Colleen Morikawa descends then ascends, US Open leaderboard

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. – Midway through the US Open, Collin Morikawa was at the top of the leaderboard looking to add a third major championship to his resume.

But on move day, as Saturdays are called on the PGA Tour, Morikawa uncharacteristically stepped back. After Morikawa was seven over par 77, he found himself six shots behind the pace when he started Sunday’s game. This proved to be too much of a disadvantage to return to the fight, but he left the track at the Country Club more than satisfied, having improved his result by 11 shots from the previous round.

“I don’t know if I found something,” he said after his 66 dropped him two under par to fifth. “I think it’s just taught me that I need to go play golf. This year has been so focused on trying to get into that haircut and trying to be so perfect and that’s who I am. But just go and play. Things will get tough. The ball won’t go where you want. But just figure it out.”

Morikawa, the reigning British Open champion and winner of the 2020 PGA Championship, played a no-ghost nine in appreciative, classy conditions. He came to the 18th green believing he needed to make a birdie to have any chance. But his punch was a foot short.

“I had some momentum, sort of a continuation,” said Morikawa, who hit 32, three under par, a nine behind. “If I could get to four, that would be a good number to post. It was a little more, but it was a much-needed round.”

Morikawa hit 66 on Friday, co-leading with Joel Damen after two rounds. Then disaster struck on Saturday when he had four scarecrows, two double scarecrows and just one bird in his round.

Before the tournament, he said he was struggling with his iron game. He usually hits from left to right, but lately the ball has been flying from right to left, he said. But Morikawa didn’t have much trouble in the first two days.

“With the way I played, I didn’t expect it,” he said.

He added: “I hope there won’t be many seven overs in the future. But it just made me refocus and just get back to things. Just take him off the tee to the fairway and then worry about it from there.”

Morikawa called Sunday’s round “a huge boost” and said he’ll remember the weekend more with three points under 70 than Saturday’s failure. Going into the third round, his worst ever US Open came in 2020 at Winged Foot in New York where he opened with 76 and missed.

Last year he finished fourth at Torrey Pines near San Diego. He then won his second major by beating Jordan Spit by two strikes at Royal St. George.

Like last year, Morikawa said he plans to play the Scottish Open to prepare for this year’s British Open in St. Louis. Andrews, of course, he said he hasn’t played yet. But he said he understands things will be different for him this time around for two reasons: his status as the reigning champion and the venue, the historic Old Course.

“I think I’m going to have to do a really good job of prioritizing each day and separating what I need to focus on,” he said. “Whether it’s golf or I just need to enjoy my stay in St. Louis. Andrews, again as defending champion.”

He added: “There will be a couple more distractions, but that doesn’t mean I won’t focus on golf when the time comes.”

This was Morikawa’s 14th official tour of the season. He placed second at the Genesis Invitational in February and finished second at the CJ Cup at Summit in the fall. He finished fifth at the Masters Tournament, shutting out in style with a bunker shot on the 72nd hole.

In addition to two major tournaments, Morikawa won three more PGA Tour victories, all before the age of 25. He won twice last season; Golf World Championship and British Open. He also won the DP World Championship in 2021. 7th in the Official World Golf Rankings and 20th in points in the FedEx Cup list.

In addition to the golf events that Morikawa has planned, the wedding of his longtime girlfriend Katherine Zhu is about to take place. Unlike Brooks Koepka, who publicized his June wedding, Morikawa did not divulge any plans for the upcoming wedding.