Ian Poulter of England and Mark Hubbard of San Jose went out early in the first round of the RBC Heritage, posted identical low scores and nobody caught them later in the day.
Poulter (pictured), who said he played only four times while the PGA Tour was shut down for three months because of the Coronavirus pandemic, and Hubbard, who is seeking his first victory on the circuit, shot bogey-free, 7-under-par 64s to lead seven players by one stroke at Harbour Town Golf Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
The second event since March is being played without spectators on the course because of social distance guidelines, as was the Charles Schwab Challenge last week at Colonial Golf Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I’m not one that plays round after round after round after round to feel that I need to be ready to play golf,” said the 44-year-old Poulter, who has won three times on the PGA Tour and 17 times as a pro.
“It’s very important being bogey-free. Any time that happens on this golf course, you’ve obviously played pretty well. It’s a fiddly, testy, tricky golf course. … It’s a great course and I like it, like the small greens.”
Said Hubbard, 31, who played at San Jose State: “More than anything, I’m happy with my mental game. I think I’ve grown up and come a long way in the last two years. I definitely have the Korn Ferry Tour to thank for that. I needed to go back down there and kind of figure out my game again and my mental state.”
Poulter birdied the last two holes, while Hubbard, who has won three times on lower tours, highlighted his round with a 10-foot eagle putt on the second hole.
Ninth-ranked Webb Simpson, who lost to Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland in a playoff at Harbour Town in 2013, holed out from 53 feet at No. 5 in a 65 and is tied for third with Viktor Hovland of Norway, Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, Michael Thompson, Ryan Palmer, Brice Garnett and Dylan Frittelli of South Africa.
Jordan Spieth overcame a triple-bogey at No. 12 by making seven birdies on his last eight holes while finishing a 66 on the front nine, and is tied for 10th with Tony Finau, Matthew NeSmith, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, Erik van Rooyen of South Africa and MacKenzie Hughes of Canada.
Fourth-ranked Brooks Koepka is tied for 16th at 67, while fifth-ranked Dustin Johnson shot 68 and is in a tie for 28th that includes defending champion C.T. Pan of Taiwan, and sixth-ranked Patrick Reed is in a tie for 67th at 70.
Second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain totaled 71 and is tied for 85th, while top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, third-ranked Justin Thomas and 10th-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State all are in a tie for 101st at 72.
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