(Reuters) – Britain’s Ian Poulter capped an error-free opening round with a birdie-birdie finish to grab a share of the early lead with American Mark Hubbard at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina on Thursday.
With the PGA Tour staging just its second event following a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Poulter showed no signs of rust with a rock-solid seven-under 64 in ideal scoring conditions at the Harbor Town Golf Links.
Hubbard, chasing his first PGA Tour title, was equally sharp in an error-free round highlighted by an eagle-three on the par-five second.
“It’s very important being bogey free,” said Poulter. “Any time that happens on this golf course, you’ve obviously played pretty well. It’s a fiddly, testy, tricky golf course.”
The pair were being chased by American Michael Thompson, Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz and Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who holed out from 27 yards for an eagle-two on his last hole to join the group one shot back.
Americans Webb Simpson, Brice Garnett, Ryan Palmer and South African Dylan Frittelli were also one back of the leaders after posting 65s later in the day.
Jordan Spieth had a rollercoaster opening round, beginning with a triple bogey seven on his third hole before scoring eight birdies to lead a group two back at five-under.
His 29 coming home equalled the lowest nine-hole score of the three-times major winner’s career.
Also in the clubhouse at five-under 66 were Tony Finau, Matthew NeSmith, Britain’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, South African Erik van Rooyen and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes.
World number one Rory McIlroy got off to a horrendous start with three bogeys on his outward nine. Playing the back nine first, the Northern Irishman steadied himself after the turn with a pair of birdies for a one-over 72 but finished eight shots behind the leaders.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ed Osmond and Lincoln Feast.)