tighter, drier conditions, but just having fescue fairways and the ball sitting a little different was huge to see last week,” Morikawa explained.
“I changed my irons, my 9 through 7-iron that I normally have blades in. I changed to the (TaylorMade) P7MC’s strictly because I couldn't find the center of the face. I was sitting these iron shots last week that I just normally don't and my swing felt good, but it was a huge learning opportunity.
“This style of golf is very different, but last week helped tremendously.”
Changing irons wasn’t the only adjustment for the cerebral Morikawa. While he putts with a saw grip from close range he was adjusting to a conventional grip for longer putts. Anything outside around 30-feet saw him change it up.
“Mentally it felt that much better. Even though I didn't know how I was going to perform, you just have to go out and feel confident with what you're doing.”