5 Things: Donald, Huh move up at RBC
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Overcoming three front-nine bogeys, Luke Donald's unsurpassed 5-under 66 Saturday took command of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Avoiding rain as some players' days were nearly two full rounds, windy conditions were the talk of Harbour Town Golf Links as the tournament got back on schedule after Friday's rain delay.
Donald leads John Huh by two shots going into Sunday's final round – when rain again will be a possibility – and a pack of four players by three.
PHOTOS: RBC Heritage, Day 3
See the action and emotion of the third day of play at the PGA Tour's 2014 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Here are 5 Things to know from Saturday's action at Harbour Town Golf Links.
• • •
1. DONALD DOES WORK: With just three pars in his first 11 holes, Luke Donald was anything but boring Saturday. After a roller-coaster ride of seven holes had him even par, birdies at Nos. 8, 10 and 11 put him in position to strike – and another at the 14th put him into the lead to stay.
The former World No. 1 is looking for his first win since the 2012 Transitions Championship near Tampa.
While Donald's consistency dropped Saturday, his score improved. After carding 26 pars during the first two rounds, he managed only eight in the third. Three bogeys didn't ruin his six-birdie-and-an-eagle day.
"I think this is a great golf course for me; certain courses are tough these days for me, how long and difficult they are. But this one I feel like I can plot my way around with the low wedges," Donald said. "If you miss greens, you need to be pretty good at the short game. Certainly a course that favors my style of play. Hopefully I'm sitting here in 24 hours."
Approaches at the 17th and 18th raised eyebrows in a good way, as he struck the ball nearly exactly over the top of the last two flagsticks for a birdie-par finish.
"Just, again, a little bit how comfortable I felt out there with my game," Donald said. "Eighteen, obviously that second shot is pretty daunting, and I had 214 yards into a 20-, 25-mile-an-hour wind. And it was as good a rescue club as I could hit. I was trying to hit it to the right side of the pin, right hand side of the green, and just turn it in a bit. And obviously came off perfect, and almost hit it a little bit too good; just rolled to the back of the green."
• • •
2. YEAH, HUH: John Huh made a steady march into contention Saturday, scattering four birdies amid bogey-free golf for 17 holes. His biggest mistake was overshooting the 18th green and leaving a chip woefully short to bogey for his second straight 68.
"18th hole was probably one of the toughest holes I think I've ever played this year," Huh said. "I hit a good tee shot and good second shot, just got a little bad break and kind of ended up in the toughest spot and got a bogey there."
At 6 under and yet to play over par in three rounds, Huh thinks he is on the rebound after missing six of his last eight cuts, going back to the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January. He's got just one top-25 finish during the wraparound 2013-14 season.
"Believe it or not, I've been playing really good, but I just wasn't able to put everything together," Huh told Golf Channel. "I think this is the week that I've put pretty much everything together.
• • •
3. THOMPSON CRAFTS ATTACK: Hilton Head Island lacked the feel of most "moving day" Saturday rounds, what with so much of the third round still on the table to start the day. But Nicholas Thompson's game on the front nine made him look like a typical third-round mover, as he charged to the lead for much of the round before fading with two bogeys down the stretch and signing for 68.
The strongest part of the round? Four birdies in five holes from Nos. 5-9 as he made the turn in 31. It made all the difference as he improved on a pair of 70s to start the week.
"You know, I played really nicely from tee to green; I didn't putt so well today," Thompson said. "My speed was a little bit off. But luckily on the front nine I hit it close enough that the speed didn't matter. I made four birdies inside of four feet. And then I hit a really nice putt from just off the green and made that."
That left him T-3 with Charl Schwartzel, Jim Furyk and Ben Martin.
"This golf course is the ultimate patience test," Thompson told Golf Channel. "You have to be so patient out here, because how many golf shots are you going to hit in the perfect spot off the tee, so you think, and not have an exact shot on the pin?"
• • •
4. FIRST, THE SECOND: While K.J. Choi had already finished up his second round Friday at 5 under, several contenders had to wrap things up early Saturday. After play resumed at 8:01 a.m. EDT, Jim Furyk and Ben Martin pulled alongside Choi atop the leaderboard. Neither could keep climbing though, as Furyk and Martin posted even-par 71s for the third round.
First-round co-leader Matt Kuchar bounced back from Friday afternoon's rough start, at least somewhat. He didn't fully erase his two double bogeys that came before the rain delay, but gained some ground by playing his 12 Saturday holes in 2 under. Like Furyk, he kept the recovery going in the third round en route to a 70. It'd be hard to blame Kuchar if he found Mother Nature at fault, as the two big miscues just before Friday's stoppage are the difference between his T-7 standing at 4 under and leader Luke Donald.
"I know today was a long day, but looking forward to coming out tomorrow with a late tee time and seeing if I can make some birdies," Kuchar said after playing 29 holes.
All 65 players in Friday's afternoon groups needed to complete play Saturday. The third round didn't start until 12:20 p.m., with the leaders teeing off exactly two hours later. With players in threesomes off both nines, the round took about 4 hours, 45 minutes – and more importantly, wrapped up before rain could return to Harbour Town.
• • •
5. SHORT SHOTS: Five players are T-7 at 4 under: Matt Every, Brian Harman, Russell Knox, Matt Kuchar and Brian Stuard. . . . Third-round co-leader K.J. Choi shot 74 to slip to 2 under, six off the lead. . . . Playing as an amateur, Matt Fitzpatrick carded his week's first round under par with a 69 Saturday that moved him to 2 under. . . . Jason Kokrak matched Luke Donald's 66 for low-round-of-the-day honors; Kokrak jumped 38 spots to T-12 at 3 under. . . . The day's high round wasn't exactly a ballooned number, as five players shot 75. . . . Sunday's forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain and winds similar to Saturday's. . . . Getting back on track exacted a toll on players and caddies, to hear Graeme McDowell's looper tell it. Said Craig Connelly via his Twitter account, @theweeman77: "30 holes out there today. #Knackered"