Golf: Poulter, Hubbard share early lead at RBC Heritage

(Reuters) – Britain’s Ian Poulter capped an error-free opening round with a birdie-birdie finish to grab a share of the early lead with American Mark Hubbard at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina on Thursday.

Jun 18, 2020; Hilton Head, South Carolina, USA; Ian Poulter hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the PGA Tour staging just its second event following a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Poulter showed no signs of rust with a rock-solid seven-under 64 in ideal scoring conditions at the Harbor Town Golf Links.

Hubbard, chasing his first PGA Tour title, was equally sharp in an error-free round highlighted by an eagle-three on the par-five second.

“It’s very important being bogey free,” said Poulter. “Any time that happens on this golf course, you’ve obviously played pretty well. It’s a fiddly, testy, tricky golf course.”

The pair were being chased by American Michael Thompson, Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz and Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who holed out from 27 yards for an eagle-two on his last hole to join the group one shot back.

Playing the back nine first, Jordan Spieth had a rollercoaster opening round that began with a triple bogey seven on his third hole before eight birdies, including seven over his final eight holes, to lead a group two back at five-under.

The 29 coming home equalled the lowest nine-hole score of the three-times major winner’s career.

Also in the clubhouse at five-under 66 were Tony Finau, Matthew NeSmith, Britain’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and South African Erik van Rooyen.

World number one Rory McIlroy’s final round troubles at the Charles Schwab Challenge where he shot a four-over 74 followed him to Hilton Head, the Northern Irishman getting off to a horrendous start with three bogeys on his outward nine.

Playing the back nine first McIlroy steadied himself after the turn with a pair of birdies for a one-over 72 but finished eight shots behind the leaders.

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond

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