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Collin Morikawa Falters Badly in Third Round of U.S. Open

Ex-Cal golfer is six strokes behind leaders Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick heading into Sunday’s final round
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The third round of the U.S. Open proved to be a challenge for many of the top golfers, but none struggled more than former Cal standout Collin Morikawa.

Morikawa started the day tied for the lead at 5 under par after two rounds, but he carded four bogeys and two double bogeys with just one birdie on a chilly, windy Saturday at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

He shot a 77 in the third round on the par-70 course, and that 7-over-par round is Morikawa’s worst in a PGA Tour event. He is 2-over for the tournament, which leaves him six strokes off the lead held jointly by Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick. But the dramatic swings in Saturday’s round make you wonder whether Morikawa might still be in contention.

Neither Zalatrois nor Fitzpatrick has won a PGA Tour event in his career, but are both at 4 under par for this U.S. Open. Zalatoris, who lost a playoff to Justin Thomas at the recent PGA Championships, shot a 3-under-par 67 for the best round of the day, while Fitzpatrick, an Englishman who won the 2013 U.S. Amateur on this same course, carded a 2-under 68.

Heading into the final round, Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick hold a one-stroke lead over Jon Rahm and a two-shot lead over a threesome that includes Scottie Scheffler.

Headliners Rahm, Scheffler and Rory McIlroy also had their ups and down on Saturday, but they ultimately did enough to remain very much in the title chase. Given the difficulty of the course, the challenging conditions and how much things changed from one hour to the next on Saturday, even Morikawa, at 2-over and tied for 17th place, may not have given up hope.

Max Homa, the other former Cal golfer in the field, probably took himself out of contention with a 5-over-par round of 75, leaving him at 7-over and 11 shots off the lead.

Morikawa’s round was more consequential. When he fired a 4-under 66 on Friday to grab a share of the lead, it seemed he had righted the ship after struggling since the Masters. He had finished no better than tied for 26th in his past five events and missed the cut in his most recent tournament, the Memorial.

He was still in control after five holes on Saturday, using a fine second shot to record his first and only birdie of the day on the fifth hole, leaving him at even-par for the day and 5-under for the event.

The problems started on the sixth hole, which Morikawa bogeyed, and were compounded on the seventh hole when he three-putted for a double bogey. Bogeys on the 12th (when he missed a short putt for par) and the 15th were sandwiched around another double bogey on the 13th, by which time the television cameras had stopped following Morikawa’s every shot.

Morikawa's third-round scorecard

Morikawa's third-round scorecard

The attention went to Rahm, Scheffler, McIlroy and the two players who ended up with the lead.

Scheffler, the Masters champion and the No. 1 ranked player in the world, seemed to be cruising when he holed out for an eagle on No. 8.

That put him at 6-under for the tournament and gave him a two-shot lead on the field. But he had a horrible four-hole stretch on the back nine when he went double-bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey on the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes. He finished at 1-over 71 for the day and stands at 2-under for the tournament.

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McIlroy shot a 3-over-par 73, but is 1-under for the event, three shots off the lead.

Rahm, the defending U.S. Open champ, looked like he would hold the lead heading into Sunday when he held a one-stroke lead at 5-under after 17 holes. But Rahm recorded a double bogey on the last hole, which gave him a round of 1-over-par 71 and put him one shot behind the leaders.

Morikawa was hoping to put himself in position to challenge for a third major title, having already won the PGA Championship in 2020 and the British Open in 2021.  Morikawa finished fourth a year ago at the U.S. Open.

He was hoping to become the fifth golfer to win three different majors before turning 26, joining McIroy, Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods.

It will take a big turnaround by Morikawa and some poor play by the leaders on Sunday to make it happen now.

Meanwhile, Homa needed a strong third-round score to put himself in contention for his first major title. But that possibility was ruined by a poor start to Saturday’s round.

Homa bogeyed seven of the first 11 holes on Saturday, and at that point he was 7-over for the round and 9-over for the tournament. Homa made some headway with an eagle-3 on the par-5 14th hole and finished with a bogey on No. 16 and a birdie on the final hole to finish the round with a score of 5-over-par 75. That left him at 7-over for the tournament, and he was 12 strokes off the lead when his round was completed early in the day.

Here is Homa’s high point of the day – an eagle on No. 14

Homa had been playing the best golf of his career in recent months, rising to No. 23 in the world rankings this week. He fired a 1-under-par 69 in the first round, but on Friday, he shot 3-over 73 to put him at 2-over for two rounds, making the cut with just one stroke to spare. 

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Cover photo of Collin Morikawa by John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports

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