Rookie Cameron Young missed the cut in his first Masters last week and used the time off to work on his game and it paid off.
The 24-year-old young carded a carded a bogey-free, 8-under-par 63 to take a two-stroke lead over Joaquin Niemann of Chile after the first round of the 54th RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
“I hung out with my wife and my son, my in-laws, my parents (at Augusta),” said Young of his unwanted days off last weekend. “We had a house for the week. We just spent some family time there and I practiced. Just some small swing stuff and kind of stuff that was out of sync. Maybe reverted back to some tendencies I’ve had my whole life, just making some minor fixes just to make it feel like I’m in a little bit more control.
“I’ve shown that I can compete at this level, but so far in the couple majors I’ve gotten to play, I haven’t been able to do that. I think it just gives me more reason to go out and try to get better to a point where I’m more comfortable and able to have a week where I contend in one of those.
“I had a nice couple days off, so we got here and I played Monday morning, played all 18 holes, which I think was kind of nice because I got to see them all and kind of think about it for a couple days before I really had to play.”
Young, who won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, reeled off five birdies on the front nine including three in a row through the seventh hole, before making three more coming home in his flawless round.
Niemann, who has won twice already on the PGA Tour at the age of 23, collected four birdies on each nine to offset bogeys on the third and four holes en route to his 65.
“I got off to a slow start, but then got it going in the right direction after the fourth hole,” said Niemann, who won the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February. “Everything just started to go great and I rode it all the way to the finish.
“I adjusted my swing a little after the first few holes and it really paid off. I hit some really good tee shots and the putter really felt good.”
Corey Conners of Canada made a hole in one from 187 yards to highlight his 66 and is tied for third with Sepp Straka of Austria, who chipped in for birdies on the 10th and 14th holes, sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Mito Pereira of Chile, Shane Lowry of Ireland and Adam Svensson of Canada.
Stewart Cink, who last year won the RBC Heritage for the third time, holed out from 150 yards on the 10th hole and birdied the last for a 67 and is tied for 10th with Tyrrell Hatton of England, Denny McCarthy, Scott Piercy, Harold Varner III, Bill Haas, Patton Kizzire, Brian Gay, Chad Ramey and Mattias Schwab of Austria.
Second-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal shot 71 and is in a tie for 54th that includes eighth-ranked Justin Thomas, while ninth-ranked Dustin Johnson is tied for 92nd at 72 and fifth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia struggled to a 73 and is tied for 104th.
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