Cauley's strong play leads the field with 63
April 13, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Bud Cauley holds 2-shot lead at RBC Heritage
In the opening round of the 2017 RBC Heritage, Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker, and Graham DeLaet all shot low rounds but it was Bud Cauley who had the best score of the day at 8-under par to hold a 2-shot lead.
HILTON HEAD, S.C. – News and notes from Thursday’s opening round of the RBC Heritage where Bud Cauley produced an impressive bogey-free 8-under 63 to take control of the early goings.
Luke Donald also continued his love affair with Harbour Town Golf Links as his 65 has him tied second with Canadian Graham DeLaet and a late-surging Sam Saunders, who sit just two back. Click here for a full recap.
CAULEY CLAWS TO THE TOP
When Bud Cauley was coming out of his college career at Alabama, the talk was more about when, not if, he would claim a victory on the PGA TOUR.
As a distinguished amateur, Cauley was able to gain a TOUR card via just eight starts in 2011, once he turned professional, a feat reserved for just the select few talents.
But while he contended heavily at times in his first few seasons, the elusive win evaded him.
He then dislocated his shoulder during a swing at the 2014 John Deere Classic and while he pushed forward and won in the Web.com Finals later in the year, surgery would ensure the 2014-15 season was a write-off.
Cauley returned last year and scraped together a season worthy of keeping his status into 2016-17, but then proceeded to miss five of his first seven cuts this season.
Thankfully for the Floridian, he sandwiched a T3 at the CareerBuilder Challenge in there to create a base that has him running 95th in the FedExCup, despite relative slim pickings since.
Thursday at Hilton Head, his long talked about potential surfaced once more as he nabbed four birdies on each side for a clinical 8-under 63.
It was 10 strokes better than his scoring average of 73 at the course from his previous eight rounds.
“It's tough. It's just something that's out of your control. You can prepare and play and do all the things you're supposed to and then you get hurt and there's kind of nothing you can do,” the now 27-year-old Cauley said of his struggles.
“I guess it's better that it happened when I was younger, as opposed to later, it's easier to recover from something like that.
“It's also something I'll have to deal with the rest of the career but as long as I stay up with the physical therapy and do the right things I think I'll be able to stay healthy and hopefully it will be something 20 years from now I barely remember.”
Bud Cauley interview after Round 1 of RBC Heritage
DONALD DOES IT AGAIN
England’s Luke Donald says it best when he claims, “I’ve done everything but win here,” but after another sensational start in Hilton Head he might have to change his soundbite in the future.
The 39-year-old has been a staple on top of the leaderboards at the RBC Heritage for some time and has been runner up four times and finished third twice across the last eight years.
After his opening round 6-under 65 led the morning wave at Harbour Town, and ultimately had him tied second just two back, he may just be on track to finally break through.
His 65 tied his lowest career round at Harbour Town and is one better than the 66 he opened with a year ago before eventually finishing second behind Branden Grace.
“This place has been kind to me. It’s nice to get off to a great start,” Donald said.
“It's always nice to come back to places you feel comfortable and you've had success. Obviously, I've had a lot of success here in the last eight years. I've done everything but win. And it would be nice to give myself another chance to try and finally get over that hurdle.”
Donald’s comfort level comes from his confidence in his course management ability and the fact that the venue takes the driver out of play for a lot of the long hitters. You have to be strategic around Harbour Town.
At 136th in the FedExCup, Donald knows he needs some results to go his way if he is to remain one of the few players to have been in the FedExCup Playoffs every year since inception in 2007.
“I feel like the playing field is leveled out here,” he said.
“The last month my golf hasn't been where I'd like it to. I’ve definitely got some good golf in me and I’ll keep pushing forward.”
PRESIDENTS CUP INTERNATIONALS FINDING FORM
New Zealand’s Danny Lee and India’s Anirban Lahiri know they need to lift their games if they are to achieve the goal of returning to the International Presidents Cup team come October.
As rookies on Nick Price’s team in Korea in 2015, Lee and Lahiri got a taste of the biennial team event, and after coming within a point of victory, are desperate to return and push for some revenge against Team USA.
But to do so, both men need to make significant climbs up the world rankings after falling back over the last 12 months.
Thursday at Harbour Town may just have been the beginning of the climb.
Lee produced a solid 5-under 66 to sit just one shot back of morning leader Luke Donald, while Lahiri’s 67 has also provided a good base for a big week in South Carolina.
Currently 117th in the FedExCup and down to 108th in the world rankings, Lee sits 28th in the International Team Standings for the Presidents Cup. The top 10 come September 4 are automatic selections before Price gets two captain’s picks.
Price has made it clear he’d like to keep as much of his team from Korea together as possible if form permits.
“It’s definitely in my head, it is one of the biggest goals for this year,” Lee admits.
“I know I am a little bit behind but I am showing good signs and hopefully that translates to good results.”
Lahiri has dropped to 20th on the points list and has now targeted a win on the PGA TOUR to make his move. He is yet to win on TOUR despite boasting 16 international victories.
In Korea, he failed to earn a point for the team – a fact that burns.
“The Presidents Cup is definitely on my mind and everyone else’s who can play on that team,” Lahiri said.
“I think Nick is going to want to have his strongest 12 players to tee it up. I want to be playing well enough to justify being on that 12, whether it's automatic or not.
“Ultimately you don’t want to be a passenger on that team. You want to be contributing, and I think that's why I'm so motivated because I didn't have a very good debut at the Presidents Cup. So, I feel like I have unfinished business and that motivates me.”
Another man to watch is Canadian Graham DeLaet. He was a spirited member of the team in 2013 at Muirfield Village but has slipped all the way to 36th in the standings.
Given the slide, he’d need a win and more to get back into the conversation, but his Thursday 6-under 65 had him tied for second.
Hideto Tanihara, currently in the 12th slot on the standings, shot 67 to be tied 11th.
ODDS AND ENDS
Sam Saunders continued his solid form since missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with an impressive opening 65, tied for second just two back. Playing in the final group of the day, Saunders closed with three straight birdies to rocket up the leaderboard. Palmer’s grandson was T5 in the Puerto Rico Open after an emotional week as a host at Bay Hill and backed it up to be T20 at the Shell Houston Open. Eight of his last nine rounds on TOUR are under par.
Sam Saunders' 15-foot birdie putt at RBC Heritage
England’s Ian Poulter is in position to take care of his major medical exemption after an opening 5-under 66 to be tied fourth. Poulter, who has two PGA TOUR and 13 international victories, succumbed to a foot injury last year. He now needs to earn 117.745 FedExCup points or $144,669 over the course of this week and one more start. He would earn enough money if he finishes solo 12th or better this week.
Steven Bowditch recorded his first bogey-free round since the CareerBuilder Challenge in January – where he made his only cut in 14 starts this season. Bowditch did so in a rare way, recording 18 straight pars for a 71.
Defending champion Branden Grace opened with a 3-under 68 as he attempts to join Payne Stewart (1989-90), Davis Love III (1991-92) & Boo Weekley (2007-08) as the only back-to-back winners at the RBC Heritage.
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