RBC Heritage 2016
Round 4 - Branden Grace claims first PGA Tour win
April 18, 2016
Branden Grace has had his share of big moments. He believes winning the RBC Heritage is his biggest, by far.
The 27-year-old South African had won 10 times overseas, finished in the top five last year in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, and went 5-0 for the International team at the Presidents Cup. On Sunday, he shot a 5-under 66 to overtake Luke Donald for his first title on the PGA Tour.
''This really puts the cherry on top of the cake,'' Grace said. ''And I'm excited for things to start.''
Grace has already fashioned a very accomplished career. He's 14th in the world ranking and three of his seven career wins on the European Tour have come since 2015.
''I can tick this one off the box and head into the next couple of majors trying to win it,'' he said. ''I have one notch, I've done it before and I can do it again.''
Grace trailed leader Luke Donald by three shots when the round began, but wiped out that deficit by the turn with five birdies. Grace took the lead for good with consecutive birdies on 12 and 13.
He overcame a final challenge on the 16th hole, rolling in a 12-foot par putt to maintain a three-shot lead. A hole behind, Donald lipped out a birdie try. He could get no closer.
Grace finished at 9-under 275, two shots ahead of Donald and Russell Knox. Donald shot a 71, and Knox had a 67.
Grace earned $1,062,000 and a PGA Tour exemption through the 2017-18 season, which he said was a weight off his mind and will allow him to comfortably contend without worrying about keeping his tour card.
Grace also became the latest to rally past hard-luck leader Donald at Harbour Town Golf Links. The Englishman has finished second four times and third twice in the past eight events here.
Brandt Snedeker shot a final-round 64 to catch Donald and win in a playoff in 2011. Matt Kuchar shot a 64 in 2014, overtaking Donald for the win with a chip-in from the bunker on the 72nd hole.
Donald said Saturday after taking a one-shot lead he'd need to be aggressive and make birdies. That did not happen. He settled for pars on the opening six holes, while Grace moved in front with four birdies on the same stretch.
Donald got to 8 under with a birdie on the seventh hole, then quickly gave it back on No. 8 when he drove in the water and took bogey.
He caught Grace one final time with a ninth-hole birdie, but could not keep up with the South African.
''I think I've got to put myself three or four behind on Sunday,'' Donald said. ''Leading doesn't seem to be working out for me.''
Although Donald earned $519,200 and moved past five-time RBC Heritage champion Davis Love III for second in tournament winnings here with $3,063,520.
Bryson DeChambeau, the former SMU star who won the NCAA and U.S. Amateur last year, tied for fourth in his first event since turning pro, four shots behind Grace after a 68. Kevin Na was tied with DeChambeau after a 69.
Top-ranked Jason Day rebounded from a season-worst 79 on Saturday with a 68 to tie for 23rd at 1 under. He now gets a week off before returning to play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, starting on April 28. He said he'll use the time to refresh his mind and improve his fitness, which he said got a bit loose during this last run of tournament golf.
Not that it hurt him on the course. In the past month, Day won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the World Golf Championship's Dell Match Play event. He tied for 10th at the Masters and shared the 36-hole lead at Harbour Town until his third-round blow up.
His finish was his third round in the 70s this week. ''A lot of positive stuff'' at the tournament, Day said. ''I've just got to get back, just rest my mind, rest my body and try and get back in the swing of things.''
Round 3 - Luke Donald regains lead
April 17, 2016
For Luke Donald, it's another chance to end his hard-luck history at Harbour Town Golf Links. For Jason Day, it's a rare round to forget for the world's No. 1 player.
While Donald took the lead Saturday at the RBC Heritage with a 2-under 69, Day - tied atop the leaderboard entering the round - had a season-worst 79 to fall nine shots behind.
''It's obviously not the way I wanted to play,'' said Day, the winner of two of his past three PGA Tour events.
It was exactly what Donald wanted at one of his most successful courses. He has mastered the swirling wind, tight fairways and really small greens better than just about anyone since 2009 with five top-three finishes over that span. The only thing he hasn't accomplished? Victory.
He has learned from those close calls that he can't sit back Sunday and allow others - like winners Brandt Snedeker did in 2011 or Matt Kuchar did in 2014 - to zoom past him as he pars his way home.
''I can't sit back on my heels,'' the Englishman said.
Donald was at 7-under 206 through 54 holes, a stroke in front of Jason Kokrak and Charley Hoffman. Kokrak shot 68 while Hoffman had a 71. Patton Kizzire shot a 71 and was another shot behind in fourth. British Open champion Zach Johnson, after a 70, was among three at 4 under.
Donald was a stroke behind when the round started and quickly moved up with three birdies on his first eight holes to reach 8 under. He bogeyed the 13th and trailed Hoffman by a shot. But Donald steadied his game with five straight pars over the windy back nine to get himself on top once more.
Donald has won more than $2.5 million at the RBC Heritage, the third-highest total. But he's known as much for his disheartening defeats on Pete Dye's tricky layout. Snedeker rallied from six shots behind Donald to force a playoff and win in 2011.
Three years later, Kuchar's chip in from a bunker in front of the 72nd hole capped a four-shot comeback and left Donald, whose last of five PGA Tour wins came in 2012, in second once more.
''I think it's a bit dangerous to say a place owes you,'' Donald said. ''Certainly, I've knocked on the door many times. I'd love to put that tartan jacket on tomorrow.''
One who figured to join the battle was Day, but his round went bad right from the start.
Tied for the top and playing in the final group, Day came up short of the first green and made bogey. Two holes later he drove into water after hitting some trees way right of the third fairway for a double-bogey 6. The wheels came off for good during an awful stretch around the turn - Day made five bogeys in a six-hole span.
His 79 was his highest round of the year and his worst showing in 63 rounds since an 81 last year in the second round of The Players Championship.
''I felt like there was a good score out there today if you hit it in the right spots,'' Day said. ''And unfortunately, I just kept missing it in the wrong spots.''
Day attempted to take his poor play in stride, signing autographs for fans behind the 18th green. After winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The WCG-Dell Match Play, finishing 10th at the Masters, Day said several times this week he was ready for a break - which the PGA Championship winner will get next week.
Hoffman also has a score to settle with Harbour Town. He was the 54-hole leader here in 2013, yet ballooned to a 77 in the final round. He looked like he would hold the lead after moving to 8 under, one up on Donald, with a birdie on the 16th hole. Yes, he missed a 6-footer for par on No. 17 and a 17-foot putt from the back fringe on No. 18.
''Hopefully, I can reach down deep,'' Hoffman said. ''I know I've done it before.''
Round 2 - Jason Day joins leaders
April 16, 2016
Jason Day is back at the top in a bid for his third PGA Tour title in a month.
Coming off a disappointing Masters, the top-ranked Day shot a 2-under 69 on Friday at the RBC Heritage to share the second-round lead with Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman.
Chappell and Hoffman shot 68s for the second straight day to match Day at 6-under 136..
Luke Donald, tied for the first-round lead after a 66, was a stroke back along with Russell Knox and Patton Kizzire. Donald had a 71. Knox shot a 65, the best round of the week. Kizzire had a 68.
Past tournament champion Matt Kuchar topped the group at 4 under after a 71.
Day has won two of the past three times he's entered, starting with a one-shot victory over Chappell a month ago in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Day followed that with a victory at the WCG-Dell Match Play and was a strong choice to slip on his first green jacket last week at Augusta National. Instead, Day tied for 10th and was never truly part of the drama in Jordan Spieth's late collapse and Danny Willett's triumph.
Now, Day is fighting off the fatigue and finding success again at Harbour Town Golf Links.
''I felt like I was kind of punch drunk a little bit,'' he said of Thursday's start. ''But came out today a lot more alert and on top of it.''
That's bad news for the rest of the field because Day has shown there aren't many who can match him when he's playing like this.
''I may be a little bit mentally fatigued, but it's not an excuse,'' he said. ''I need to get out there and hit the shots and focus.''
Day hit the shots he needed at the most crucial times.
Starting on No. 10 a shot behind leaders Donald and Branden Grace, Day could not get going in the chilly, damp conditions. He kick-started the round with a birdie on the wind-swept, lighthouse 18th, rolling in a 10-footer.
Birdies on the second and third moved him on top. When he fell a stroke behind Chappell with a bogey on the par-5 fifth - Day hit his drive out of bounds - he recovered with a birdie on No. 6.
Day felt the weight of the past few weeks of winning golf on the fifth green as he lined up the 4-foot putt needed to limit the damage from his bad drive. That's when he channeled the mindset he's had since last summer when he won the PGA Championship.
