Quick learner Collin Morikawa cards second round 64 to set clubhouse target at the Open

Halfway through the second round the American leads the field by three on 9-under 131 at Royal St George's.

Collin Morikawa is a fast learner.

If he was a swimmer there'd be no squeamish tip-toeing around in the shallow end, faffing about on the pool wall with fingers pinching his nose, or doggy paddle for a 25m badge while trying to keep water out his eyes.

No. Morikawa is the kind who'd just plunge in at the deep end and instinctively discover a stroke to use.

The first time he ever teed it up in a professional event, on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2016, he made the playoff.

He turned pro and won in his sixth start.

He won last year's PGA Championship in his tournament debut.

He won a first World Golf Championship in just his third appearance.

And now, making his bow in the Open, he leads the field midway through the second round.

His 6-under-par 64 earned him a 36 hole total of 9-under 131, three clear of Dani van Tonder, Emiliano Grillo, Marcel Siem and Louis Oosthuizen on the live leaderboard when he completed his lap.

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It was only last week that he made his linksland debut, but this 24-year-old Californian does not hang around when it comes to getting to grips with a challenge.

"I wouldn't be here through these two rounds if I hadn't played last week at Scottish," he explained.

"I've played in firm conditions and I can think of places I've played in tighter, drier conditions, but just having fescue fairways and the ball sitting a little different was huge to see last week.

"I changed my irons, my 9- through 7-iron. I changed to TaylorMade MCs strictly because I couldn't find the centre of the face last week.

"My swing felt good, but it was a huge learning opportunity. I definitely wanted to win, but I came out of it learning a lot more."

Nor were lessons limited to his long game. Morikawa also altered his game plan on the greens to accommodate this week's slow putting surfaces.

"It's a feel thing, but I couldn't get the tempo on the saw grip. It's going to stay in my bag as I continue to putt, but from outside 25, 30 feet I just couldn't get that hit.

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"I couldn't get that tempo that you see Brandt Snedeker have on his putts. That is something you need out here because the greens slower than what we're used to playing.

"I just switched to a conventional grip. I didn't have to change anything mentally."

Many golfers would baulk at making significant changes ahead of a Major, but Morikawa was content.

"Not really a problem. The irons I knew I just had to keep swinging it like I had been over the past two months. So very confident there.

"The putting took some getting used to, but trust me, the saw grip was not working from outside 30-feet. I would have left everything 10-feet short. I had to change."

He's quickly found his feet in the Majors and it's because he keeps it simple.

"We have only four of them a year and you're definitely trying to win them because they're that big.

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"But I've seen every single guy before, I've played with every single guy, and that doesn't make anything different. It's just the stage that we're on, more media, more spectators, more people around. But that's everything outside that I could control.

"So for me, this week, it's just let's go figure out this golf course Monday through Wednesday. Let's figure it out on what I need to do to play well."

Morikawa is 11/4 to win the Open.

Morikawa at the top at halfway

He's only once held a 36-hole lead as a professional, when three clear in the 2020 Workday Charity Open. He slipped three back with a Saturday 72, but forced a playoff and won it.

He may, of course, not end the day as the championship leader so what of his results when sitting at tied third or better at this stage? It's happened seven times and he's converted the win on three occasions.

Morikawa using the science

Bryson DeChambeau might have got himself in a pickle with science and technology, but not Morikawa. He made his linksland debut last week at the Scottish Open and struggled a little, finishing T71st. But the experience was revealing and he has acted on it.

"Fairways, the fescue fairway stuff, you just don't get in the US," he said. "I had to adjust, especially after playing last week.

"I changed irons just to get a little more centre-ball strike contact, and it's paid off. I'm able to be fully committed. I feel confident with my irons again that I just didn't have last week."

Morikawa also using his creative side

"Being creative is what I do," he said after his first round. "Being creative, especially with my iron shots, that's what I love to do. I love to work the ball. Love to figure out different heights you have to hit it, see different windows.

"That what's links golf does and what it tests. I think it fits right into my pocket with that. Hopefully we can continue to stress the things I do well and hopefully just have a great putting week."

READ MORE: Cobra bites back: Bryson DeChambeau gets in a fight with his driver manufacturer at the Open

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