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Morikawa claws back into contention with bogey-free 66

Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images Sport / Getty

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Collin Morikawa woke up Saturday nine shots off the lead and figuring he needed to get to back to even par to have any chance of winning the U.S. Open.

Mission accomplished.

With the heat index pushing triple digits, Morikawa shot a bogey-free 66 on the brutally difficult No. 2 course at Pinehurst to position himself for another strong finish at a tournament where he has two top 5s since 2021.

His birdie on the 18th hole, his fourth of the day, left him within five shots back before second-round leader Ludvig Aberg — who was 5 under — had even teed off. Morikawa believes when Sunday arrives he’ll have a chance to win his third major in a tournament in which world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler has not been a factor.

“Look, if I play the way I did today, who knows what could happen," said Morikawa, who won the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 British Open.

Morikawa entered the round having to balance needing to make up ground on the leaderboard with patience on a course that makes players pay for making the slightest mistake.

He did that masterfully, aided by going 8 for 8 on scrambles and draining big putt after big putt.

“You can’t be aggressive out here,” Morikawa said. “I think if you’re aggressive, it can put you in really bad spots. You got to just kind of take your 30-footers. If you have a wedge, sometimes you’re able to go at pins. ... You play aggressive to the right parts, you take what you can. If you get lucky, you get lucky.”

He added: “I made the putts that I needed to. I made up and downs. Made everything essentially.”

After shooting 74 on Friday, Morikawa went back to study video and realized he needed to slow things down.

He wouldn't make the same mistake on Saturday.

“For me, whenever it’s quick, it’s never good,” Morikawa said. “Just tried to be a little bit more patient out there, really stick to what I felt. Just execute as best I can.”

The 27-year-old Morikawa had a chance to win his third major at the Masters in April, where he was one shot back of Scheffler and in the final group.

They were tied through seven holes, but Morikawa found the trees at the ninth and made double bogey. Then at the 11th, he pulled his approach into the pond left of the green and made another double, ruining his chances. He finished tied for third.

He’s been on a run since then.

Morikawa finished ninth at the RBC Heritage, tied for 16th at the Wells Fargo and fourth at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He tied for fourth at the PGA Championship and was second last week at the Memorial, where a final-round 71 made up three shots on Scheffler but left him one shot back.

Now he'll look to parlay that momentum into a strong final round Sunday.

He's not played particularly well in the final round of tournaments, breaking 70 just once since the Genesis in February.

But at Pinehurst, like he said, anything can happen.

“This course is only going to get tougher," Morikawa said. "I know it’s not going to be easy. Today was not easy by any means. I just put it in the right spot, kept the ball in front of me, really just played very simple golf.”


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