‘I was feeling it’: Collin Morikawa vaults up Open Championship leaderboard with blistering second round

Collin morikawa swings

Collin Morikawa opened up a big lead on Friday at the Open Championship.

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Collin Morikawa might not be fully running away with the Open Championship on Friday morning, but he’s jogging.

In his first-ever Open Championship start, the 24-year-old wunderkind nearly tied the course record at Royal St. George’s — coming only a stroke shy — and was just two strokes off The Open and major record of 62 set by Branden Grace in 2017. Morikawa’s six-under 64 vaulted him into a three-stroke lead at nine under, good for the lowest opening 36 holes in Open Championship history.

For a while on Friday, it seemed he might be on the verge of going even lower. He stood on the 14th tee at seven under for the day with two of the easiest four holes on the course still to come. A single-round major championship record of 61 stood firmly in sight.

Instead, his game fell marginally back to earth. He played his last four holes at one over, recording a bogey on the 15th, to fall out of position for the single-round record.

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“To be honest I had no idea that 63 was low. I was just trying to make a lot of birdies,” Morikawa told Golf Channel after the round. “When you put yourself in the fairway like I did for the most part of the day, I was able to attack pins. I had good numbers and had irons in my hand. When I’m feeling it I feel like I can be aggressive to certain spots, and I was feeling it today.”

While Morikawa’s game does seem a natural fit for the other side of the Atlantic — where shotmaking and precision are at a premium over distance — his start at Royal St. George’s still qualifies as something of a surprise. He struggled mightily in his first European start at last week’s Scottish Open, finishing T71, near-dead last. But after his second straight sub-70 round at The Open, he credited his performance at the Scottish for serving as the catalyst for a significant tweak.

“Without the Scottish I don’t think I would be here today,” he said. “I was not hitting my irons well, I had to literally change my irons earlier this week and just find the center of the face.”

The club change has worked wonders at Royal St. George’s. On Friday, Morikawa hit 83 percent of his greens in regulation — a stat that tells only half the story, as the overwhelming majority of the approaches left him with little more than kick-ins for birdie.

Of course, there are still two-plus days of competition left (plus Jordan Spieth teeing off in the afternoon wave on Friday) and Morikawa is anything but a lock as a player competing in his first-ever Open. But as he thought his way around Royal St. George’s on Friday, that much was hard to believe.

“For the past few years we’ve been showing up to courses and that’s what we do,” he said. “You figure out the course on Monday through Wednesday, how do you prep for Thursday. And everything I’ve done through college, I’ve learned how to prep, and that’s one of the biggest things. For major championships, I’m ready to play. I see these guys every week. If I can just continue the play, then hopefully I’m coming down the stretch on 18 on Sunday.”

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.