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It’s sometimes easy to forget that Collin Morikawa is only 24-years of age. Much is made when young stars break the status quo and perform up to their abilities in the biggest of stages. Whether it is Robert MacIntyre making seven consecutive cuts to begin his major championship career, Will Zalatoris giving Hideki Matsuyama a run for his money at Augusta National in April, or Scottie Scheffler contending at what seems like every big event.
Yet, it is Morikawa who is the youngest of them all, at least when you compare the birth certificates. The 2020 PGA champion is wise beyond his years, both physically, striking precise iron-shots that, dare I say, are reminiscent of Tiger Woods. And more importantly, mentally, always having his head squarely on his shoulders and exuding positivity even when the going gets tough.
Friday morning at Royal St. George’s was far from tough for Morikawa. Having played in the more difficult conditions in the first-round, Morikawa started the day at 3-under and three-strokes back of the lead. An opening birdie kick started a round that had all the potential of going down in major championship history.
He added another one on the difficult par-4 5th and two more on holes 8 and 9 to turn in 4-under 31. By the time Morikawa was standing on the 15th tee, he had gotten to 7-under for the day and 10-under overall. The thought of reaching the unreachable became all the more real. Two birdies over his final four holes would put Morikawa where no man has ever gone in a major championship, a round of 61.
Alas, a bogey on the long par-4 15th squashed any chance of a historic morning occurring in Sandwich. Near birdie misses on the par-3 16th and the closing hole left Morikawa with a round of 6-under 64. At 9-under, Morikawa held the lead at the 149th Open as he attempts to become the first man to win two majors in his championship debut.
The lead which he sat on for most of the day would later be relinquished to the hands of Louis Oosthuizen. While Morikawa fell short of history in the morning, Oosthuizen was able to make some of his own just as the sun was setting. With a two-round total of 11-under 129, the smooth-swinging South African bested the previous 36-hole Open scoring record of 130 held by Brandt Snedeker and Nick Faldo.
It looked extremely easy for Oosthuizen through the first 32-holes of this championship. Yet, after getting to 12-under, thanks to an eagle on the par-5 14th, Oosthuizen stumbled a bit coming in. Pars on 15 and 17 sandwiched Oosthuizen’s first and only bogey of the week.
Whether the lead had gotten into his head or not - only one man knows the answer to that for sure - his swing and demeanor appeared to tighten a touch. Perhaps I’m grasping at straws from what has been a flawless first two days or perhaps this movie ends like the other ones. What I do know is this, with Morikawa, Spieth, and many, many more chomping at the bit, Oosthuizen will need to be at his finest over the weekend to avoid yet another heartbreak.
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It wouldn't be right if I didn't at least mention the rounds of Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm as both played themselves back into this championship. A 5-under 65 from Johnson put the two-time major winner securely inside the top-5 and only four-strokes behind Oosthuizen. As for Rahm, a bogey-free 6-under 64 puts him in a tie for 12th at the halfway point at 5-under (Full Scores).
As for us, we were able to get one of our three-ball bets across the finish line, courtesy of Kevin Kisner. With a little extra change in our pocket, we'll look to roll it over into a place bet.
Updated Odds to Win (Odds Via PointsBet Sportsbook):
+250: Louis Oosthuizen
+800: Dustin Johnson
+1700: Brooks Koepka
+4000: Paul Casey
+5000: Dylan Frittelli
Round 3 Plays (Odds Via PointsBet):
Brooks Koepka (-121 to finish inside the top-10):
The first question one has to ask is how far back is too far back? I reckon those at 5-under are the furthest you can go and even that may be stretching the limits. With plenty of proven winners in the mix, I'll fight the urge to add an outright selection as I believe much of the value has vanished. Instead, I’ll look to Koepka in the top-10 market as I believe there are a number of players who will inevitably fall adrift.
With the top-3 on the leaderboard presumably set in stone, mixing it up amongst each other, there could be a revolving door situation for the rest of the top-10. Apart from Oosthuizen, a large South African contingent occupies the spots ahead of Koepka. If all goes to plan, they, along with a certain fist-pumping German, should be leap frogged by the end of Saturday.
Koepka meanwhile ranks 10th in greens in regulation and has yet to get the flat stick going, which has been his bugaboo so far in majors this season. It's a rough estimate, but he was about middle of the pack on the greens through the first two days.
With the course possibly firming up a bit, a slight change in the greens may be to his liking. Not only that, but I'd expect the pins to be a touch less accessible over the final two rounds, as there were a number of gettable, funnel-like pins in Rounds 1 and 2.
He was peeved how he started his second round, but finished extremely strong. Making three birdies in a row to end his day, Koepka should ride that momentum into his third round. If he is able to get through those first five holes at one, maybe two-under, he should make up some ground before those in front of him even tee off.
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