Rory Sabbatini with early RBC Heritage lead, Dustin Johnson 5 shots back


HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Rory Sabbatini shot a 7-under 64 for his lowest spherical ever at Harbour City Golf Hyperlinks and a two-stroke lead Thursday within the RBC Heritage, with top-ranked Dustin Johnson 5 photographs behind.

The discuss main as much as the match was of the return of Johnson, the South Carolina native who grew up about three hours northwest of right here but had not performed within the Palmetto State’s lone PGA Tour cease since 2009. However it was Sabbatini who shortly moved to the highest in excellent, windless circumstances on what’s usually one of the vital wind-swept layouts of the 12 months.

Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel, Chesson Hadley and John Huh shot 66s. Johnson had a run of 4 straight birdies in the course of his spherical however ended up with a 69. He was tied for 20th.

Sabbatini, beginning on No. 10, birdied 4 holes on his entrance 9. He made a 52-foot putt on the par-Three 14th and put his strategy on No. 18 — the Pete Dye course’s signature gap with the lighthouse within the backdrop — to about 7 toes to arrange one other birdie.

“I think anytime you can birdie 18 on this golf course, it’s key because 18 is not a very forgiving hole,” he mentioned.

Sabbatini, the final of whose six PGA Tour wins got here in 2011, stored up the robust play with three extra birdies coming in. He closed the spherical with consecutive birdies on his closing two holes, the eighth and the ninth.

“All things considered, the course is probably as easy as I’ve ever seen it play,” Sabbatini mentioned.

Sabbatini wasn’t positive he’d even tee it up after hurting his again Sunday whereas engaged on his stance. He obtained therapy daily since and determined to go so long as he felt good. Seems it was all the best way to the tip. Sabbatini even bought a bonus on his closing tee field when he lastly bought his again to pop after stretching on No. 9 to make himself really feel higher. “And it kind of releases everything for the closure of the last hole,” he mentioned.

Sabbatini surpassed his earlier Harbour City low of 66 within the 2009 closing spherical when he tied for eighth, his greatest displaying in eight earlier appearances.

Johnson, ranked No. 1 for greater than a 12 months, gained at Kapalua and has 4 different prime 10s since January together with final week on the Masters the place he tied for 10th within the 12 months’s first main. He seemed to proceed his robust play at Harbour City the place he posted 10 birdies to 1 bogey throughout Wednesday’s pro-am.

Nevertheless, issues didn’t come as simply for Johnson in his first time right here since 2009.

Johnson took bogey on his second gap, the 11th. He caught hearth in mid-round, beginning a run of 4 straight birdies on the 18th gap. However Johnson missed Eight-foot par putts on the fifth and sixth holes and took yet one more bogey on his closing gap, the ninth.

“I haven’t played here in a while, so it’s definitely a little bit different being here,” Johnson mentioned.

Kuchar, taking part in with Johnson, took benefit of the delicate circumstances to get himself in early positon for his second tartan winner’s jacket.

Kuchar, ranked 21st on the planet, stood at 1 below after his first 11 holes earlier than birding 4 of his closing seven — all on putts of 15 toes or much less — to maneuver into second.

Kuchar mentioned the transfer from Augusta Nationwide’s huge greens to Harbour City’s tiny greens was an enormous distinction. “Once you get on these greens, you feel like you have a chance to make putts,” he mentioned. “To come from last week where getting on the green doesn’t mean much, you still have a lot of work to go.”

Kuchar tied for 28th on the Masters final week.

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