''Moments like that where you get to a breaking point, where you go, 'OK, I'm starting to lose focus now.' Because I was playing great, but it went out of bounds. I can't think about it. I've just got to keep pushing on.''
Chappell's pushing on, too.
He has earned more than $1.4 million in 11 events this year, the bulk from two runner-up finishes. Chappell's best showing in his nine other tournaments? A tie for 26th at the Northern Trust Open.
''My game didn't go anywhere,'' Chappell said. ''I'm still on form and really excited to be here and really excited about where things are at.''
Hoffman, who held the 54-hole lead here in 2013, had a tying birdie on the difficult par-4 eighth hole, then scrambled for par from the pine straw when his drive on No. 9 landed near the merchandise tent.
''Once you get in the lead, you can't let up, you've got to keep making birdies,'' Hoffman said. ''That's what Tiger did so well during the early 2000s and that's what I'm going to try and do on the weekend.''
Round 1 - Luke Donald & Branden Grace share lead
April 15, 2016
Missing the Masters made Luke Donald's blood boil. The former world No. 1 channeled that anger to shoot his best round since January, a 5-under 66 at the RBC Heritage that left the Englishman tied with Branden Grace for the first-round lead Thursday.
The two were a stroke ahead of four players, including the world's current top-ranked player in Jason Day.
Day caught Donald and Grace at the top heading to Harbour Town Golf Links' closing, lighthouse hole. But he took an unplayable lie in a bunker when his ball bored into the sand and made his lone bogey to fall back.
Donald had been a major tournament mainstay since first playing Augusta National in 2005. However, he has fallen badly the past couple of seasons (he's 95th in the world ranking) and was forced to watch the Masters at home instead of playing for a green jacket.
Donald shared his frustration on social media, posting on Instagram that not playing the major ''quite frankly, it makes my blood boil.''
So Donald turned things around at one of his favorite layouts in Harbour Town Golf Links, posting his best score in three months since consecutive 65s at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
''I feel like I've got a few good years ahead of me,'' the 38-year-old Donald said. ''I don't want to be sitting at home watching the majors on TV yet.''
He won't be if he keeps playing like this. Donald got going quickly with birdies on the second and third holes. He moved to 3 under with a birdie on No. 6. After his lone bogey on the par-4 eighth, Donald posted three more birdies on the back nine to break par for the 23rd time in his past 29 rounds at Harbour Town. He has had five top-three finishes the last seven tournaments here.
About the only thing he has not done at Harbour Town is win. A victory this week would put Donald back on the major track.
''I have some good memories and good mojo here,'' he said. ''It's nice to continue that with a solid round today.''
Most of the Masters' main characters took the week off, including new dad and major champion Danny Willett of England and Jordan Speith, whose unexpected collapse over the final nine holes after holding a five-shot lead opened the door for Willett.
Day, who tied for 10th at Augusta National, is the lone top-10 player competing.
Day tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-5 15th and had a chance to move on top by himself a hole later, but slid a 14-footer past the cup. The Australians' tee shot to the final hole was perfect and his approach seemed destined to strike the putting surface - until it didn't.
His ball buried into the sand by the bunker's front edge. Day looked a bit bewildered by the gaffe, then retrieved the ball and hit it close enough to hold off more damage.
Day acknowledged his energy level after last week's major was low. ''But you just have to suck it up and get through the week,'' he said.
Grace held the lead at 6 under after his birdie on the 15th. However, the South African missed an 8-foot par putt on the following hole to drop back into a tie.
Grace said he came to Harbour Town after playing last week in part because of last year when his tie for seventh jump-started his run to full-time membership on the PGA Tour.
Defending RBC Heritage champ Jim Furyk is out this week as he rehabs from wrist surgery.
Jason Bohn, the 42-year-old two-time PGA Tour winner, returned to the game after his heart attack nearly two months ago at the Honda Classic with a 3-over 74. He was regularly greeted by well-wishers along the rope and played with a tiny, red heart on his golf ball, a reminder, he said, of what's most important.
While frustrated with his play, Bohn believed he achieved what he wanted - a return to normalcy after a frightening health scare.
''The golf wasn't so joyous. If I could've gone out and shot a couple under par, it would've been a lot better,'' he said. ''But this was a big round for me psychologically, just to know I could get back to competition. I could work my body as hard as I want to compete.''
Bryson DeChambeau, last year's NCAA and U.S. Amateur champion, played his first event as a pro at Harbour Town and opened with a 70.