Story by Justin Jarrett
Photos by Tom Cloud
Videos by Carlo Perruzza
Two years after making his professional debut at Harbour Town Golf Links, Bryson DeChambeau is back – and this time he plans on taking a tartan jacket with him.
DeChambeau shot up the leaderboard Friday afternoon, making birdies on four of the last six holes en route to a 7-under-par 64 and a one-shot lead at the halfway point of the 50th annual RBC Heritage Presented By Boeing.
The 24-year-old California native sits at 10-under and leads Si Woo Kim and Ian Poulter by one shot. First-round leader Rory Sabbatini and 2013 Heritage champion Brandt Snedeker are among a group of four golfers tied for fourth at 8-under.
DeChambeau made a splash at the 2016 Heritage, where he tied for fourth in his pro debut, and he won on the Web.com Tour later that year. He only made the cut in 14 of his 31 tournaments last season but also earned his first PGA Tour win at the John Deere Classic last July.
Two years after turning pro, his game is rounding into form. He has made the cut in nine of 10 events this season with five top-25 finishes and three top-10s, including a runner-up showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month.
“I know my game is good enough to be with the elites in the game,” DeChambeau said. “I’m not there yet. I know that. But I certainly am moving in the right direction, figuring a lot of great things out that’s helping me on the golf course.”
He certainly was a cut above Friday. While most of the afternoon wave struggled to solve Harbour Town’s tricky, swirling winds, DeChambeau dialed in his irons and consistently set himself up with short birdie chances, including three in a row at Nos. 15-17 to surge to the lead. He came up short with his approach at No. 18 and found the bunker but made a nifty sand save to preserve the one-shot advantage.
With the narrowest of margins, DeChambeau knows he can’t afford to change his approach this weekend. He intends to keep firing at flags with Harbour Town yielding lower scores than usual.
“I know everybody is going to be coming from behind trying to get into the lead,” DeChambeau said. “So they’re going to be aggressive, and I kind of have to do the same thing. I’m just in a better position.”
Poulter put himself in good position to contend for a second win in three weeks, carding a 7-under 64 to grab a share of the clubhouse lead after the morning wave. Appearing well-rested despite playing for a sixth consecutive week, the flashy 42-year-old Englishman opted to skip his practice round and bow out of the pro-am this week in order to get some much-needed rest, yet he’s in contention again after winning the Houston Open two weeks ago.
“Confidence is definitely there from a perspective of feeling like I can be more aggressive right now,” Poulter said. “The win helps a lot. I can free myself up in my mind. I can start attacking pins and just play free golf, and when you’re in that position sometimes the game feels easy when sometimes it isn’t.”
Kim shot to the top of the leaderboard with a 6-under 65 despite a triple-bogey at the par-3 14th, where he was assessed a two-shot penalty for attempting to remove sand around his ball on the edge of a bunker. Kim made nine birdies, including three straight on his second nine, to make up for the mental miscue.
“This might be the first time that I’ve played so well with a triple bogey,” Kim said through an interpreter. “I’m having great feel around the greens and I feel really confident. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
The 22-year-old South Korean has two PGA Tour wins already, including the 2017 Players Championship, and has posted three top-10 finishes this season.
Snedeker recaptured some of the magic he found here in 2013, making eight birdies – including five in his last seven holes – to move into contention.
Sabbatini got off to another quick start, following Thursday’s 7-under 64 with a 3-under 33 on the front nine Friday to reclaim the lead at 10-under. Three bogeys on the back nine nudged him down the leaderboard, but he recovered with a birdie at the 18th, knocking his approach to six feet to pull back to 8-under.
Luke List carded a bogey-free 64 and Chesson Hadley shot 68 to join the fray at 8-under.
“I’d like to put it in between the trees a little bit more the next two days, but certainly very pleased with how I’m playing,” Hadley said. “If I can keep putting the way I am, I think I’ll be there close to the lead on Sunday.”