HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — With 17 of the prime 20 players in the Planet Golf Ranking competing in the 2023 RBC Heritage this week — it was anticipated that the cream would rise to the prime of the leaderboard.
That was the case on Friday immediately after the early morning wave at Harbour Town Golf Hyperlinks as Planet No. 1 Scottie Scheffler shot up the leaderboard, with Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott all in the mix. But there have been a couple unexpected players who produced their presence felt with fantastic rounds.
Jimmy Walker, who entered the week at No. 406 in the planet, shot his second straight six-below 65 and went to the club home with a 3-stroke lead at 12 below, 3 shots ahead of Scottie Scheffler and Justin Rose. The 44-year-old Texan was on the prime of the golf planet when he won the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club, 1 of his six wins on Tour.
But he was diagnosed with Lyme illness just ahead of the 2017 Masters and has been struggling to regain his kind, battling it ever given that. The former Baylor star produced seven birdies Friday, such as a chip in from 51 feet at the 184-yard, par-three seventh.
“Yesterday, I got it going, and I was like, okay, wow. Now we need to have to pedal down, hold it going, and the identical now,” Walker mentioned. “It was take benefit, hold your head in the game, hold stroking it excellent, just hold undertaking all the points that I felt like I’ve been sort of operating on, some old feels, old thoughts, and just keep on them and be seriously diligent about it since it is so uncomplicated to just verify out. It has been for me, particularly immediately after becoming sick.”
Walker was taking a break from the game in April of 2022, and then in September the chance arose to take a prime 50 all-time cash winners exemption when the Tour suspended players who joined LIV Golf, and they have been knocked off that list — permitting Walker to rise nine spots in the rankings to No. 50.
He has missed the reduce in eight of 12 appearances this season, but has 3 prime-25 finishes in the cuts he’s produced.
“It was a fairly uncomplicated selection honestly. I was 50, and if I didn’t play, I’d in no way get it once again. I just wouldn’t. So when it occurred, it was sort of like, wow, this is unbelievable,” Walker mentioned. “I quickly shifted gears and talked to my family members and mentioned, this is it. This is what we’re going to do.”
Walker mentioned he has the practical experience and knows what it requires to win, but his illness has taken its toll.
“I haven’t place two seriously excellent rounds with each other back to back out right here … given that obtaining sick, mentally and physically really feel distinct damn close to each day, and that is been the hardest aspect,” Walker mentioned. “The points that I perform on 1 day, I can not really feel it the subsequent day. Some days I’ll get two days out of it. So that is been the hardest aspect.
“I’ve in no way felt like I’ve ever been afraid to go win a golf tournament. I’ve won golf tournaments in all sorts of fashions, huge events played on the most significant stages. So there’s absolutely nothing I haven’t performed. Practically nothing this weekend is any distinct than something I’ve ever performed honestly. Just go do it once again since it is exciting if you win.”
Mark Hubbard shot a strong 66 to move to eight-below par and in a tie for third immediately after the morning wave. The 33-year old San Jose State graduate has in no way won a PGA Tour occasion. He entered the week at No. 132 in the planet and is hunting to strengthen on his finest RBC Heritage finish of a tie for 33rd final year.
Hubbard’s only slip on the scorecard came at the 16th, a hole that calls for a draw with the driver — a shot that does not match his eye. But he responded with his sixth birdie of the day on No. 18, draining a nine footer to finish his round.
He withdrew from the pro-am Wednesday with a 24-hour bug, but immediately after sleeping it off got off to a wonderful start off with birdies at Nos. 1, two and four.
“I consider that is a scoreable aspect of the course, and it is pretty calm this morning, seriously all day,” Hubbard mentioned. “The greens have been a tiny softer, then they began to firm up a tiny in the afternoon. I consider you have got to just sort of get off to that start off out right here with two of the 3 par-5s in the initial six holes. I felt excellent.”
Fleetwood is generating his fourth look at Harbour Town, and the 32-year old Englishman was on prime of his game as he produced eight birdies, with a pair of bogeys on the back nine (his front nine Friday). His iron game was spot on as he hit 14 of 18 greens and produced 112 feet of putts, with the longest becoming a 37-foot bomb for birdie at No. 18.
“My consistency is sort of all suitable, but I’m not at the prime of the leaderboards, and that is exactly where I want to get to,” mentioned Fleetwood, who is No. 25 in the Planet Golf Ranking.
He mentioned Harbour Town suits his game, and he loves competing in tournaments the week immediately after a key.
“It’s not someplace exactly where you can overpower. I consider you have to be pretty patient. I consider you have to be a excellent iron player,” he mentioned. “There’s unquestionably elements of the golf course that I like and I appreciate playing. I’d appreciate the wind to be up a bit far more more than the weekend and have that challenge to play with.
“I basically appreciate playing the week immediately after majors. I really feel like they’re the ultimate in each aspect of your game and the challenges that the game can present you. I consider the majors are the ultimate, and I pretty like coming the week immediately after. That way you have ready so tough for these, and you really feel like you have performed every thing you can. So you sort of come right here with the mindset of everything’s performed and you just go out and play. I do not know regardless of whether it is the timing of what this occasion is or regardless of whether it is the course, but I appear fairly satisfied with each.”
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Story initially appeared on GolfWeek