Poul­ter, Hub­bard set early pace

Spi­eth re­bounds from triple bo­gey to stay in the hunt

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS -

RICH­MOND TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Ian Poul­ter and Mark Hub­bard set the pace for good scor­ing through a brief spell of rain at Hil­ton Head.

Jor­dan Spi­eth was pleas­antly sur­prised to join the chase Thurs­day in the RBC Her­itage.

Poul­ter holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole and fin­ished with a 5-iron to 4 feet for an­other birdie that capped a 7-un­der 64, a round with­out a bo­gey but not with­out flaws. Hub­bard kept his 64 to­gether with two par putts at the end.

They had a one-shot lead Vik­tor Hov­land, Se­bas­tian Munoz and Michael Thomp­son among the early starters.

Spi­eth didn’t fig­ure to be part of the con­ver­sa­tion un­til bounc­ing back from a triple bo­gey with eight birdies for a 66.

Three holes into the tournament, Spi­eth stood un­der a clus­ter of trees just off the 12th fair­way, look­ing some 20 yards to the right at his golf ball nes­tled in pine straw a few feet

RBC HER­ITAGE

PGA Tour

Friday’s TV: Golf, 3 p.m. be­yond the white out-of­bounds stakes. He tried to fig­ure out which tree it hit, not that it mat­tered. And then he three-putted from 25 feet for a triple bo­gey.

It was the kind of break Spi­eth has seen far too of­ten dur­ing three years with­out a vic­tory.

“All of a sud­den, I’m 3 over through three, and you start to see guys go­ing 2 un­der through two, 2 un­der through three early. It’s not a great feel­ing,” Spi­eth said.

So he told his cad­die on the 13th tee, “That’s over. Let’s get four (birdies) to­day and shoot un­der par.”

“I ended up get­ting a few more than that,” Spi­eth said.

He an­swered with a birdie on No. 13, and then just like last week’s open­ing round at Colo­nial, got hot on his back nine. Spi­eth had a ca­reer-best six con­sec­u­tive birdies. The stretch started with an 8-foot putt on the par-5 sec­ond, and it in­cluded a 7-iron to 4 feet to a left pin near the wa­ter on the par-3 fourth.

He was on such a roll that Spi­eth be­gan to con­tem­plate eight straight birdies to end his round. But he saw enough mud on his ball from the fair­way on No. 8 that he played con­ser­va­tively to 30 feet, and then fin­ished with an­other short birdie.

Rory McIl­roy was among those who strug­gled, and only a pair of birdies on the back nine kept it from be­ing worse. He opened with a 72. That ended a streak of seven straight tour­na­ments in which he broke par in the open­ing round dat­ing to the ZoZo Cham­pi­onship in Ja­pan last Oc­to­ber.

He kept it en­ter­tain­ing. On the par-5 15th, he tried to hit a slice from be­hind a tree and carry it over more oaks from 275 yards away.

It didn’t come off right, leav­ing him blocked by the trees, so he tried to hook the next one around the trees. That got caught up in the shaggy col­lar of a bunker, and he made bo­gey.

Brooks Koepka was among those at 67, while the 50-and-older gang more than held its own. Ernie Els was tied for the lead at one point be­fore set­tling for a 67.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ian Poul­ter watches his shot from the 17th tee dur­ing the first round of the RBC Her­itage in Hil­ton Head Is­land, S.C. He’s tied for the lead with Mark Hub­bard at 7-un­der 64.

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