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Collin Morikawa is part of a four-way tie for the lead in Hilton Head. Scottie Scheffler lurks three shots back

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC – Collin Morikawa had another solid round at the RBC Heritage on Friday with a 5-under 66 and looks to return to the reliable form that made him a two-time major champion.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler’s form never seems to change. Even after an emotionally taxing win at Augusta National, a quick trip to Dallas and just nine holes of practice, the world’s No. 1 player is right in the mix.

It’s busy at the summit after two days of warm, ideal scoring conditions in Harbor Town, and the $20 million event is wide open into the weekend.

Morikawa had a four-way share of the lead with Tom Hoge (64), JT Poston (68) and Sepp Straka, who recovered from an opening drive that hit a spectator in the head and led to a double bogey. Straka saw blood, but sat down after hearing that the spectator would be fine. and then put together eight birdies for a 65.

They were at 11-under 131, one shot ahead of a group that included Masters runner-up Ludvig Aberg, who is starting to be anointed Scheffler’s top challenger.

Scheffler, whose Masters win was his third title in his last four starts, didn’t look like he was doing anything special, the very trait that makes him so good. He was bogey-free, picking up birdies on the par 5s on the front nine and then walking off three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back for a 65.

“I didn’t really have to fight for par that much today,” Scheffler said. “I felt like I attacked the golf course pretty well. Could post a good song. I felt like today when I stepped on the first tee I was ready to go.

Morikawa was looking for the key to that repeatable swing of his that led to a PGA Championship title in 2020 at Harding Park and the British Open a year later. He won in Japan last fall, but lacks confidence in whatever solution he continues to make.

But he found something last week at Augusta National – he was among those leading until a pair of double bogeys around the turn on Sunday – and continued to hit the sweet spot through practice and the first two rounds of the RBC Heritage.

It’s not perfect, and that was certainly the case on Friday. But he feels he is finally on the right track. Morikawa doesn’t feel like he hit the ball well – he missed ten greens – and still managed a 66.

“I still have a lot of confidence in the swing,” he said. “Whether it went right or wrong, I could kind of accept the fact and move on. Two or three months ago – or even two weeks ago – I would see some bad shots and I would think, ‘What do I need to fix? What should I try?’

“I know roughly where the ball is going, and even if I miss it, everything is still a little tighter,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for.”

Straka was upset at the start when he bled the spectator. The tee shot was out of play and Straka checked the fan to make sure everything was fine. He didn’t miss a single tee shot the rest of the way.

“You never really want to catch a driver right away, especially in the head,” Straka said. “That was tough.”

Aberg is emotionally exhausted after a week of fighting, just like Scheffler. But at the age of 24, he expects to be able to handle the fatigue. His swing is so pure and simpleit never looks like he’s trying very hard.

The Swede had a great finish with four birdies over the last six holes and one smart equipment change. Aberg swapped his 2-iron for a 7-wood just for the par-5 15th hole, with a 100-foot tree protecting the left side.

The 2 iron was too flat. The 7-wood gives him some height, and it rose from 800 feet above the treetops to about 30 feet for a two-putt birdie.

Rory McIlroy, who knows how to hit a high ball, was impressed by the two days they spent together at Harbor Town. McIlroy was sloppy with his irons again and still managed to stay in the mix at 7-under 135, four shots back.

He insisted last year that Aberg should be part of the Ryder Cup team without seeing him play in person.

“I had way too many people telling me this guy was going to be one of the best,” McIlroy said of when Aberg turned pro last June. “His attitude is absolutely perfect for golf. It’s not often that the person lives up to the hype. But he lived up to the hype.”

The target is still world number 1 Scheffler, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. He was three men behind the lead and still seemed to be the player to beat.

AP Golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf