HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.
Jason Day and Marc Leishman kept the Australian flag flying high at the RBC Heritage. Four days after countryman Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, Day and Leishman shot 4-under 67 and trailed leader Brian Davis by two shots Thursday after the first round at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Davis lost a playoff to Jim Furyk in 2010 at Harbour Town after calling a penalty on himself. This time, the Englishman birdied eight of his final 14 holes for a 65 to pull past Day and Leishman, who were back in contention after falling short Sunday at Augusta National.
Kevin Streelman and Charley Hoffman were a stroke behind Davis at 66, while Johnson Wagner also shot 67. U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson led a large group at 68.
Day and Leishman can’t make history for their country at the RBC Heritage — only enhance it. Several Aussies have won at Harbour Town, including Graham Marsh in 1977 and Greg Norman 11 years later. Aaron Baddeley was the last Australian to take the champion’s tartan jacket in 2006.
“For a population that I think is around 23 million people in Australia, and the last time I checked the land size is a little bit bigger than North America,” Day says. “We do pretty well in sports.”
That’s been apparent on the PGA Tour in recent weeks.
Scott, Day and Leishman were all in hunt at Augusta National on the back nine until Scott, the most experienced of the Aussie trio, rose up at the end and beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff. Day finished third and Leishman tied for fourth, meaning all three are already qualified to return for the 2014 Masters.
There’s a lot of work ahead before then, Day said, especially with Davis playing Harbour Town as well as anyone in recent years.