hilton head island, s.c.
There were no major letdowns for Masters contenders Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.
Kuchar, who tied for fifth at Augusta National, shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 to share the first-round lead with Scott Langley and William McGirt.
The 20-year-old Spieth tied for second behind Bubba Watson last Sunday and continued his strong play with a 69, part of a large group tied for fifth at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Kuchar and Spieth both spent much of Sunday in the pressure cooker that is the Masters’ final round. But neither player allowed any lingering disappointment or fatigue from a grueling week to slow them down here.
“I was anxious to get back out and play another competitive round,” Spieth said. “So today was going to be kind of therapy, in a sense, from last week.”
Langley and McGirt each had five birdies on the front nine to match Kuchar.
Harris English was two shots behind after a 68 before Spieth topped a group of 15 another stroke back. In all, 54 competitors shot par or better despite the gusts of 20 mph that swept through the course much of the round.
The week after the season’s first major is generally one of rest for many of golf’s big names and this year’s no different. Masters champ Watson took off as did Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods continues recuperating from back surgery that kept him from playing Augusta National for the first time in 20 years.
Just six of the world’s top-20 ranked golfers teed it up this week, led by Kuchar at No. 6.
Spieth, who tied with fellow Masters rookie Jonas Blixt for second last week, didn’t consider withdrawing at Harbour Town, convinced of the benefits of quickly getting back to work.
It was also a get-to-know-you session for Spieth, who was paired with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and 2012 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.
“It was unbelievable just to be playing with them,” Spieth said.
For Kuchar, playing was a no-brainer considering the strong run he’s been on the past month or so.
He tied for fourth at the Texas Open three weeks ago and lost in a playoff at the Houston Open a week later right before the Masters.