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Solid start for defending champ Grace

Golf

Former World No 1 Luke Donald, looking to break through at the RBC Heritage after many close calls, shot a 6-under-par 65 that left him two shots off the lead after the opening round in South Carolina on Thursday.

Englishman Donald, who was tied with Canada’s Graham DeLaet and American Sam Saunders in second place, made an eagle, five birdies and a bogey to hold the clubhouse lead until Bud Cauley birdied four of the final five holes to grab the outright lead.

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Luke Donald, left, and Ernie Els share a lighter moment during the first round of the RBC Heritage on Thursday. Photo: Jay Karr, The Island Packet via AP

“Obviously I’ve had a lot of success here in the last eight years, done everything but win,” said 39-year-old Donald, who has finished second four times here and third twice in eight starts.

“It would be nice to give myself another chance to try and finally get over that hurdle.”

England’s Ian Poulter, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, New Zealand’s Danny Lee and American Russell Henley were among a group of six golfers who were three shots off the lead at the picturesque Harbour Town course on Hilton Head Island.

Donald hit the shot of his round at his 11th hole, the par-five second, when his 209-yard approach from the pine straw got to within three feet, resulting in an eagle putt that brought him to 5-under.

Donald, whose best result this year is a tie for 17th at the Genesis Open in February and who has fallen to 96th in the rankings, picked up another stroke at the par-five fifth hole before capping his round with four consecutive pars.

Matt Kuchar, fresh off a tie for fourth at the US Masters – where his final-round 67 matched the day’s lowest score – shot a 3-under-par 68 and was tied in 19th place along with South Africa’s Branden Grace, twice winner Jim Furyk and twice major winner Martin Kaymer of Germany.

American Furyk, who won here in 2015 but missed last year’s RBC Heritage after wrist surgery, pitched in from 85 feet for an eagle at the par-five fifth before mixing two birdies with a bogey on the back nine.

The two other South Africans in the field, Ernie Els and Tyrone van Aswegen, both shot 1-under 70s.

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