Collin Morikawa showed no sign of inexperience as he surged into the lead on his British Open debut with a nine-under after a 64 in the second round at Royal St. George’s on Friday.
The American is making his first appearance at the Open and played for the first time on British soil last week at the Scottish Open where he finished in a tie for 71st.
“I wouldn’t be here through these two rounds if I hadn’t played last week at the Scottish,” said Morikawa. “It was a huge learning opportunity. I went into last week wanting to win but I came out of it learning a lot more and that is helping me this week.”
The 24-year-old has already shown an ability to raise his game for the big occasion during his short career, and he did so again with a round of six-under. In just seven previous Major appearances, Morikawa has finished in the top-10 thrice, including a triumph at last year’s US PGA championship.
The last debutant to win was Ben Curtis in 2003, also at Royal St. George’s. But while Curtis was a rank outsider who never matched the heights of his golden week in Sandwich, Morikawa is already ranked fourth in the world.
Starting at three-under, Morikawa picked up two shots in the first seven holes before hitting his stride around the turn. Birdies at eight, nine, 11, 12 and 14 took him to 10-under before he dropped his only shot of the day at the 15th.
Another birdie on the 18th hit the lip of the cup and stayed out, but Morikawa was still three shots in front of overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen.
A fast start from Jordan Spieth cut Morikawa’s advantage to two shots as the 2017 Open champion moved to seven-under with two birdies on the opening two holes. Cameron Smith and the English duo of Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett moved to five-under on a perfect day for low scores under blue skies and a soft wind.
Phil Mickelson will miss the weekend after his nightmare 10-over 80 on Thursday. The US PGA champion made a better fist of his second round but finished two-over for the day.
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