RBC Heritage 2017
Round 4 - Wesley Bryan claims first PGA Tour title
April 17, 2017
Wesley Bryan remembers pestering players with a lot of crazy questions at Harbour Town Golf Links as he followed father George III's only appearance at the RBC Heritage in 2004.
''I was probably the most annoying 14-year-old there was,'' Bryan said.
Once a pesky teen, Bryan's now a PGA Tour winner.
Bryan rallied from four-shots down Sunday to win his home state tournament, closing with a 4-under 67 for a one-stroke victory over Luke Donald.
Bryan, a South Carolina native who played college golf for the Gamecocks, moved into contention with four consecutive birdies on the front nine. He took the lead with a birdie on the 15th hole and finished at 13-under 271.
Bryan earned $1.17 million, a tour exemption through the 2018-19 season and a spot in the 2018 Masters.
While excited about the breakthrough victory, Bryan believes it's just a stepping stone to bigger dreams he's had since playing the game as a child.
''At the end of the day, it doesn't really change anything other than I now have one PGA Tour victory,'' he said. ''There are a lot of guys that have just one PGA Tour victory. My one goal is to get number two at this point.''
Donald shot 68 in his latest close call at Harbour Town Golf Links - it was his fifth second-place finish here since 2009.
The 27-year-old Bryan tapped in for par on the closing, 18th lighthouse hole to make the former trick-shot artist the first South Carolinian to win the state's lone PGA Tour event.
Ollie Schniederjans, Patrick Cantlay and William McGirt tied for third, two strokes behind Bryan.
Schniederjans shot 68, Cantlay 67 and McGirt 69.
Bryan was largely known as a YouTube sensation, he and brother George IV, another Gamecocks golfer, pulling off often unbelieveable trick shots - like chipping the ball 20 yards to a waiting Bryan brother to belt away before it hits the ground.
There were no tricks to Wesley Bryan's round this time, the first to win at Harbour Town in his first try since Boo Weekley won the first of his two straight RBC Heritages in 2007.
Bryan got it going with his front-nine run, with birdies on the fourth, fifth, sixth and seven holes. After Bryan moved in front on the 15th, he sweated out three straight two-putt pars.
The 23-year-old Schniederjans, five shots behind when the round began, made it all up and was out front with five front-nine birdies. Competing for his first PGA Tour win at the tricky Pete Dye layout proved too daunting for the inexperienced Schniederjans. He missed makeable birdie tries on the 13th, 14th and 15th, then failed to get in for par after hitting into the bunker on the par-3 17th.
''It was a great week and a good experience on the back,'' Schniederjans said. ''I tried to win the golf tournament and I came up a little short maybe this time. But another good experience Sunday.''
Donald appeared done after driving out of bounds on the second hole and leaving the birdie-able par-5 with a double-bogey seven. Then Donald, a modern-day Harbour master, made five birdies in a 10-hole stretch to tie for the top before Bryan moved in front.
''Obviously, it's a place I feel comfortable and I like and I've had a lot of success,'' he said. ''I've got to just keep pounding away. And, hopefully, I'll get there.''
Dufner had hoped to channel Master winner Sergio Garcia's approach of lowering expectations in the final round and let the talent shine through. Dufner was 14 under after a birdie on No. 2, but bogeyed three of the next six holes to fall back. He scrapped back within a shot before his chances ended for good on the 13th hole.
Dufner's approach landed in the bunker up against the wood facing and he had to chip sideways, remaining in the bunker, before blasting out and taking double bogey.
Dufner plopped his tee shot on the par-3 14th into the water and finished with a 5-over 76 - 12 shots more than his third-round 65 that put him in front through 54 holes.
Just like last week at the Masters, Matt Kuchar used a Sunday run to make a move up the leaderboard.
Kuchar had a 5-under 67 in the final round at Augusta National to finish fourth after starting the day six shots behind. At Harbour Town, Kuchar shot a 64 - the day's best round - to improve 52 spots and tie for 11th.
Round 3 - Jason Dufner eagles way in to lead
April 16, 2017
Jason Dufner took more than a solid showing away from the Masters last week. He took inspiration from winner Sergio Garcia.
