Fri, 01 Jul 2022

Brookline [US], June 18 (ANI) : For Collin Morikawa, the last couple of months have been a search to regain the form that led to a pair of major titles. His five starts since a solo fifth at the Masters in April have resulted in no better than a tie for 26th. That stretch includes a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament and a T-55 in last month's PGA Championship.

Those aren't results that people are accustomed to seeing from the world No. 7. Maybe all the affable Southern California native needed was a visit to Boston, and specifically The Country Club to cure his issues.

After a solid 1-under-par 69 in Thursday's opening round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship, Morikawa matched the championship's lowest round - a 66 - on Friday to share the 36-hole lead with qualifier Joel Dahmen.

One stroke back are defending champion Jon Rahm (69-67), 2011 winner and four-time major champ Rory McIlroy (67-69), Aaron Wise (68-68) and qualifiers Hayden Buckley (68-68) and Beau Hossler (69-67), who holed out from a greenside bunker on the par-4 ninth, his last of the day, to cap a birdie-birdie finish. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (70-67) is among the group two strokes back at 3-under 137.

Should Morikawa close the deal over the next 36 holes, the five-time PGA Tour winner would become the quickest player in history to attain three major titles. This is only Morikawa's 11th major-championship start since he turned professional after graduating from the University of California-Berkeley in 2019. Peter Thomson notched his third major title, the 1956 British Open, in start No. 12, while Lee Trevino (1971 British Open) and Ralph Guldahl (1939 Masters) needed 15 starts.

Of course, 36 holes remain, but if anyone has the temperament and skill to navigate those hurdles, it's the seemingly always calm Morikawa.

And it looks like whatever issues had leaked into one of the most aesthetically pleasing swings in golf, have been at least temporarily resolved.

"I think what it proves is just you can play this game with many shots. I remember the first time I played with Tiger [Woods], and he hit every shot that called for it. Pin is on the right; you hit a little cut. Pin is on the left; you hit a little draw. This is just going to hopefully make my iron play and make my game a little bit more well-rounded rather than just hitting a cut. But this week we're just going to work with what we have, and right now it's a little baby draw, " said Morikawa.

Prior to his 36-hole final qualifier on June 6 in Powell, Ohio, Dahmen considered withdrawing and using U.S. Open week to rest for the remainder of the PGA Tour season. He didn't think his game, which relies on precision over power, translated to major-championship setups. The Country Club isn't a bombers' paradise, however, and the Washington native has hit 28 of 36 greens to tie for first in the field.

"This is really cool, but it's really all for naught if you go lay and egg on the weekend. This is fun, but it would be really fun if I was doing this again Saturday and Sunday, " said Dahmen, who owns one PGA Tour win since joining the circuit in 2016.

McIlroy, bidding to become the first player in the post-World War II era to claim the U.S. Open a week after winning a PGA Tour event (RBC Canadian Open), rebounded from a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 third hole to get back into contention at 4 under.

Rahm used an eagle 3 on No. 14 to get his round going, and he offset a bogey on No. 1 with birdies on the 305-yard fifth and 547-yard, par-5 eighth. (ANI)

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