Perfect weather and soft greens almost always result in one thing on the PGA Tour: low scores. Saturday at Harbour Town was no different—a noticeable absence of wind and some extremely gettable pin positions yielded a historic day of scoring at the RBC Heritage, with 63s being handed out like candy and no less than 27 players three shots or closer to the lead heading into Sunday.
Tyrrell Hatton, Abraham Ancer, Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer all share the lead at 15 under, setting up what should be a wild final round. Here are five takeaways from a birdiefest at Hilton Head.
Something in the high 60s simply wasn’t good enough on a remarkable scoring day
The Heritage’s move from its normal mid-April date to mid-June has resulted in tremendously low scoring.
Coming into this week, the most 63s that had ever been shot at the RBC Heritage for the entire week was four. There were six on Saturday alone, courtesy of Hatton, Carlos Ortiz, Joel Dahmen, Joaquin Niemann, Chris Stroud and Daniel Berger. The latter is 13 under and will absolutely have a chance to follow up his win last week at Colonial with another at Harbour Town.
Thirty-five players are double digits under par heading into the final round. The previous record heading into a Sunday was seven, and Dustin Johnson was the lone guy at 10 under after Saturday last year. This is nothing short of a shootout.
Tyrrell Hatton has a chance at back-to-back wins
Super under-the-radar here, but Hatton actually could put up his second straight win on Sunday. It’s not a conventional back-to-back, but it certainly satisfies the definition of a back-to-back. Hatton’s last start on the PGA Tour was in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he won. After a prolonged celebration and a gnarly hangover, he did indeed tee it up in the Players Championship. But that was canceled after one round, and he opted against playing last week at Colonial, so technically this is his first start since the API. Despite saying he “doesn’t feel comfortable” over the golf ball, Hatton followed up a 64 on Friday with a 63 on Saturday to snag a share of the lead heading into Sunday. You fear what he might accomplish when he does indeed feel comfortable.
Nick Watney’s positive COVID-19 test loomed over the course all day
News of Watney’s positive test for COVID-19 dominated headlines on Friday, and the fallout continued at Harbour Town on Saturday. A number of players had some pretty eye-opening things to say about what Watney’s test means going forward.
Vaughn Taylor, who played the opening round alongside Watney: “I was talking to Joel [Dahmen] this morning, and we were both kind of like this is a little eye-opening. We need to be more careful. I felt like coming in the last week everyone was super careful, and then we got here, and the vibe on the Island is a little more relaxed. I feel like we might have gotten a little more relaxed too, complacent with being careful.”
Justin Thomas: “I mean, no offense to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously. It’s an absolute zoo around here. There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded. So I would say it’s still coincidence that there’s got to be a lot of stuff going on around here.”
Rory McIlroy: “Nick said the thing that got him yesterday morning was he wears a WHOOP strap. A lot of us, we wear these WHOOP straps on the wrist or on the biceps. One of the big telltale signs that they’ve found over the last few weeks, they’ve done studies where, if your respiratory rate goes up during the night by more than two breaths per minute, that’s sort of a tell tale sign that you might have something. So it was actually his WHOOP that told him his respiratory rate went up, and that’s why he thought maybe I could have it.”
So far as we can tell, there is no evidence Watney infected another player. But you have to think this will not be the last time a PGA Tour player tests positive. How the tour contains this will go a long way in determining not just the immediate future of golf tournaments, but all other sports eyeing a return as well.
A big day coming up for Erik van Rooyen
American golf fans may best know van Rooyen for his joggers, but that could change with a solid round tomorrow. Van Rooyen, a 30-year-old South African who graduated from the University of Minnesota, has spent the first eight years of his professional career on his homeland’s Sunshine Tour and, more recently, the European Tour, where he won his first tournament last fall. Some more solid play in Europe and a T-3 at the WGC-Mexico moved him inside the top 50 in the world rankings, but he’s still trying to lock down his PGA Tour card. That could be accomplished with a solid finish tomorrow—a top-10 finish (he’s T-8 right now) should lock up playing privileges for next year via the Tour’s non-member FedEx Cup points list. A big opportunity indeed.