Rookie Steve LeBrun stays focused at RBC Heritage
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Steve LeBrun knows better than anyone how long he’s waited to play championship golf on the PGA Tour. LeBrun also understands he’s only halfway down the road to what he hopes to achieve at the RBC Heritage.
The 34-year-old PGA Tour rookie shot a second straight 68 on Friday to share the lead with Kevin Streelman and Charley Hoffman in the rain-delayed second round. There were 17 golfers still on the course when the round was called. The rain was forecast to continue overnight before the front moves out to sea and brings cooler temperatures — but no rain.
Hoffman, like Streelman, followed an opening 66 with a 70, while Luke Donald (68) and Bill Haas (69) were a stroke back.
The biggest surprise was the poor play of Brandt Snedeker, at No. 5 the highest-ranked player in the field but who is expected to miss the projected cut of 1 over at Harbour Town Golf Links. Days after leading the Masters on Sunday before faltering, the 2011 RBC Heritage winner opened with a 73 and followed with a 71 to finish at 2 over.
LeBrun’s safely on top for now, but it took him quite a while to gain his first 36-hole lead on the sport’s premier tour.
After graduating from Florida Atlantic in 2000, LeBrun played golf’s mini tours and Triple-A circuits until earning his PGA Tour card at qualifying school last fall. It has taken time, he said, to adjust to the harder courses and uptick in competition. LeBrun’s missed the cuts in five of his eight events on tour this year and hasn’t finished higher than 24th at the Puerto Rico Open last month.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s one of those things I always knew I had the game to be out here and I plan on being in this position a lot of times,” he said.
LeBrun took last week off — he’s only played the Masters once, in 2004 — and didn’t lift a golf club, spending time with wife Jen and their daughters, 3-year-old Addison and 5-month-old Rose.
The time off the course refreshed him for his first trip to Harbour Town. As good as LeBrun feels so far, he’s kept things in perspective with two rounds remaining.
“You want to be in good position with nine holes left on Sunday,” LeBrun said. “That’s when you really want to be in good position.”
Streelman had three birdies in his first four holes. He added a final birdie on the par-5 15th and made par the rest of the way to move on top and put himself in contention on the tricky, narrow fairways and small greens.
Streelman’s life hasn’t changed much since the victory in Tampa Bay, just his approach to the game.
“I do feel a bit freer to be in the position I am, say, in a week like this,” he said. “Because I’m not worried about a top 10 or a top 5 or keep your card. And I can just go out and try and win a golf tournament.”
Hoffman, seeking his third PGA Tour victory and first since 2010, closed with birdies on his final two holes, the eighth and the ninth, to catch Streelman.
“It feels good to get the blood flowing a little bit and have a chance on Sunday,” he said. “Obviously, would like to make a bunch of birdies and pull away, but it usually doesn’t happen out here.”
The RBC Heritage featured 14 of the world’s top 29 in the field, including three in the top 10 — Snedeker, Donald (No. 6) and Matt Kuchar (No. 9) — during a week that’s generally a time for the game’s best to decompress after the Masters. Several, like Masters champ Adam Scott, along with the world’s top two players in Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, are doing just that.
Windier conditions late in the round kept opening-round leaders from going lower. Brian Davis, who led with a first-round 65, was 5 over on his first nine holes Friday to fall back with a 75.
Masters contender Jason Day also couldn’t capitalize after a strong 4-under start Thursday. Day, tied for third at the Masters, had three bogeys on his first 10 holes on the way to a 73.
U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson shot even par to stay three shots behind at 3 under. Marc Leishman, who tied for fourth at Augusta National, had his troubles, too — he sailed an approach shot on No. 9 that struck a woman in the grandstands — yet recovered for a 71 and remained two shots behind.