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Golf: South African Sabbatini leads by two at Hilton Head

Reuters

(Reuters) - A flawless Rory Sabbatini held a two-shot lead after the first round of the RBC Heritage in South Carolina on Thursday only hours after being unsure if he would be fit to play.

The 42-year-old South African, who tweaked his back this week while working on his swing, shot a seven-under 64 that left him two shots clear of Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel, John Huh and Chesson Hadley at Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island.

"I was just happy to be able to play today," Sabbatini, who is 190th in the world rankings, told Golf Channel. "I was just trying to simplify everything and wasn't trying to hit it hard, just put it in the fairway, find the greens."

Sabbatini, chasing a seventh PGA Tour victory and first since 2011, started on the back nine and made four birdies to reach the turn at four under. He made another three birdies over his closing stretch, including at his final two holes.

Kuchar, who also started on the back nine, birdied his final two holes to join a group sitting two shots off the lead, while Huh fired a six-under 30 over an electric front nine in which he made four birdies along with an eagle at the par-five fifth.

World number one Dustin Johnson, fresh off a 10th place finish at the Masters on Sunday, was five shots off the pace after mixing four bogeys with six birdies for a two-under 69.

That left the long-hitting American in a share of 20th place along with defending champion Wesley Bryan, who entered this week after having missed four consecutive cuts.

U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain Davis Love III, a five-times champion here, was two-over par while his son Dru Love, who received a sponsor exemption for the event, was six over.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)