Matt Kuchar showed no after-effects of contending for the Masters title last week, conquering windy conditions for a five under par 66 for a share of the first round lead in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, SC. Also in at 66 on the Harbour Town Golf Links were Scott Langley and William McGirt.
Jordan Spieth, who challenged champion Bubba Watson for most of the Masters last week, came out strong on Thursday too. The 20-year old Texan had an up-and-down round but still managed to finish out at two under par 69 and is three shots out of the lead. He had three birdies and two bogeys on the first nine, then had one more birdie on 17 coming in. Spieth is a strong candidate for the Ryder Cup this year and was paired with this year’s Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, and the 2012 captain Davis Love III. He called playing with the two captains “unbelievable.” Love shot pretty well on Thursday, carding a one under 71. Watson shot 75. He will be playing 18 more holes with them on Friday.
Kuchar’s scorecard for the 18 holes was very tidy. He was bogey-free with five birdies. McGirt’s round began like a dream with birdies on four of the first five holes. He made the turn at five under, then leveled off, making a bogey and a birdie coming in for his 66. Langley also had 31 on his front nine, but he birdied six holes with one bogey. He would have had the lead outright except for a bogey on 18.
The 66 and a share of the lead for Kuchar at the RBC Heritage should come as no surprise. It was the sixth time in his past 11 rounds at Harbour Town that he has scored in the 60s. He has also been playing some great golf leading up to the Masters. Two weeks before Augusta, Kuchar finished fourth at the Texas Valero Open, then the following week lost in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open.
Harris English is alone in fourth place at three under par, but things get bunched up after that. Tied with Spieth at two under are 14 other golfers including Robert Allenby, Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt. They are three behind Kuchar, Langley and McGirt after one round of the RBC Heritage.
Kuchar’s share of the lead at the RBC Heritage comes during a week that is traditionally taken off by most of golf’s big names. Missing from the roster this week are Masters Champion Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. Tiger Woods is not at Harbour Town for some very different reasons, as he is immobilized, recovering from back surgery the week before the Masters. One former Masters champion who was in the field was CBS commentator Nick Faldo. The 56-year old, who picked up his first win in the U.S. at the RBC Heritage, had a first round 77. He is far back in the pack, in a tie for No. 124 out of 131 golfers.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky