Jimmy Walker carded his second straight round of 65 to grab a three-shot lead through two rounds of the RBC Heritage on Friday in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Walker’s score of 12-under 130 gave him some separation from Scottie Scheffler (65 Friday), Xander Schauffele (66) and England’s Justin Rose (67), who are tied for second at 9-under 133 at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Walker, 44, was the surprise winner of the 2016 PGA Championship. It marked his sixth PGA Tour victory, but he has not won on tour ever since.
Walker has battled Lyme disease since 2017 and stepped away from golf in April 2022, sitting out the rest of the season for health reasons.
He came back for the 2022-23 season on an exemption reserved for the top 50 all-time money winners — which was only made possible when the PGA Tour suspended players who joined LIV Golf, bumping Walker up several spots to No. 50.
“I was 50, and if I didn’t play, I’d never get it again. I just wouldn’t,” Walker said. “So when it happened, it was kind of like, wow, this is incredible. I immediately shifted gears and talked to my family and said, this is it. This is what we’re going to do. They were totally all about it.”
Walker has plummeted to No. 406 in the Official World Golf Ranking and missed eight of his first 12 cuts of the season, but his recent form has had no bearing on his performance through these first two rounds.
He had four birdies and a bogey through his first nine holes Friday to get to 9 under. Then he broke away from the pack with three straight birdies at Nos. 13-15.
“I’ve always felt like playing this place was all about ball striking because if you’re ball striking it well, if you hit the green, you’re going to have a birdie putt, it seems like, because the greens are so tiny,” Walker said. “So that’s what I’ve concentrated on is just getting it on the green and seeing some putts go.”
Scheffler started his round on the back nine and had his shot of the day at the par-5 second, chipping in for eagle from 32 feet.
“It’s Friday. It’s still early in the week,” the world No. 2 said. “I was just trying to keep plucking along and doing what I can control. Just trying to play solid golf.”
Patrick Cantlay made a hole-in-one en route to a 65, tying him for fifth at 8 under with Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood (65), Aaron Rai (71) and Norway’s Viktor Hovland (70).
Cantlay was finishing his round on the front nine and went straight for the pin at the 200-yard par-3 seventh.
“It was just a perfect 6-iron number, a little into the wind, high 190s to the hole,” Cantlay said. “A 1-yard cut that just came off perfect.”
Defending champion Jordan Spieth shot a 67 to join a large tie at 7 under.
The best round of the day belonged to last week’s Masters champion and world No. 1 Jon Rahm. The star from Spain dramatically improved upon a 1-over 72 on Thursday by shooting a bogey-free, 7-under 64.
After starting his round at No. 10, Rahm made four straight birdies. He set up short putts at the par-4 11th, 12th and 13th holes, never needing to hole it from more than 7 feet. Then, at the par-3 14th, Rahm holed a birdie putt from the edge of the green, which traveled almost 33 feet before dropping in on the side of the cup.
“That start was obviously key,” Rahm said. “Took advantage of some holes that were playing — not that any hole is easy out here, but with the proper tee shots, they were very doable. Took advantage of that and was able to finish it off.”
Among those who missed the cut of 2 under par was Joel Dahmen, who followed a Thursday 66 with a Friday 75 to miss by one shot.
–Field Level Media