One week after missing the cut at the Masters, Luke Donald seemed determined to finish off a win at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head's Harbour Town Golf Links after seizing a two-stroke, 54-hole lead over John Huh.
However, it was Matt Kuchar who rose to the occasion on Easter Sunday, shooting a final-round 64 to beat Donald by one shot.
Take a look at the leaderboard, and below you'll find a recap for all four rounds of the action. The full leaderboard can be viewed on PGA.com.
|Pos.||Golfer||To Par||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
Day 4 Recap
Matt Kuchar overcame his recent weekend blues and fired an outstanding seven-under 64 on Sunday to win the RBC Heritage with a total of 11 under par—one stroke clear of 54-hole leader Luke Donald.
Matt Kuchar, it's time for the Tartan Jacket! Kuchar is the 2014 #RBCHeritage Champion.— RBC Heritage (@RBC_Heritage) April 20, 2014
The very end of the tournament didn't lack suspense, even when Donald's approach to the par-four 18th hole came up well short of the putting surface. Donald has one of the better short games on the planet, but chipping in was too tall of an order, even for him despite a great effort.
That magnified the missed opportunities Donald had for birdie on the 16th and 17th holes, where his putts from outside 25 feet skidded by the edge on each occasion. It was the Englishman's fifth top-three finish in his last six appearances at this event.
A front-nine 30 vaulted Kuchar up the leaderboard, prompting Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com to tweet this image to suggest how on fire Kuchar was:
Exclusive footage from Hilton Head after Matt Kuchar's front nine 30: pic.twitter.com/78TBu2WK0V— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) April 20, 2014
Another birdie followed on the par-four 10th, but six consecutive pars came after that prior to disaster striking on the 71st hole. After a three-putt bogey on the par-three 17th from a mere four feet, it looked as though Kuchar's excellent day may be all for naught and that he'd fall short again. He would have had to settle for his fourth top five in as many starts without a win.
Kuchar's fortunes changed when he found the greenside bunker with his second shot at the last, where he went on to hole out for a closing birdie that ended up being the difference:
Superstar Rory McIlroy wasn't in the field, but was still keeping his eye on the action, hoping for Kuchar to get a reversal of fortune from his recent close calls:
KUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCHHHH!!! no one deserves a little luck more than Matt Kuchar these past few weeks!— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) April 20, 2014
Jason Sobel of Golf Channel reported what Kuchar had to say to his caddy before hitting the epic shot to ultimately secure the win:
Matt Kuchar on bunker shot: "I said to Lance, 'I‘m about due to make one of these.' It was so cool to see that thing disappear at the end."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 20, 2014
He would have preferred the green jacket last week, but Kuchar will no doubt settle for the consolation prize of the plaid jacket at the RBC Heritage. All that really remains for Kuchar to accomplish is winning a major, and now he has to be considered the most consistent and best player without such a title on the PGA Tour.
It's interesting that Kuchar won on the same day that Lee Westwood claimed a dominant, seven-shot victory at the Maybank Malaysian Open (h/t EuropeanTour.com). Both of them are seasoned veterans who deserve a major with all they've accomplished, so maybe the golf gods aligned this week to reward them for their efforts.
Donald has to be disappointed that he didn't get it done in Hilton Head, adding to his great record at Harbour Town but one that still doesn't include a victory. At least the former world No. 1 is continuing to show signs of improvement as he's been reconstructing his golf swing. A good week was necessary after he missed the cut at the Masters, so perhaps Donald can carry this momentum forward and remain on the ascent.
Day 3 Recap
After rain water clogged this tournament on Friday, there was a lot of golf to be played Saturday. In all, 65 golfers had yet to complete their second round.
Although course conditions were far from ideal, they were good enough to get all the action caught up.
K.J. Choi was the overnight leader. He was still in the lead by the time the second round finished, but he shared that lead with Jim Furyk and Ben Martin.
With soft greens, the course was ripe for scoring. Choi stumbled to a 74, however, and will begin Round 4 in 16th place at two-under. Neither Furyk nor Martin could maintain their second-round momentum. Both fired 71s. They are both well within striking distance in third place at five-under, though.
Both needed to be a stroke better to keep John Huh from passing them. In the closing holes on Saturday, Huh was briefly tied with Donald atop the leaderboard at seven-under. Then Donald birdied No. 17 after this brilliant tee shot:
Huh also picked up a bogey on the final hole. It was his only bogey on the day.
It will be interesting to see if that final bogey carries any negative momentum into his final round. The 23-year-old has already won an event and over $4 million in his short PGA career, but his overall inexperience will leave him vulnerable to the pressure of the final round.
Meanwhile, Donald will not have to worry about negative momentum from the close of his round. He was practically flawless over the final nine holes. Donald played a bogey-free back at four-under. PGATour tweeted the shot that handed him the lead:
That came after a wild front nine saw Donald shoot one under with an eagle, two birdies and three bogeys.
By his lofty standards, Donald is having a terrible season thus far. We'll see if he cleaned up his game enough to hold onto a final-round lead in this tournament. As he learned on his front nine in Round 3, strokes can come and go in a hurry at this course.
