Although the first round lead at the RBC Heritage is shared by Graeme McDowell and Matt Every, the world still revolves around Jordan Spieth and his honoring his commitment to play in the tournament after his Masters win. And doing so while being so out of gas, he didn’t play a practice round before Thursday’s first round.
McDowell is a former champion and Every just won the Arnold Palmer. McDowell had the most interesting thing to say for my money. He was talking about shooting 5-under 66 and how it created a rejuvenation of sorts:
I’ve been grinding. I really have. I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s been four or five weeks of grinding for me. We always say you’ve got to stick to process, not get obsessed with results. Every now and then you need a little something, though, just to keep you happy. I needed something like this. And I hope that will settle me down, I look forward to the weekend, getting back out here tomorrow. Nice to see some reward for the hard work I’ve been putting up.
Spieth, on the other hand, did not have a great day shooting 3-over 74, 2-over the projected cut line. There are currently 77 players at 1-over.
Well, I didn’t drive the ball well, didn’t particularly strike my irons well. My chipping and putting wasn’t there. It was just an off‑day.
I knew I had a really good streak of under‑par rounds going before the day started. Even if we started off a little rusty, I really wanted to shoot four under‑par rounds this week. I’m a little disappointed there, but I’ve just got to come back tomorrow and make up for it.
In the context of whether this was as frustrating for him as it would have been in a normal round, he wasn’t really buying into that:
I don’t think so, no. But at the same time there’s no excuses. I stepped on the first tee after hitting balls and doing a little practice yesterday, at a course I’m familiar with. So, yeah, I mean it’s probably not quite as high, just given I haven’t played a whole lot of the course, so just adapting to do the first few holes and going from there. I still should have shot really under.
And yes, he was a little tired, but Matt Kuchar managed to do well overcoming some of the same considerations:
My legs are a little tired, but all in all that happens. I played four‑week stretches [where] I feel that, and it normally doesn’t affect anything. So it was just an off‑day. Kuchar is older than me, and he’s at the end of a four‑week stretch. And he kicked my butt today, so I’ve got some work to do.
I just didn’t have it today. It was just an off‑day for me. And I’ve got to play well tomorrow to be able to play the weekend here, and it’s something I certainly want to do.
But that said, it was nice to be able to get back in the sanctuary of the being inside the ropes:
It felt good. It felt good to get back in the ropes. It was almost a sigh of relief with the craziness of the last few days. It was nice to play with a couple of guys I’m comfortable playing with, a couple of great guys in Patrick [Reed] and Matt [Kuchar]. And we had a good time out there. I just would like to have maybe struck the ball a little better and made a couple of birdies. I have one birdie and it really wasn’t playing that hard. That wasn’t what I was looking for. But it did feel good to get back in the ropes.
And the ovation out here was fantastic. The fans at Hilton Head are awesome. It was just an interesting scenario because I was upset about missing the green, and then there was a standing ovation walking up the green. It’s like, “Thank you. I just hit a terrible shot, thanks.” So it was kind of tough to find the balance there, but we had a good time.
And now it comes time to get himself into the field for the weekend. But he’s not especially worried about it for a number of reasons:
I wasn’t nervous at all, so I wasn’t really trying to get a round out of the way. But I think tomorrow will be easier, given the conditions. It looks like there will be less wind. It was tough today because you don’t feel much on the ground, but there’s a lot of wind right above the trees, so the ball gets up in the air and starts getting thrown. And that’s what is always a struggle on this course.
But I think tomorrow, got a good feeling about tomorrow. Feel like I got some swings in, got in somewhat of a rhythm, and can at least go out and feel the shots. It was just an off‑day and it happens.
If that has a familiar echo to it, that’s because, “…got a good feeling about tomorrow,” are the very words his Masters mentor, Ben Crenshaw, uttered as the Ryder Cup captain on the eve of the U.S. comeback in 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.