HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau were trading birdies with vastly different games. Rory McIlroy ran off enough birdies to make the cut.
And the biggest move of the day at the RBC Heritage belonged to a player who made it to the course, but not the tee. Nick Watney became a footnote in golf history Friday as the first player to test positive for the coronavirus.
“I was a little shocked, to be honest,” said Vaughn Taylor, who played with Watney in the opening round and went for testing immediately after his 69. “Heart started racing, got a little nervous. Just hope Nick's doing well and we get through this.”
Watney tested negative when he arrived Tuesday, experienced symptoms Friday and took another test that came back positive. He now faces self-isolation for at least 10 days as the tournament goes on.
Simpson got the last word with a 6-foot birdie on his final hole at No. 9 for another 6-under 65 to give him a one-shot lead after another day of watching DeChambeau and his newly added 40 pounds of mass swing out of his shoes for a 64. DeChambeau made six birdies on his back nine, missing a 5-footer on the last that would have tied for the lead. Corey Conners also was one back after a bogey-free 63.
“It's very satisfying knowing I'm not near as long as some of these guys and I'm able to kind of use my skills of distance control and shot shape to pick me back up when I'm 40 yards or 30 yards behind these guys,” Simpson said. “I would like to hit it further. I set out on a journey three years ago to get stronger, hit it further, but do it a lot slower than Bryson. But he's made it look easy and seamless.”
Simpson was at 12-under 130, and scoring remained bunched as thunderstorms through the island halted play for two hours.
McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, who is on the PGA Tour policy board, said a positive test was bound to happen as the tour returns from a three-month shutdown because of COVID-19.
“The whole plan put in place was not if, but when somebody tests positive, what's the protocol, and what are the next steps,” Spieth said. “So I feel confident, just in being on those phone calls, in what the PGA Tour's going to do going forward here, and hopefully contact tracing doesn't lead to anybody else testing positive within the bubble.”
For much of Friday, DeChambeau had the spotlight, with his bulk making him stand out. He decided at the end of last season to get stronger and bigger so he could swing faster and hit it longer.
At Harbour Town Golf Links,
Hilton Head, S.C.
Yardage: 7,099; Par: 71
Webb Simpson 65-65–130 -12
Bryson DeChambeau 67-64–131 -11
Corey Conners 68-63–131 -11
Ryan Palmer 65-67–132 -10
Matthew Fitzpatrick 66-66–132 -10