ATLANTA (AP) — One bad shot during practice led to Collin Morikawa spending two hours looking for a fix. And now he has a scoring record at East Lake that previously belonged to Tiger Woods.
Morikawa followed his 61 with another clean card for a 6-under 64 on Friday in the Tour Championship, giving him the lowest 36-hole score at East Lake and a share of the lead with Viktor Hovland going into the weekend of the FedEx Cup finale.
“Sometimes just being out there when you don’t realize that you’re out there for that long of a period, but you find one thing that you hope works,” said Morikawa, winless since the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai at the end of 2021.
“I’ve done that for the past few years, hoping that we’re going to find that one thing that clicks and right now, I’m going to stick with it.”
Scores can look inflated at the Tour Championship because players start at various points under par depending on the FedEx Cup position. Looks were not the least bit deceiving with Morikawa, who shot 125 without a bogey over two day in extreme heat.
He was No. 24 in the FedEx Cup and started at 1-under par. Hovland, who has been hotter than Atlanta dating to the final round in the BMW Championship last week, was the No. 2 seed and began the tournament at 8 under.
They now are 16-under par, two shots clear of top seed Scottie Scheffler. The world’s No. 1 player was running hot under the collar after opening with a 71 that included the worst kind of triple bogey — a tee shot in the water and a three-putt from 15 feet.
Friday was another ball-striking clinic — he missed only two greens — and Scheffler made enough birdie chances for a 65.
“I was six shots better,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t hit it in the water on 15, and I had three less three-putts, so there you go.”
That’s about the only simple math in the FedEx Cup, that and the $18 million to the winner.
Woods shot 127 for the opening 36 holes in the 2007 Tour Championship, back when everyone started at even. That was the year grass was hard to find on the putting surfaces and the pins were in the middle of most greens.
This year it’s all about the wind, or lack of it. The heat has been stifling, but only an occasional breeze has allowed for extreme scoring. Five players shot 65 or lower.
“There’s going to be a lot more low scores, a lot more birdies made. I’m going to have to continue that heading into the next two days,” Morikawa said.
Keegan Bradley, doing what he can to make those six wild-card picks even tougher for Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson, birdied three of his last five holes for a 67 and was at 13-under.
Masters champion Jon Rahm (65) and Xander Schauffele (64) were four shots behind.
Schauffele twice has posted the low score at the Tour Championship and only has one trophy to show for it in 2017. The other time, during the era of the staggered start, he had the low score in 2020 but started seven shots behind Dustin Johnson. Schauffele began this year seven shots behind and rounds of 67-64 have allowed him to at least get in the mix.
“I look up at the board and I’m just barely picking up ground,” he said. “So still a lot to do.”
Rory McIlroy, who has been dealing with back spasms since Tuesday, felt marginally better on Friday though he still struggles to go after shots with a shorter iron, and he isn’t launching drives like he normally does.
He had a 67 and was at 10-under, six shots behind.
“I’m limited in what I can do, but I’m here grinding away, battling away,” McIlroy said. “So happy to be through 36 holes.”
The timing isn’t great. McIlroy started the tournament only three behind Scheffler, and he has won all three of his FedEx Cup titles from behind. The upside?
“I would rather it pop up now than in three or four weeks’ time,” he said, eyeing the Ryder Cup.
Morikawa was No. 10 in the Ryder Cup standings, and even with Johnson having six captain’s picks, two rounds have at least served up a reminder that Morikawa’s iron play, the hallmark of his game, works in Atlanta and Rome.
Now it could be a wild race on the weekend for a FedEx Cup title involving a world-class list of contenders. That includes Hovland, whose 28 on the back nine at Olympia Fields led to his victory in the BMW Championship last week. He shot 30 on the back nine Friday, which featured four straight birdies.
“I just tried to do more of the same and I was able to make some putts on the back nine,” Hovland said. “So, yeah. It was good.”