Dufner finished 33rd in the year's first major, things getting away from him late in the final round a week ago. But he took something from Garcia by managing his expectations and letting his game show through. And Dufner believes that's why he's got a one-shot lead heading to the final round of the RBC Heritage.
Dufner had two eagles on the way to a 6-under 65 to move in front of Graham DeLaet (69).
Dufner, at 13 under, said he entered Harbour Town Golf Links with low expectations, deciding that he'd gone through too many tournaments over-thinking how he was supposed to play or whose expectations he was supposed to live up to.
''That really gets in the way of playing well to be honest with you,'' said Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner. ''So I think I maybe learned a little bit from the champion last week, where he kind of lowered his expectations, and got out of his way, so to speak, and let his talent and his game plan take it from there.''
Dufner's talent was on display, particularly on Harbour Town's par-5s.
He blasted a 215-yard approach on the second hole to 11 feet for his first eagle. He was short of the fifth green in two, then chipped in from about 100 feet for his second eagle. On the 15th, the course's final long hole, Dufner settled for birdie, part of three in a row on the back nine that took him into the lead.
Dufner plays Harbour Town often, but without much success. His best finish was a tie for 14th and only once in seven previous fourth rounds has shot in the 60s. He is chasing his fifth PGA Tour title - and just the second since winning the Wanamaker Trophy at Oak Hill four years ago.
Dufner said he took confidence from his Masters performance and has carried that into this week.
''I feel like this golf course has always been a good set up for me,'' Dufner said. ''I haven't had amazing results here, but I've been pretty consistent. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.''
DeLaet was tied with Dufner heading into his final hole, but three-putted No. 18 from 35 feet to fall back. Still, it was the Canadian's third straight sub-70 round after having just five in five previous appearances here.
DeLaet is seeking his first tour win and knows it will take a mental effort to keep him straight. ''Obviously, this is the one thing that's kind of missing,'' DeLaet said. ''So there's going to be some battles (inside) that I'm going to have to deal with.''
Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson were at 11 under. Kisner shot a 66, and Simpson, the former U.S. Open champ, had a 68.
Kisner followed up his 64 with a second straight bogey-free round at Harbour Town. The last of his five birdies - a 30-footer on No. 17 - pushed him into the tie with Simpson.
Simpson was the hottest player on the course when the round began, going 4-under over his first six holes including an eagle-3 at the par-5 fifth. Then Simpson cooled off, with 11 pars and a bogey on the 16th that dropped him two shots behind.
Ian Poulter, in a chase to stay on tour, shot 69 to stay in fifth. He had three birdies on the final five holes before the turn to share the lead with Simpson for a time. On the 10th hole, however, he hit his drive left in the water, then landed his second tee shot along the water line where an alligator - perhaps miffed by the first water ball - stared down the Englishman known for his colorful outfits. Poulter tried to set up, but the gator would not relent until the caddie of playing partner Simpson charged the reptile.
The alligator retreated to safer waters and Poulter took double bogey.
Poulter, playing on a medical extension, needs to earn $145,000 of 117 FedEx Cup points over the next two weeks to keep his playing privileges intact. He's in good because fifth place pays $260,000.
Round 2 - Luke Donald & Graham DeLaet share lead
April 15, 2017
Luke Donald, a four-time runner up in the US PGA Tour's Heritage, pitched in for a birdie at 18 on Friday to seize a share of the halfway lead alongside Graham DeLaet.
England's Donald hit just 11 of 18 greens in regulation. But his five birdies included three in a row at the fourth, fifth and sixth.
He followed his only bogey of the day at 11 with a birdie, and holed out at the last for a 67 and a 10-under par total of 132.
"Obviously wasn't a great second shot, bounded out to the right," he said of his approach at 18. "But the grass is really nice so you can really get it to nip and just played it perfectly. It was a little bit of a struggle today, but my short game helped me out."
Donald, a five-time winner on the US tour, has six top-three finishes at Harbour Town Golf Links, most recently claiming a share of second last year.
Canada's DeLaet, seeking his first tour title in his seventh season, followed up his first-round 65 with a 67 that included an eagle at the par-four ninth.
"I holed a wedge," said DeLaet, who had 109 yards to the hole from the right fairway. "It was a perfect shot, but there's obviously some luck involved in that."
