Story by Justin Jarrett | Photos by Tom Cloud | Videos by Carlo Perruzza
After a grueling – but successful – string of six straight tournaments, Ian Poulter has talked all week about winding down after the RBC Heritage and kicking back with a glass of champagne.
If all goes well Sunday, he might be popping an extra bottle.
The 42-year-old Englishman shot 4-under-par 67 on Saturday at Harbour Town Golf Links – his third straight round in the 60s – to get to 13-under and take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the 50th RBC Heritage.
“I’m surprised I’m still awake, to be honest,” Poulter said. “Six weeks in a row – normally after three I’m begging for a week off. … I feel energized because of the good golf.”
Poulter didn’t even play a practice round at Harbour Town this week, bowing out of the Wednesday pro-am after an RBC corporate outing Tuesday. After playing four straight weeks while pushing for an invitation to the Masters – which he earned with a win at the Houston Open two weeks ago – and playing at Augusta National last week, he opted instead for a couple good nights of sleep.
Now he sleeps on the lead as he seeks his second win in three weeks, but it’s the narrowest of margins. Luke List and Si Woo Kim are one shot back at 12-under, C.T. Pan and Billy Horschel are two back, and Kevin Kisner and Chesson Hadley are three off the pace.
A total of 19 players are within six shots of the lead, setting up a potential shootout Sunday, when players will tee off early from both the first and 10th tees in an effort to finish ahead of bad weather forecasted for the afternoon.
“It’s going to be great,” List said. “There’s 20 guys within four or five shots and that’s always exciting for the fans and for us, too. It just shows that anybody can come from behind to win. I’ve got some work to do, for sure.”
List got off to a quiet start with seven straight pars but made birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 and three straight at Nos. 14-16 to follow Friday’s 64 with a 4-under 67 and put himself in the final pairing Sunday.
A 33-year-old former Vanderbilt star, List is in search of his first PGA Tour win in his 109th start. He had a runner-up finish at the Honda Classic in February and tied for seventh at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month.
“You hear a lot of greats talking about keeping knocking on the door,” List said. “I feel for me whether it’s tomorrow or next week, I feel like it’s going to happen. I’m playing too well for it not to. I’m just going to keep that attitude. I think that will free me up tomorrow.”
Kim put himself in good position for his third PGA Tour victory with a 68, and the 22-year-old South Korean nearly chipped in at No. 18 for a share of the lead. He admitted feeling some nerves early in his round as he played in the final pairing with 36-hole leader Bryson DeChambeau, who made triple-bogey at the par-5 second hole and never recovered en route to a 4-over 75.
“I think the first five holes will be the most important for me,” Kim said. “Usually, like any player, they’re going to get nervous on the first few holes. I’m going to try to stay patient tomorrow and play those five holes the best I can and be patient.”
That puts him in the same boat as Poulter, who has patiently waited two weeks to properly celebrate his win in Houston and now hopes to double the celebration – after another early night, of course.
“Have to muster up a bit more energy to go again tomorrow,” Poulter said. “And see if we can have a nice bit of plaid to put in the closet.”
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