Korean Bae takes early lead at Hilton Head

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 16, 2015 4:29 PM

(Reuters) - South Korea's Bae Sang-moon surged into an early one-shot lead in the opening round of the RBC Heritage in South Carolina on Thursday while newly crowned Masters champion Jordan Spieth was preparing for a late start.

Bae, a double winner on the PGA Tour, coped well with strong breezes on a chilly day at Hilton Head Island and birdied four of his last eight holes on the picturesque Harbour Town Golf Links to card a four-under-par 67.

That left the Korean a stroke in front of American Kevin Kisner, with England's Ian Poulter and Americans Troy Merritt, John Merrick and Ben Martin bunched together after opening with 69s.

Spieth, the 21-year-old who electrified the golfing world with his remarkable wire-to-wire victory at last week's Masters, had a late tee time on Thursday in the company of fellow Americans Patrick Reed and last year's champion Matt Kuchar.

Bae, who clinched his second PGA Tour title at the Frys.com Open in October, was delighted to end his round with a birdie blitz on a difficult day for scoring.

"This course is really tough with small greens and small fairways," the 28-year-old told Golf Channel with a smile.

"I really need to hit the center of the greens to give me much more confidence. If I do that, I have a lot of birdie putts and that makes the course much easier."

Poulter made a late run up the leaderboard with three birdies in his last six holes and was pleased with his score after struggling on the more exposed back nine, his first nine holes.

"It was a strong breeze today and you're exposed on the back nine, a few holes coming in played real, real tricky," the Englishman said. "Even (the tee on) 18 was moved 45 yards up and it was still driver, three-iron."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)