Power bounces back brilliantly with opening 63 at RSM Classic

Adam McKendry
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Power bounces back brilliantly with opening 63 at RSM Classic

Seamus Power (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Seamus Power is just three shots off the lead after the first round of the RSM Classic after opening with a seven-under 63 on a low scoring day at Sea Island Resort in Georgia.

With conditions favourable and a relatively easy course set-up, the scoring average on the Seaside Course – which Power was on – was 66.31, the second-lowest scoring average on a single course in a single PGA Tour history.

And the West Waterford man took advantage of those conditions, brushing off last week’s disappointment in Houston with a fine bogey-free outing on the Seaside, carding seven birdies to hold a share of 10th, three back of Sebastián Muñoz.

The Colombian flirted with a 59 in Georgia, needing two birdies in his final three holes to break the 60 barrier, but had to settle for a 10-under 60 to lead by one from four players, including Mackenzie Hughes and Zach Johnson.

For Power, though, it was a return to the form he has shown for the majority of the year as he raced out into a great start to his round, starting at the 10th and birdieing his first three holes.

The 34-year-old added back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th, but his momentum stalled after that as he couldn’t break out of a run of ten straight pars to stay at five-under, despite several looks at birdie.

But a glorious approach to two feet at the eighth setting up a birdie snapped him out of that streak, and he backed it up with a closing birdie on the ninth for a 63 that has him just inside the top-10 after 18 holes.

Meanwhile, two bogeys on his back nine saw Graeme McDowell fall outside the top-100 after a two-under 68, also on the Seaside Course, unable to fully capitalise on the favourable set-up in Georgia.

The former US Open champion had looked in strong form after three birdies in his opening seven holes – his approach work doing the damage as his longest birdie putt came from just seven feet – and when a 10-foot birdie putt dropped on the 10th it seemed it would continue into the back nine.

But McDowell’s good run was snapped at the 11th when he was unable to get up-and-down from over the green and he further compounded it when he three-putted from just off the green on the 16th for another dropped shot.

It leaves the Rathmore man needing a good second round on the Plantation Course, which wasn’t playing all that tougher than its counterpart but still showed a little more bite, in order to avoid missing his third consecutive cut on Tour.

The best of the scoring was, of course, done by Muñoz, who nearly became the 13th player to shoot a sub-60 round on the PGA Tour but came up short by just one shot.

The one-time Tour winner rolled in five birdies on his front nine and then backed it up with two more birdies and an eagle on the 15th after an approach to nine-feet and rolling in the putt. Needing two birdies in his final three holes to shoot a 59, he could only card one at the 18th.

“Really solid. We made the turn, Corey (Conners, his playing partner) was, I think, six-under through nine, I was five, so we were feeling it. We were kind of feeding off each other,” said Muñoz.

“And that eagle on 15 kind made me feel like all right, we can do this. Unfortunately I didn’t birdie 16 or 17, but I’m really happy. Really, really happy.

“I feel like my iron play was really good and my putting from 10-feet was really good. I gave myself a ton of chances from the right places and I was reading the lines pretty good.”

Former Open and Masters champion Johnson was the next best on the Seaside as he signed for a bogey-free 61, while the best scores from the Plantation course came from Hughes, Scott Stallings and Chez Reavie, all of whom had an eagle on their cards.

Muñoz’s playing partner Conners heads up a group of four players at eight-under following his 62 at the Seaside, with Russell Henley, Jhonattan Vegas and Talor Gooch all on the same score after 64s at the Plantation.

All players switch courses for round two, with Power and McDowell headed for the Plantation Course on Friday.

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