Collin Morikawa builds lead at Muirfield Village before storms hit
Among the lessons Collin Morikawa took away from missing his first cut as a pro was that his reliable cut shot had left him. He found at it Muirfield Village, and it sent him to a three-shot lead going into the weekend at the Workday Charity Open.
Morikawa ran off four consecutive birdies after making the turn Friday, finished with another birdie after the first of two storm delays, and shot a six-under-par 66.
The La Cañada High graduate, 23, was six shots ahead when he finished. He was four strokes ahead over Sam Burns when his side of the field finished. And it was down to three after some remarkable play by Justin Thomas (66) and Kevin Streelman (64) in surprisingly strong gusts that followed the storm.
Morikawa was at 13-under 131, one shot off the 36-hole course record set by Jason Dufner in 2017 at the Memorial.
Thomas hasn’t made a bogey all week and finished his round with an eight-foot birdie putt. Streelman reached 11 under until a bogey on the par-three eighth near the end of his round. They will be in the final group Saturday, which will be played in threesomes because a pair of 75-minute delays from thunderstorms meant the second round didn’t finish.
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That means Brooks Koepka has to wait to see whether his big finish paid off.
Starting with a near ace on the 12th hole, Koepka birdied five of his last seven holes, closing with a 40-foot birdie putt for a 69. That put him at one-under 143, and he left in a tie for 68th with more than 30 players unable to finish.
“That’s what you’ve got to do,” Koepka said. “I never give up, never think you’re out of it, and you’ve just got to battle through it no matter what you’re doing.”
The top 65 and ties advance, and with morning conditions the cut was likely to stay at two under. Koepka signed his card and then decided to play the Memorial next week. He is out of the top 150 in the FedEx Cup with five tournaments left.
Burns birdied his last three holes for a 66 and joined past Muirfield Village winner Hideki Matsuyama (68) four shots behind. Right behind was Viktor Hovland, who took advantage of the tee being moved up on the par-four 14th. His tee shot nearly went in, and he settled for a tap-in eagle on his way to a 67.
Morikawa, with 15 birdies and an eagle through two rounds, is making his debut at the course Jack Nicklaus built, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that Nicklaus was famous for hitting a cut.
“I had heard from a lot of people before [that] this course was going to suit a left-to-right shot, anyway,” Morikawa said. “Obviously, Jack hit that, and I think it does. But I’ve been able to leave myself some really good numbers into approach shots. I’ve been keeping myself in the fairway for the most part, and that obviously helps.”
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Phil Mickelson had another exciting day, minus the meltdown at the end of his round. He opened by chipping in for birdie and making a 12-foot eagle putt. With the tee moved forward on the 14th hole, the par-four guarded by a pond right of the green, he hit driver to 10 feet and had to settle for birdie.
And right before the first batch of storms arrived, Mickelson felt the wind shift and get stronger, so he took driver on the par-five fifth and whaled away over the trees and just inside backyard fences. It settled in the rough, but it left him only 114 yards away and a pitching wedge to the green.
The speed of the greens fooled him, and he repeatedly left putts short. Even so, he managed to post a reasonable number. Jordan Spieth wasn’t as fortunate. He took double bogey on his 17th hole, the par-three eighth, and was likely to miss the cut.
Morikawa made 22 cuts in a row to start his pro career, a streak that ended two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship. That was three short of the streak Tiger Woods put together when he turned pro.
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But he was more interested in low scores than simply getting in four rounds and a paycheck.
“At the end of the day, you’re out there to win tournaments,” he said. “If you miss the cut, make it by whatever, you just want to learn from each week. And like I said, I learned a lot from those two days missing the cut than I have in a lot of events so far when I’ve been finishing whatever.”
This one caused him to take a closer look at what was lacking in his game, instead of being reasonably content with a solid finish.
Somewhere along the way, he couldn’t rely on his cut shot, allowing him to aim some six yards left of his target and fade it toward the pin, no matter where it was located. It was after his practice round Wednesday that he figured out what was missing, and he went back to an old drill of sticking his glove under his left arm. It’s a rotational drill, and it paid off.
“I think sometimes when something really doesn’t go your way, like missing a cut, it just stands out a little more,” he said.
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