After a thrilling week back on the PGA Tour as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, Round 1 of the 2020 RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina, was just as exciting. Ian Poulter and Mark Hubbard co-lead after 18 holes after both fired early 7-under 64s, but just beyond that, the leaderboard gets a bit more titillating.
Harbour Town Golf Links is always a fascinating stop on the PGA Tour. Its tiny greens and short holes often play away from the hands of the biggest boppers on the PGA Tour and help guys like Poulter (or Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson) contend. It’s a nice break from the mammoth parks the PGA Tour otherwise visits. We saw that again on Thursday with a stylistically-diverse leaderboard. Let’s take a look.
T1. Ian Poulter, Mark Hubbard (-7): Poulter was nearly perfect in his bogey-free 64. Sure, the putter was working a little bit, but his iron play was sublime. Hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation is incredibly impressive, and he finished second in strokes gained on approach shots. Poulter is not among the longest drivers on the PGA Tour — and he wasn’t on Thursday — but at a place like Harbour Town, that often doesn’t matter. While it will be difficult for him to go wire to wire in this field, the great play is certainly sustainable given how well he’s hitting his irons.
T3. Webb Simpson, Sebastian Munoz, Viktor Hovland, Michael Thompson, Dylan Frittelli, Brice Garnett, Ryan Palmer (-6): I picked Simpson last week when he missed the cut at Colonial. So, of course, he played his first 10 holes in 6 under on Thursday. Here’s the scary part for the rest of the field: He didn’t even putt very well. Simpson has historically thrived at Harbour Town, and it’s not difficult to see why. He’s elite with irons in his hands — among the best in the game in approach shots — but not among the biggest hitters in the game. Places like Harbour Town (and usually Colonial) suit him perfectly and allow his biggest gifts to really shine. He’s your new 7-1 favorite after 18 holes, and based on how well he hit it on Thursday, that’s exactly what he should be.
T10. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Erik van Rooyen, Mackenzie Hughes (-5): This is what I mean by stylistic diversity on the leaderboard. The 15 players in the top 10 come in all swing shapes and sizes, but among this group at 5 under, Spieth stands out. Spieth always stands out because he’s historically relevant, but his last two weeks in particular have been a thrill seeker’s paradise. The primary question here from folks who follow golf is whether his 66 on Thursday — which included eight birdies and a triple because of course it did — is sustainable throughout the rest of the week. The answer in this case is … probably. Spieth led the field in iron play, and despite some poor driving (he lost two strokes alone on his triple-bogey hole), his tee-to-green play does seem to be getting substantially better. I’m excited (and scared) for the next three days.
T16. Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger (-4): These four are among a huge crowd at 4 under, and all are intriguing stories heading into Round 2. Fowler (missed cut) and Koepka (T32) were not that great last week and haven’t been on point all season. Golf is more interesting when both are prominently involved. Berger won last week and is trying to go back-to-back, which seems impossible given the field strength of both of these tournaments.
It’s DeChambeau who has captivated the golf world of late. Despite a short track at Harbour Town, he still finished top 10 in driving distance and nearly led the field in strokes gained off the tee. He’s got it dialed back a bit, and in doing so he’s showing off his full set of skills (of which there are many). I’ll be locked into whatever he does (or says or eats) Friday morning early in Round 2.
T108. Rory McIlroy (+1): Disappointing day for McIlroy, who was not very good from tee to green. Though he’s an unbelievable shot-shaper, his mediocre strokes gained off the tee numbers and 50% of fairways hit suggest that the course is uncomfortable for him off the tee. Though it remains to be seen if that’s reality or just a Round 1 anomaly, he’ll need to take it a little deep on Friday to make the cut and be able to make some noise on the weekend.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with the latest scores, updates and highlights from the RBC Heritage below. Check out the scores at the top of this story or a more detailed leaderboard.
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Diappointed by Hideki Matsuyama today, who was +3. I thought this would be a good week for him. Webb is in the house with a 65, one back of the leaders — Ian Poulter and Mark Hubbard. Dylan Frittelli and Ryan Palmer are both -6 and on their back nine. Both have a chance of tying the lead late.
Dustin Johnson just triple-bogeyed the 14th hole to fall from -4 and in the hunt to -1, six back of leaders Ian Poulter and Mark Hubbard. Tough to watch. Webb is still cruising, though, as he’s -6 after 14 holes and has a real chance to lead at the end of the day.
Webb Simpson is -6 thru 10. I would have preferred this last week when I picked him at Colonial, but it’s good to see him playing well at another track he likes. He’s one off the lead but only has one par-five left on his round. Dustin Johnson is -4 thru 10, and Bryson DeChambeau is -3 thru 11.
Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm are making the turn at at 3 under and in good shape to chase down the lead.
Best rounds going this afternoon include Sepp Straka and Webb Simpson who are both at 4 under. Straka has played his first nine, and Simpson is thru seven holes. Both trail Ian Poulter — who is still leading — by three strokes.
A few of the bigger names in this tournament — Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas — have made their way out with the afternoon wave. Both are at 2 under through three holes as everyone looks to chase down Ian Poulter and Mark Hubbard at 7 under in the clubhouse.
Here’s why Harbour Town is great. The following golfers — who have almost nothing to do with each other stylistically or in terms of statistics — are all currently in the top 10 on the leaderboard, with Ian Poulter still leading at 7 under.
Ian Poulter is in the house with a 7-under 64 and leads the RBC Heritage at the moment. Spieth, somehow, got in with a 5-under 66 (with a triple!) and is T3 and will likely be in the top 10 at the end of the day. Today is not the day I quit the Spieth coaster.