SANDWICH, England — The scoreboard provider on Friday appeared even youthful than Collin Morikawa, however the tempo of adjusting numbers was attending to him.
“So many birdies,” the provider mentioned on the 14th inexperienced as he switched out yet one more purple numeral on his transportable board. “I’m losing track.”
There could be seven birdies in all for Morikawa within the second spherical of this British Open on his option to a six-under-par 64, one in need of the course report at venerable Royal St. George’s.
“I just want to create my own memories,” mentioned Morikawa, 24. “I’m awful with golf history, unfortunately. I did not know 63 was the low here. I just kind of came out and played golf.”
Heading into the ultimate two rounds this weekend, Morikawa is at 9 beneath par and in prime place, sandwiched, so to talk, between two previous British Open champions: Louis Oosthuizen at 11 beneath and Jordan Spieth at eight beneath.
Not dangerous for a younger Californian taking part in on this main event for the primary time, however then Morikawa has already proved that he’s a newcomer to be reckoned with. Last 12 months, he gained the P.G.A. Championship in his first look, rising to the highest of a densely packed leaderboard with aplomb on the closing holes.
But that main breakthrough got here on acquainted floor: T.P.C. Harding Park in San Francisco, simply throughout the bay from the University of California, Berkeley, the place Morikawa was a star faculty golfer earlier than graduating with a enterprise diploma in 2019.
This week’s surge is coming 5,400 miles away, on a basic hyperlinks course that can be distant in spirit from the parkland layouts the place Morikawa has performed most of his golf.
“You can’t underestimate Collin, even if it’s his first British Open,” Walter Chun, his coach at Cal, mentioned in a distant interview from California. “I’m sure he’s done a lot of research prior to his trip overseas. I’m sure he’s worked on certain things while at home. He’s very smart. His intellect matches the talent he has for ball-striking, and I can tell you that he went to the Scottish Open for a reason.”
That journey to Scotland was final week, and although Morikawa completed tied for 71st on the Renaissance Club, it gave him a likelihood to check out his sport earlier than the primary occasion in Sandwich.
He discovered his classes shortly.
“I wouldn’t be here through these two rounds if I hadn’t played last week at the Scottish,” he mentioned. “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 siting a little different was huge to see last week.”
The tough is usually wispy, tall and treacherous on British seaside programs. Will Zalatoris, one other rising American star and one among Morikawa’s former Walker Cup teammates, needed to withdraw from the event on Friday after he had injured his again whereas hacking a ball out of the thick tough on the 15th gap within the first spherical.
But although the tough is up at Royal St. George’s, the climate has been extra benign. Friday was a blue-sky day with the wind dropping significantly within the afternoon, together with the scores.
“Those last nine holes were probably as good conditions as you can ask for in links golf,” mentioned Oosthuizen, the South African star who made an eagle on 14 and completed with a 65.
Louis Oosthuizen set a British Open report on Friday however what he desires extra is a second main victory.Credit…Paul Ellis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
His two-round complete of 129 was the bottom 36-hole complete within the historical past of the British Open, which dates to 1860.
“Anytime you can set or equal a record in the Open Championship, it’s special,” Oosthuizen mentioned.
But what Oosthuizen actually craves at age 38 is a second main championship to go together with the British Open he gained at St. Andrews in 2010. Since then, he has been runner-up on six events, most not too long ago at this 12 months’s P.G.A. Championship and U.S. Open.
“I’m sure after the last two majors he’s even more motivated,” mentioned Spieth, the 27-year-old American who’s chasing his fourth main title, and his first since profitable the British Open in 2017.
Established threats abound at Royal St. George’s. Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1, and Brooks Koepka, a former No. 1, each made strikes on Friday. Johnson was at seven beneath par, 4 photographs off the lead, after capturing a 65. Koepka was at 5 beneath after a 66. Phil Mickelson, with a two-round rating of 152, missed the lower.
“That’s a good leaderboard,” Oosthuizen mentioned, sounding cautious, and with good motive.
Morikawa, like Spieth, bears shut watching. He made two vital modifications after the Scottish Open. He switched to new 7, eight and 9 irons to enhance his really feel.
“Those are three crucial clubs that are some of my favorite clubs,” he mentioned. “My 8-iron is my favorite club in the bag, and when I wasn’t able to hit it last week, well I knew I had to try something different.”
This week, he has additionally resumed placing with a standard grip on longer putts. When he was struggling together with his placing earlier this season, Morikawa consulted with Mark O’Meara, the 1998 British Open champion, and switched to a grip referred to as “the saw,” which limits the affect of the proper hand.
After the change, Morikawa gained the Workday Championship, a World Golf Championship occasion in Bradenton, Fla. But he acknowledged that long-range putts at Royal St. George’s referred to as for extra grip power due to the slower greens.
“I think the saw grip is amazing for me,” he mentioned. “But trust me, the saw grip was not working from outside 30 feet. I would have left everything 10 feet short. I had to change.”
Morikawa’s iron play has actually not suffered, regardless of the late change in golf equipment. It stays the power of his sport, and his good strategy photographs usually left him with brief birdie putts on Friday. But he additionally scrambled successfully, salvaging par after hitting into a fairway bunker on the par-Four 13th and making a birdie on the par-5 14th regardless of hitting his tee shot into deep tough far left of the green.
If Morikawa had not missed a brief putt for par on 15, he would most likely have a share of the course report.
“Out here in links golf, you’re going to hit bad shots,” Morikawa mentioned. “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.”
Spoken like a British Open veteran, which Morikawa will not be. But on Saturday, the debutant can be within the closing pairing with Oosthuizen for the third spherical, with extra gentle climate within the forecast.
Count him out at your peril.
“I can tell you from experience,” Chun mentioned, “that he soaks up things like a sponge.”