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MailTribune.com
  • Kuchar builds on Masters momentum

  • HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — There were no major letdowns for Masters contenders Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.
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  • HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — There were no major letdowns for Masters contenders Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.
    Kuchar, who tied for fifth at Augusta National, shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 to share the first-round lead with Scott Langley and William McGirt.
    The 20-year-old Spieth tied for second behind Bubba Watson last Sunday and continued his strong play with a 69, part of a large group tied for fifth at Harbour Town Golf Links.
    Kuchar and Spieth both spent much of Sunday in the pressure cooker that is the Masters' final round. But neither player allowed any lingering disappointment or fatigue from a grueling week to slow them down here.
    "I was anxious to get back out and play another competitive round," Spieth said. "So today was going to be kind of therapy, in a sense, from last week."
    Langley and McGirt each had five birdies on the front nine to match Kuchar.
    Harris English was two shots behind after a 68 before Spieth topped a group of 15 another stroke back. In all, 54 competitors shot par or better despite the gusts of 20 mph that swept through the course much of the round.
    The week after the season's first major is generally one of rest for many of golf's big names and this year's no different. Masters champ Watson took off as did Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
    World No. 1 Tiger Woods continues recuperating from back surgery that kept him from playing Augusta National for the first time in 20 years.
    Just six of the world's top-20 ranked golfers teed it up this week, led by Kuchar at No. 6.
    Spieth, who tied with fellow Masters rookie Jonas Blixt for second last week, didn't consider withdrawing at Harbour Town, convinced of the benefits of quickly getting back to work.
    It was also a get-to-know-you session for Spieth, who was paired with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and 2012 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.
    "It was unbelievable just to be playing with them," Spieth said.
    For Kuchar, playing was a no-brainer considering the strong run he's been on the past month or so.
    He tied for fourth at the Texas Open three weeks ago and lost in a playoff at the Houston Open a week later right before the Masters.
    And Kuchar understands being focused at the Masters can mean being zoned in at Harbour Town.
    "You're going to see a lot of guys, if they're not too run down from a major championship, come out and play some pretty good golf the week following."
    Kuchar played with confidence and precision, avoiding the winds when possible and playing to the meatiest parts of the smallish greens.
    After starting on the back nine, Kuchar birdied both the par 5 holes on the front side before finishing with a birdie on his final hole, the ninth, to shoot in the 60s for the sixth time in his past 11 rounds here.
    "It was some awfully steady golf," he said.
    Langley, with his early birdie run, looked as if he might finish on top alone after a 17-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th moved him to 6 under. But Langley wound up in the scrub along the 18th green and took bogey to fall into the three-way tie for first.
    Langley has missed seven cuts this season, including his past two tournaments. But he felt confident in his game and took motivation from his friend Spieth's run at a green jacket last week.
    "Seeing Jordan do so well, almost win the Masters, inspired me a little bit," Langley said.
    McGirt played in the same group with Langley and matched his partner with five front-nine birdies. He chipped in on the par-3 17th to move up into the tie for first.
    "Scott and I were both making birdies left and right," McGirt said. "It was easy to feed off each other."
    LPGA LOTTE Championship
    At Kapolei, Hawaii, Angela Stanford shot an 8-under 64 on a wind-swept course to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship.
    Stanford took the lead early with five birdies in a row on the front nine and finished the day with eight birdies. The best round of the tournament so far left the five-time LPGA Tour winner at 8-under 136.
    Just like the first round, the contenders played Day 2 at Ko Olina Golf Club with gusty winds — up to 18 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
    Hawaii favorite Michelle Wie was one stroke back after a 67 that included five birdies.
    Wie hit a birdie on the par-5 13th hole that helped her maintain momentum.
    Christie Kerr, a 16-time tour winner, shot a 66 and was tied for third in a group of four at 138. Among them was top-ranked Inbee Park, who shot a 68.
    Anna Nordqvist, going for her third win of 2014, and 2012 LOTTE champion Ai Miyazato both missed the cut.
    Senior PGA ProfessionalNational Championship
    At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Gene Fieger shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions to take a four-stroke lead in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
    The 53-year-old Fieger, the PGA director of golf at Hideout Golf Club in Naples, Fla., had a 10-under 206 total at PGA Golf Club in the event postponed in October in Virginia because of rain and flooding. The top 35 after the final round today will earn spots in the Senior PGA Championship on May 22-25 at Harbor Shores in Michigan.
    Steve Parker and Frank Esposito were tied for second.
    Parker, a 56-year-old PGA Life Member from Houston, shot a 67 — the best round of the day and his lowest career scores on the Wanamaker Course. He had seven birdies and two bogeys.
    Esposito, the 50-year-old PGA head pro at Brooklake in Florham Park, N.J., had a 74.
    "I played real solid today, but I just putted lousy," Esposito said. "I hit a couple bad shots, but everybody always does. I need to hit some quality shots tomorrow and, hopefully, make a few putts."
    Don Berry was five strokes back at 5 under. The 53-year-old Berry is the PGA head professional at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
    Stan Cooke, the first-round leader who has tied for the top spot with Esposito after the second round, had an 80 to fall 10 strokes back. The 53-year-old Cooke is the PGA general manager and director of golf at Ocala (Fla.) National.
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