Debutant Morikawa likes what he sees after sizzling Sandwich 64

Bernie McGuire
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Debutant Morikawa likes what he sees after sizzling Sandwich 64

Collin Morikawa (Photo by David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Collin Morikawa’s trademark smile was even broader after brilliantly throwing down the gauntlet with a sizzling second round 64 in the American’s first Open Championship.

Morikawa, 24, took full advantage of the bright and benign conditions to grab seven birdies and just the one dropped shot on the host Royal St. George’s course. Last year’s PGA Champion capped his round with four birdies in a five-hole stretch from the eighth to 12th holes.

“It was wonderful being out there today,” said Morikawa. “I’m just sticking to what I have been doing. Towards the end of the round we stopped hitting fairways and making a few birdies, but overall, it’s a very good 64 and I will take it,” he added, whose 131-total for 36 holes has only been bettered twice in Open history.

“It was great conditions for scoring and I made a lot of fairways early on. Bit more of a grind the last few holes. So, overall, very pleased with my round.”

Morikawa had stunned the golf world in being handed the Rodman Wanamaker trophy in just a third career Major Championship and arrived in rural Kent with a share of eighth in defence of the PGA Championship and then a share of fourth last month at the U.S. Open.

And there were strong expectations that Morikawa, despite his bogey on 15, could match the course record of 63 and possibly match the all-time Open Championship low of 62 set by Branden Grace in the third round of the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale. His 64 is Morikawa’s equal lowest round in the majors since posting a closing similar score of 64 to capture the 2020 PGA Championship in San Francisco.

“Yeah, I look at the majors and while we have four of them a year, you’re trying to definitely win these four because they’re that big,” Morikawa said. “Talking about last year’s PGA, I had seen every single guy before, I had played with every single guy, and that doesn’t make anything different. It’s just the stage that we’re on, more media, more spectators, more people around.

“But that’s everything outside that I could control. For me, it’s just let’s go figure out this golf course Monday through Wednesday like I have been the past couple years and figure it out on what I need to do to play well. This style of golf is very different, but last week, like I said, helped tremendously.”

And it’s not lost on close golf observers that the last player to win the Open Championship on debut was fellow American Ben Curtis in 2003 at Royal St. George’s.

“I saw a quote, I think Jordan (Spieth) touched on this yesterday, that he tries to show up to courses that he’s never been to and find something that he loves,” said Morikawa.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever showed up to a golf course, at least as a professional, and hated the golf course. I always try and fit my game into how do I play my best golf, and I feel like I can win if I stick to what I’ve been doing, stick to my approach shots, stick to those 8-irons, 9-irons, 7-irons, because that’s my bread and butter.

“That’s what I love to do. When I’m in the middle of the fairway, I feel like I can hit it just as close as some guys hit their wedges, especially when I’m on like the first two days.

“Yeah, Royal St George’s is beautiful. It’s a great golf course. I think it fits into a lot of shots that I love to hit, so hopefully we can just keep hitting fairways and giving ourselves good numbers to attack some pins.”

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