USA TODAY US Edition
Trio on top after first round of Heritage
Chad Campbell used a fast start and Vaughn Taylor and Colt Knost had strong finishes to share the first-round lead at 4-under-par 67 in the RBC Heritage on Thursday.
Campbell birdied four of his first seven holes, Knost birdied three of his last five and Taylor holed out from the fairway for a closing eagle on the par-4 ninth hole at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Jim Furyk, the 2010 winner, was a stroke back along with Harris English, Charlie Wi and Matt Every. Forty-two players, including John Daly in his second PGA Tour event this year, were at even par or better.
Masters winner Bubba Watson took the week off, as did most players ranked in the top 20. No. 1 Luke Donald, who has been second, third and second in the Heritage the last three years, opened with a 75. He has to finish in the top eight or surrender to the top spot to No. 2 Rory Mcilroy next week.
Matt Kuchar, who was tied for the lead at Augusta National with three holes left before finishing two shots out of the playoff between Watson and Louis Oosthuizen, hoped to continue his strong play at Harbour Town, but he ended in a large group at 1-over 72.
Campbell held a first-round lead for the first time since the 2009 Masters. His game has faded since then — he recorded one top-10 finish in 2011, in the British Open, for his fewest in a year since he joined the Tour in 2002, and he has missed five cuts in nine tournaments this year.
“I haven’t felt like I’ve been that far off,” Campbell said. “But the results haven’t been good at all.”
Campbell got going quickly at Harbour Town with an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 2 and then consecutive birdies on the fourth and fifth holes. He moved to 4 under two holes later, rolling in a 20-footer for birdie, and added a final birdie on the 15th.
Campbell said the wind reminded him of his days playing golf in West Texas. “Other than the trees and the ocean,” he joked.
Taylor caught Campbell with his stunning shot from 103 yards out on his final hole, the ninth.
Taylor, a native of Augusta, Ga., also has struggled and teed off in the RBC Heritage on a sponsor’s exemption. He fell back to even par with a double bogey on the 16th hole before heating up on his last nine. He made birdies on the second, fourth and seventh holes before stunning the gallery — and him- self — with his on-target sand wedge.
“I hit a smooth one,” Taylor said. “Came off right, right at it, and fortunate enough to go in.”
Knost joined the leaders with a late charge of his own, collecting birdies on the 14th, 16th and 18th holes. He thinks this might be the thing to jump start a sluggish year; his lone top-20 finish is third place in the Mayakoba Classic in February.
“It’s just my kind of course,” Knost said. “The greens are real small. Just give yourself a lot of chances.”
That’s the way Furyk played, too. His problem? Starting in the chilly, windy conditions not usually seen during April in South Carolina.
He played straight and steady throughout, building on a tie for 11th last weekend at Augusta National. “I’m happy to get in with the score I did,” he said.