SANDWICH, England — The scorecard read 64, but the score could have been much lower as Collin Morikawa came close to the majors' scoring holy grail on Friday at Royal St. George's Golf Club.
The record is 62, established by Branden Grace in the British Open's third round at Royal Birkdale in 2017. And It was a number that Morikawa nudged up against when he was 7-under for his second round through 14 holes, though a bogey on the par-4 15th derailed the quest.
With the exception of the 15th, Morikawa took advantage of scoring conditions that included sunny skies and consistent breezes. The 2020 PGA champion never looked out of kilter and took what the relatively short 7,189-yard Royal St. George’s course gave him, which was seven birdies and a lone bogey. His 64 matches the score he posted in the final round of his PGA Championship title, which was his first major in just his fourth attempt.
“Was able to hit a few more fairways early on in the round today,” Morikawa said of hitting eight of 14 fairways, one more that his first round. “When I'm in the fairway with a 9-iron or 8-iron I feel very comfortable, not necessarily going straight at the pins but being aggressive with the lines I need to take and slopes you need to play.”
A solid ball-striker, hitting 15 of 18 greens, Morikawa used his putter to his advantage. He needed only 23 putts on Friday and has totaled 45 as part of his 131 36-hole score, which is one shot off the British Open record held by Brandt Snedeker (2012, Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s) and Nick Faldo (1992, Muirfield). Morikawa was the clubhouse leader as the afternoon pairings went off.
Playing in his first ever British Open, Morikawa, 24, used last week's Scottish Open as a tune-up to get comfortable with links golf, which includes fescue fairways. The recon has not only paid dividends through 36 holes, but has forced him to reevaluate the equipment he's playing for this week.
“I changed my irons, my 9- through 7-iron that I normally have blades in,” Morikawa said. “I changed to the [TaylorMade] MCs strictly because I couldn't find the center of the face. I was hitting these iron shots last week that I just normally don’t, and my swing felt good, but it was a huge learning opportunity. Last week, I wanted to win, but I came out of it learning a lot more, and thankfully it helped for this week.”
The other adjustment Morikawa made was going back to a conventional putting grip versus the saw-grip for longer putts. Making such a change the week of a major would have seemed a bit too much, but Morikawa credits his caddie, Jonathan Jakovac, with making the move successful.
Since he was unable to get the tempo he was looking for with putts of 25 feet and beyond, Morikawa and Jakovac decided that going back to a conventional grip made sense for the longer putts.
“That is something you need out here because the greens are slower than what we're used to playing,” Morikawa said. “Just switching to conventional, I didn't have to change anything mentally. I just kind of went at it like I normally felt, and kind of matched the speeds.”
Morikawa knows the conditions are favorable for scoring in the afternoon wave, but seems unconcerned with where he will be when the dust settles on Friday night.
One thing is for sure, he will be near the top of the leaderboard, and possessing an attitude that seems to be of a hardened veteran and not a recent college graduate.
“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,” Morikawa said. “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.”
More Day 2 British Open Coverage from Morning Read:
- Could a Brit Finally Win a British Open? Several Contenders Have a Shot
- Morikawa Takes Run at Open Scoring Record, Shoots 64 to Surge Into Contention
- From Challenge Tour to British Open, Marcel Siem Plays Way into Contention
- Amateur Matthias Schmid Etches Name in Open Lore With Second-Round 65
- Will Zalatoris WD From Open, One Day After Painful Shot Out of Deep Rough
- Bryson DeChambeau Rips Gear, Says Driver 'Sucks' After Uneven Opening Round