History was always going to be made this week in Brookline, Massachusetts. That was inevitable. However, the Boston faithful could not have envisioned a better leaderboard heading into the weekend at the 2022 U.S. Open. While defending champion Jon Rahm and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy are firmly in contention sitting just one stroke off the lead, it is the name at the top which has the potential to produce a truly jaw-dropping moment come Sunday.
That name belongs to Collin Morikawa, who fired a 4-under 66 on Friday to reach 5 under for the championship and command the co-lead alongside Joel Dahmen. The 25-year-old Morikawa has seemingly been on television for the last decade, but in reality, this week’s U.S. Open marks only the 11th major championship appearance of his career.
In his 10 prior such starts, Morikawa captured startling milestones including a win in his PGA Championship debut and another in his Open Championship debut last summer at Royal St. George’s. A once-in-a-lifetime start to a career can be made even more memorable with a victory at The Country Club.
Three major wins in 11 starts would be unprecedented given the talent depth in the game of golf — for reference: Jordan Spieth needed 19 outings to get his three — and the ability to win those majors in three completely different settings would make it all the more impressive feat. Make no mistake, though: Morikawa is in for a battle over the final 36 holes with names like McIlroy, Rahm and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler all within shouting distance.
While this instance would not be like his last two triumphs as Morikawa has yet to command a 36-hole lead in his major career — add that to his list of accomplishments — and some may continue to doubt his putting or his inexplicable lack of confidence in his iron play, history suggests Morikawa will be just fine.
T1. Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen (-5): Last year, Morikawa couldn’t figure out the turf in Scotland, the following week he won the Open Championship. This year, he is unable to hit his patented fade with his irons, and lo and behold he is right in the mix for his third major title. Not only would he continue his incredible pace on golf’s biggest stage, but with a win, Morikawa would be a Masters victory away from completing the career grand slam. While the irons have been good, not great, he has made his mark with his performance on the greens. He had lost strokes with his putter in every start since the Masters and so far this week at The Country Club he has gained more than three strokes with the flat stick.
T3. Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Aaron Wise, Hayden Buckley and Beau Hossler (-4): Rahm played alongside Morikawa the first two days and was probably overshadowed by him. Still, the defending champion is in a very enviable position and has a fantastic chance to follow in the footsteps of Brooks Koepka and win back-to-back U.S. Opens. It is no surprise that Rahm is leading the field in strokes gained off the tee, he is the best in the world in that department by a considerable margin, however the improvement he has shown around the green this week has the potential to propel him to another major triumph.
T8. Scottie Scheffler, Nick Hardy, Matthew NeSmith, Patrick Rodgers and Brian Harman (-3): Carrying the momentum of his birdie-birdie finish from Thursday, Scheffler very much looked like the world No. 1 on Friday. While it did not begin without a hitch, the Texan put together the best approach performance of his career from a strokes gained perspective. Ultimately signing for a 3-under 67, if his short game is able to mirror his baseline statistical output the rest of the way, he will very much be in the conversation come the back nine on Sunday. He currently ranks first in strokes gained approach, third in strokes gained tee to green and sixth in strokes gained off the tee and outside the top 80 both on and around the green.
T13. Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick, Adam Hadwin and Beau Hossler (-2): Burns was one of three players to sign for a 67 in the morning wave and the next logical step in his career progression is weekend contention in a major championship. He can check that off the list as he is firmly in the mix of this championship and should love his chances moving forward. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, a victory this week would pull him alongside his good friend Scheffler on the yearly total. The LSU product has only hit 15 fairways through the first two rounds, so he will likely need to improve in this department in order to set up more scoring opportunities.
T16. Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Davis Riley and four others (-1): His U.S. Open resume is fantastic on paper, but this presents the best opportunity to date for Schauffele. In his five prior top-10 finishes, he had yet to truly contend, however with 36 holes remaining he is only four strokes off the pace. The names that he will need to leapfrog are some of the biggest in the game, but if there was ever a single instance in which he could shed the doubt and reputation surrounding his name, it is this week.
T24. Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Brandon Matthews and four others (E): Really impressive bounce back round for the two-time U.S. Open champion as he now has rounds of 73-67 under his belt. Koepka was his typical self with the media after his second round as the chip on his shoulder has somehow grown ten-fold. Only four men have beaten him in his last four U.S. Open appearances and he has his work cut out for him if he doesn’t want to add substantially to that total. An improvement around the green would be huge given it is the only area of his game which has held him back through 36 holes.
T31. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann and six others (+1): I can only imagine how frustrated Thomas is after opening his second round with a double bogey and ultimately signing for a 2-over 72. The Players Championship, PGA Championship and now the U.S. Open, the two-time major winner has received the short end of the stick when it comes to the weather bias in some of the biggest events of the season. He is only six strokes off the lead and given the firepower in his arsenal, he is still in this thing, although there is now little room for mistake.