Collin Morikawa watches his tee shot on the sixth hole...

Collin Morikawa watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

PINEHURST, N.C. — Collin Morikawa woke up Saturday nine shots off the lead and figuring he would have to get back to even par to have any chance of winning the U.S. Open.

He did his part, shooting a bogey-free 66.

What Morikawa wasn’t counting on was big Bryson DeChambeau manhandling the sun-drenched course a few hours later, shooting a 67 and leaving him seven shots behind with a round left.

Now Morikawa needs some Arnold Palmer-type magic to win his first U.S. Open title.

In 1960 at Cherry Hills, Palmer trailed Mike Souchak by seven shots after 54 holes, but birdied six of his first seven holes in the final round and went on beat amateur Jack Nicklaus by two shots for the greatest comeback in the tournament’s 124-year history. Palmer shot 65 that day; Souchak 75.

“Look, if I play the way I did today, who knows what could happen,” the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 British Open champion said after his round.

Morikawa’s round was impressive, and he has moved inside the top 10 with 18 holes to play.

Collin Morikawa hits from the native area on the 10th...

Collin Morikawa hits from the native area on the 10th hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/Mike Stewart

With the heat index pushing triple digits, Morikawa played an error-free round on the brutally difficult No. 2 course at Pinehurst in the morning to seemingly position himself for another strong finish at a tournament where he has two top 5s since 2021.

His birdie on the 18th hole, his fourth of the day, left him within five shots back before second-round leader Ludvig Aberg — who was 5 under at the time — had even teed off.

Morikawa believed when he walked off the course he’d have a chance to at least contend for his third major in a tournament in which world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler surprisingly has not been a factor.

He entered the round having to balance needing to make up ground on the leaderboard with patience on a course that makes players pay for making the slightest mistake.

Collin Morikawa watches his tee shot on the eighth hole...

Collin Morikawa watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/Matt York

He did that masterfully, aided by going 8 for 8 on scrambles and draining big putt after big putt.

“You can’t be aggressive out here,” Morikawa said. “I think if you’re aggressive, it can put you in really bad spots. You got to just kind of take your 30-footers. If you have a wedge, sometimes you’re able to go at pins. ... You play aggressive to the right parts, you take what you can. If you get lucky, you get lucky.”

He added: “I made the putts that I needed to. I made up and downs. Made everything essentially.”

After shooting 74 on Friday, Morikawa went back to study video and realized he needed to slow things down.

He wouldn’t make the same mistake on Saturday.

“For me, whenever it’s quick, it’s never good,” Morikawa said. “Just tried to be a little bit more patient out there, really stick to what I felt. Just execute as best I can.”

The 27-year-old Morikawa had a chance to win his third major at the Masters in April, where he was one shot back of Scheffler and in the final group.

They were tied through seven holes, but Morikawa found the trees at the ninth and made double bogey. Then at the 11th, he pulled his approach into the pond left of the green and made another double, ruining his chances. He finished tied for third.

He’s been on a run since then.

Morikawa finished ninth at the RBC Heritage, tied for 16th at the Wells Fargo and fourth at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He tied for fourth at the PGA Championship and was second last week at the Memorial, where a final-round 71 made up three shots on Scheffler but left him one shot back.

Now he’ll look to parlay that momentum into a strong final round Sunday — even if he is likely out of the running.

He’s not played particularly well in the final round of tournaments, breaking 70 just once since the Genesis in February.

But at Pinehurst, like he said, anything can happen.

“This course is only going to get tougher,” Morikawa said. “I know it’s not going to be easy. Today was not easy by any means. I just put it in the right spot, kept the ball in front of me, really just played very simple golf.”

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