The opening round of the RBC Heritage saw Luke Donald and Branden Grace earn the overnight lead going into the Friday round. The dense leaderboard holds a handful of players close behind the co-leaders.
Donald and Grace Shoot 66 To Lead Field After Round One
Luke Donald fired a five-under par, 66 to start his tournament campaign. The Brit’s consistent and accurate drives set him up to attack the strategically placed pins. Donald played his first seven holes at three-under par, until scoring a bogey at the eighth. He played his next ten holes three-under par, bogey-free. The co-leader has come close to lifting the trophy at the Harbour Town Golf Links and he is striking the ball with fine-form to kick off the tournament; he should be expected to stay in contention for the next three rounds.
Branden Grace is in the search for his first career PGA Tour victory. He started his round one at the RBC Heritage with four birdies on the front nine. The South African rebounded well after leaving himself lengthy putts due to poor approach shots. The highlight of Grace’s day was on the thirteenth hole when he sank a 25 foot putt for birdie to move to five-under par. His next birdie came on 15, where he was required imagination as he hit a low bump and run to within five feet. Despite a troublesome hole on the sixteenth hole which resulted in his only bogey, the co-leader finished strong with back-to-back pars to shoot his lowest round on tour this year.
Players In Contention
The 2014 champion, Matt Kuchar, was one of two players to shoot a bogey-free opening round. He is just one shot back after a pleasing 67 to start his week. Jason Day joins the likes of Kuchar with a four-under round of his own. The world number one would move into first place in the FedEx Cup rankings with a triumph on Sunday. Sitting at four-under par as well is the Swede, David Lingmerth and the long-hitting Tony Finau. Finau ended his round on a high note as he took advantage of the reachable par four, ninth hole in which his drive nearly found the cup.
Round One Surprises
The windy conditions on the first day of play added to a group of top players’ struggles. Paul Casey and Jason Dufner opened up with disappointing rounds as they shot 75 and 76. Past champions also struggled as Graeme McDowell carded five bogeys to eventually finish three-over par alongside Billy Horschel as they are tied at 104th on the leaderboard. The 2011 champion was expected to put himself in the mix, but Brandt Snedeker only birdied on one occasion in his round of 73. It was also a frustrating day for Zach Johnson, who last won on a links golf course, but his streaky Thursday round finds him five shots back heading into Friday.
DeChambeau’s First Professional Start
Bryson DeChambeau started his professional golf career with a bogey. But the American 22-year-old put his bogey behind him to hole three birdies on the front nine. He stayed steady throughout his last ten holes to cup nine pars and one bogey. DeChambeau handled the pressure to finish his round sub-par and trails by four shots.
Donald Reflects On His Golf In Hilton Head
Luke Donald told the media after his opening round of 66 that he enjoys competing at the Harbour Town Golf Links because of the tough asks of the course, but yet it does not require being long off the tee, considering Donald ranks 175th on tour in driving distance. The Englishman also commented on his memories and Thursday’s round at the RBC Heritage.
“I have some good memories and good mojo here, so it’s nice to continue that with a very solid round,” Luke Donald told the media in South Carolina. “I hit a lot of greens and a lot of fairways. I felt that I didn’t have to work too hard to scramble, which at times you can (be found scrambling) around this place. But it was one of those good, solid rounds.”
Friday’s Round Essentials
The golfers hovering atop of the leaderboard will essentially need a sub-par round on Friday to guarantee their place in contention during the weekend. The golfers that struggled through round one essentially need to maintain their focus on keeping the golf ball in the fairway, rather than striving for power and distance. Two past champions, Snedeker and McDowell, need a Friday round in the 60s as they are in danger of missing the cut. The main storylines of round two will be how Luke Donald and Branden Grace can handle their lead and if the world number one, Jason Day, can break away from the pack.