South African golfer Rory Sabbatini shot an opening-round 64 to set the pace on the first day of the RBC Heritage.
Sabbatini had the advantage of going out early, when the greens were still wet and soft with very little wind to speak of.
For a player who has not won on tour since 2011, Sabbatini seemed encouraged by his 7-under-par round.
Rory Sabbatini (Courtesy Golf Channel)
Behind Sabbatini is a group of four at -5 which includes 2014 RBC Heritage Champion Matt Kuchar, who has become a fan favorite in Hilton Head.
Kuchar birdied three of his last four holes to put himself in good position for Friday, where scoring may come at premium in his afternoon tee time.
The former Georgia Tech golfer remarked that Harbour Town remains one of his favorite trips on the PGA Tour schedule.
Playing with Kuchar were a pair of South Carolina natives including Dustin Johnson, the number one player in the World Golf Rankings.
Johnson is playing the Heritage specifically with his role as a Brand Ambassdor to the tournament’s title sponsor, RBC, making his return to Harbour Town for the first time since 2009.
The Irmo native, who shot a 2-under-par 69, had a quiet confidence about his round.
Matching Johnson stride-for-stride was his playing partner and defending champion Wesley Bryan, who also shot 69 in his opening round.
Bryan, who took five weeks off before playing Augusta National last week, failed to make the cut at The Masters.
The former Gamecocks golfer failed to get his putter going during his round, which he cited as his best club coming into the week.
Despite the lack of execution, he feels this golf course suits him for a chance to repeat as champion.
Joining his fellow Palmetto State-born players at 2-under-par was Aiken native Kevin Kisner who also shot 69 on Thursday.
Kisner tied for 28th at The Masters last week, his best finish in three tries at Augusta National.
He believes he left some scoring opportunities on the table, despite consecutive birdies at holes three-through-five.
LEADERBOARD (TOP 10 AND TIES)
1 — Rory Sabbatini -7 *
T2 — John Huh -5 F
T2 — Billy Horschel -5 F*
T2 — Matt Kuchar -5 F*
T2 — Chesson Hadley -5 F*
T6 — Harris English -4 F*
T6 — Martin Laird -4 F
T6 — Patrick Cantlay -4 F
T6 — Jonas Blixt -4 F
T10 — Charles Howell III -3 F*
T10 — Fabián Gómez -3 F
T10 — Peter Malnati -3 F
T10 — Bryson DeChambeau -3 F*
T10 — Nick Watney -3 F
T10 — Si Woo Kim -3 F
T10 — Xander Schauffele -3 F
T10 — Cameron Smith -3 F
T10 — Brice Garnett -3 F
T10 — Whee Kim -3 F
LOCAL NOTABLES OUTSIDE TOP 10
T19 — Dustin Johnson -2 F*
T19 — Wesley Bryan -2 F*
T34 — Scott Brown -1 F*
T34 — Sam Saunders -1 F
T49 — Jonathan Byrd E F
T49 — William McGirt E F*
T49 — Doc Redman (a) E F
T98 — Ben Martin +3 F
T98 — Lucas Glover +3 F*