Despite a bogey at the third, DeLaet delivered a crisp performance, hitting 15 greens in regulation. He got going with a birdie at the eighth, and after his eagle had a birdie chance at 10 before picking up shots with birdies at 11 and 12.
DeLaet and Donald were two strokes in front of England's Ian Poulter and American Webb Simpson, who both shot 68.
Poulter, playing on a major medical exemption, has this week and one more start to collect the prize money he needs to secure his playing status for the rest of the season.
Since returning from a foot injury in October Poulter has made eight starts on the US tour, making five cuts.
Overnight leader Bud Cauley carded a 72 that included a double-bogey seven at the 15th to fall into a group three shots off the lead on 135.
He was joined by fellow Americans Pat Perez (67), Jason Dufner (67) and Sam Saunders (70) and Canadian Nick Taylor (66).
Round 1 - Bud Cauley leads with opening 63
April 14, 2017
Bud Cauley took advantage of pristine, windless conditions at Harbour Town Golf Links with birdies on four of final five holes for an 8-under 63 and a two-shot lead Thursday after the opening round of the RBC Heritage.
Cauley hadn't made many waves at Harbour Town his first three visits with two missed cuts and only one round in the 60s. This time, though, with mild, 70-degree conditions, practically no wind and abundant sunshine, Cauley made eight birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight to finish with a flourish.
''You never go out thinking you're going to shoot that,'' Cauley said. ''I just got into the round and was swinging well and tried to give myself as many looks as I could.''
The 63 was one shy of the 27-year-old Cauley's career low (62 at the McGladney Classic in 2012) and two off the tournament mark of 61 shared by David Frost and Troy Merritt.
Cauley was two in front of Luke Donald, Graham DeLaet and Sam Saunders, the grandson of the late Arnold Palmer. Russell Henley continued his recent run of top-flight golf with a 66 to join a group that included former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson and Ian Poulter.
But it was Cauley's strong finish that led the way. He rolled in a 5-footer for birdie on No. 16, an 8-footer for another on No. 17 and hit a near perfect approach to the usually wind-swept 18th green off Calibogue Sound to inside 12 feet for the two-stroke edge.
While the lack of wind certainly helped, Cauley said his shot selection and game plan coming in were essential in his success. ''The last five holes I hit every shot just kind of how I was looking,'' he said. ''So that was a nice way to finish.''
Cauley hasn't had the greatest season, missing seven cuts in 12 starts. His best showing was a third at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the California desert. He hopes this start can propel him to bigger things.
Cauley knows he could've been elsewhere under different circumstances. He chuckled at pictures of his four good PGA Tour friends, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Smylie Kaufman and Justin Thomas, on a spring break jaunt - including a yacht - to Baker's Bay in the Bahamas. If Cauley continues his strong play at Harbour Town, he'll have just as good a time as his foursome of pals.
''I had to keep my shirt on today,'' he joked.
Donald got the ball rolling with his early 65. The former world No. 1 was frustrated at missing his second straight Masters last week and used it as motivation to once again batter Harbour Town.
''It's never fun to be sitting at home,'' Donald said of the Masters miss. ''But in a way, it motivates you. It gets the fire under you and you get a little bit more inspired.''
Donald has finished second four times and third twice in his past eight appearances at Harbour Town.
His 65 was the 20th time in 41 career rounds that Donald shot in the 60s at Harbour Town. It was also his eighth straight round under par here, closing in on the record of 11 in a row he already shares with Larry Nelson. Donald says there's no secret to his success here: Scramblers and those who manage their games well have as much of a chance as any long bomber at Harbour Town.
''The long hitters, it's taking driver out of their hands a lot,'' Donald said. ''So I feel like the playing field's leveled out.''
It also helps when many of the world's best don't show up. Just five of the world's top 25 are playing, starting with England's Tyrrell Hatton (No. 16) who shot a 69. Matt Kuchar, 17th in the world, is the best Masters finisher at the RBC Heritage, following a fourth at Augusta National with an opening 68.
Henley continued his strong recent play. He won in Houston two weeks ago simply to make the Masters, then finished in 11th in the major to earn an invite back to Augusta National in 2018. Henley said he put the clubs away Monday and Tuesday to rest up after arriving from Augusta. ''It's been a whirlwind the last two weeks,'' he said.