Collin Morikawa had shot to bring US Open trophy to Las Vegas

Collin Morikawa hits on the 10th hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament a ...

If not for a bad Saturday, Collin Morikawa could have easily brought the U.S. Open trophy home with him to Las Vegas.

Just three years into his professional career, Morikawa was close to adding a third major championship to his resume. But a 77 on Saturday at The Country Club knocked him out of contention, and he ended up tied for fifth, four shots behind winner Matt Fitzpatrick.

The second-round leader didn’t see the bad day coming.

“I think when you’re playing well — you’ll make doubles, right, and doubles aren’t acceptable, just like three-putts,” Morikawa said. “(Saturday), with two doubles, you just can’t play like that.”

The problem, he said, was keeping the ball in the fairway, normally one of the strengths of his game.

“I was playing out of the rough, which is just impossible at a U.S. Open to play well and to kind of hold and maintain pars,” he said.

Morikawa said the round caused him to get back to basics — he shot 4-under 66 on Sunday — and just play golf rather than think too much on the course.

“It just kind of made me refocus and kind of just get back into things, right, and just really start from the tee, get it in the fairway, and then worry about it from there,” he said.

Morikawa wasn’t the only Las Vegas player whose Saturday lapse cost him a chance at the title.

Xander Schauffele played the front nine in 7 over on Saturday, knocking him out of the hunt for his first major. He ended up tied for 14th, eight shots behind Fitzpatrick.

One other Las Vegas player of note at the U.S. Open was Seamus Power, who had the most consistent tournament of just about anybody. Power tied for 12th with a 71 on Thursday and three rounds of 70 after that.

Competition matters

The U.S. Open, and the Canadian Open one week earlier, showed golf fans exactly what makes for a great tournament: Elite players battling nose to nose with a title on the line.

With the Saudi-backed LIV tour desperately sucking attention away from the PGA Tour, the players responded by putting a superb tournament and performances on view.

That’s something LIV will not have with its small fields of past-their-prime golfers, three rounds and shotgun starts. Jon Rahm said that other than money, there is nothing compelling about the rival tour.

“Shotgun three days to me is not a golf tournament, no cut. It’s that simple,” Rahm said. “I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for hundreds of years.”

Even the money isn’t a draw for Rahm or his wife.

“Money is great, but when Kelley and I started talking about it, and we’re like, will our lifestyle change if I got $400 million? No, it will not change one bit,” he said. ““Truth be told, I could retire right now with what I’ve made and live a very happy life and not play golf again.

“So I’ve never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world.”

U.S. Junior Amateur

Four Southern Nevada players are headed to the U.S. Junior Amateur next month after earning spots in qualifiers last week.

Coronado teammates Lilly Denunzio and Brynn Kort earned the two spots in the girls qualifier at Reflection Bay.

Denunzio fired a 1-under 71 to earn medalist honors. Kort grabbed the second spot as one of three players at 1-over 73. Rianna Mission is the first alternate and Kacey Ly second alternate.

The U.S. Girls Junior Amateur is July 18-23 at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

On the boys’ side, Brett Sawaia, who led Coronado to the state title last month, was medalist with a 5-under 67. Mason Snyder, who won the state individual title for Palo Verde, earned the second spot in a playoff after a 68.

Yaoting Zou (68) is first alternate and Alec Higgins (70) second alternate.

The U.S. Junior Amateur is July 25-30 at Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Oregon.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.