Day 2 Recap
Heavy rain in Hilton Head brought an early end to Friday's second-round action at the RBC Heritage as play was suspended in the afternoon before officials ultimately called off play for the day, per the PGA Tour's official Twitter account:
But before the inclement weather set in, K.J. Choi was able to work his way up the leaderboard, shooting a four-under 67 on Friday to take sole possession of the lead at five-under for the tournament.
Following an up-and-down first round on Thursday that featured three consecutive bogeys on one stretch, Choi was in the zone on Friday, recording three birdies on the front nine and three more on the back nine to finish with Friday's top score.
|2||Robert Allenby||5 holes||-4|
|T3||Billy Hurley III||69||-3|
|T3||Bo Van Pelt||5 holes||-3|
|T3||Ben Martin||4 holes||-3|
|T8||Ted Potter Jr.||7 holes||-2|
|T8||Matt Every||7 holes||-2|
|T8||Jim Furyk||7 holes||-2|
|T8||Graeme McDowell||6 holes||-2|
|T8||Brian Harman||5 holes||-2|
Australia's Robert Allenby is currently in second place on the leaderboard, but will have 13 holes left to play on Saturday morning before he can begin Round 3. Allenby shot a two-under 69 in Round 1 but got off to a scorching-hot start on Friday, birdieing his first two holes to jump four-under for the tournament, one stroke off Choi's championship pace.
After leaving the course after playing just five holes, Allenby commented on the course and the weather conditions, via the tournament's official Twitter account:
While Choi and Allenby set the course ablaze on Friday, Round 1 leader Matt Kuchar came unraveled, recording two double bogeys in his first six holes of Round 2 before officials suspended play. It goes without saying that Kuchar was happy to head into the clubhouse early.
Meanwhile, defending champion Graeme McDowell is now just three shots off the lead after cashing on two birdie opportunities on Friday. Like Allenby, McDowell will have to finish his second round on Saturday morning before teeing off for Round 3.
Luke Donald (-3) and Charl Schwartzel (-2) are two other notable contenders still in the mix heading into the weekend.
Donald, a former world No. 1, shot a two-under 69 on Friday to rise up the leaderboard, while Schwartzel turned in his second straight one-under 70 to fall two-under for the tournament.
With a slew of players set to take to the course early Saturday morning to wrap up the second round, Day 3 promises to provide plenty of entertainment for golf fans as the top contenders continue their push heading into Sunday's final round.
Choi's Friday-best 67 makes him the man to beat heading into the final rounds this weekend, but Scott Langley and others have proven they have what it takes to produce a big weekend at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Day 1 Recap
Harbour Town played host to blustery conditions in Thursday's opening round, leading to a three-way tie atop a jumbled leaderboard. To the surprise of few—even after a heartbreaking Masters finish—Matt Kuchar is again ahead of the pack after shooting a five-under 66, tied with Scott Langley and William McGirt.
Here is a look at the top performers from the first 18 holes of action at the 2014 RBC Heritage:
|T5||Charles Howell III||69||-2|
|T5||Bo Van Pelt||69||-2|
Beginning on the back nine, Kuchar held steady with a sand save at the par-four 18th hole, then went to his back nine and poured in a birdie at the par-five second hole.
That was capped off at No. 9 with another birdie that Kuchar seemed to will into the cup:
Langley was on fire out of the gates in Round 1, birdieing five of six holes from Nos. 2 through 7. The lefty's birdie at the par-three seventh was the last in that electric stretch:
Also playing his first six holes in four under par was McGirt, who, like Langley, is still seeking his first win on the PGA Tour. Due to the difficulty and perhaps unfamiliarity with being in such territory on pro golf's top circuit, both of them played the back side in level par, but that's still good enough to tie the lead after Day 1.
McGirt implied that he couldn't be too greedy and that he had to commit to the few openings the course offered on this day, per the RBC Heritage's Twitter account:
Perhaps the shot of the day came off the club of the 34-year-old veteran from the greenside bunker at No. 17:
With the struggles Kuchar has had to put tournaments away lately, though, this is anyone's to win. ESPN Stats & Info alluded to Kuchar's difficulty on the weekends in recent starts:
Matt Kuchar was -5 today. He's a combined -32 over last 6 starts in rounds 1-3, but he's +10 in final round in that span— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 17, 2014
Who will win the 2014 RBC Heritage?
Two young phenoms are well within the hunt, too. Just two shots off the pace after a three-under 68 is Harris English, and a massive pack of players at minus-two is headlined by the 20-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth.
So much for a post-Masters hangover.
Although he did miss several good birdie chances on the second nine holes, Spieth did hold his own alongside the legendary Tom Watson and Davis Love III. One hole Spieth took advantage of was the short par-three 17th, setting up his final birdie of the day:
Looking ahead to Round 2, it's pretty clear that Kuchar has figured out how to vault himself into contention early. However, it has to be wearing on him that he hasn't closed the deal with chances to win in the past three events he's played. Maybe he's due, and it helps that two players not well-versed in winning are his nearest competition at the moment.
But the youth that lurks behind Kuchar in English and Spieth have precociously polished games. English isn't a good putter, so he's more liable than the ever-consistent Spieth to fall off the pace.
Another young gun in Billy Horschel is a name to watch, too, because he was brilliant at the Masters from tee to green but couldn't putt. Due for a great result, Horschel should remain close to the lead after a two-under 69, threatening to upstage the higher profile English and Spieth.