It’s ‘Sea Island strong’ among contenders in RSM Classic

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The deserved good vibes continued for Camilo Villegas on Friday with the 38-year-old from Colombia shooting a six-under 66 to stay within two of the lead entering the weekend at the RSM Classic.

In July, Villegas suffered an unthinkable loss when his 22-month-old daughter Mia succumbed to brain cancer. Now he is playing on with her memory by his side.

Meanwhile, Robert Streb is simply outplaying everyone, much the way he did six years ago at Sea Island Golf Club. Joel Dahmen had the day’s best round with a 61 on Friday but Streb’s 63 was enough to provide a two-stroke lead heading into the weekend.

Here are our takeaways from Day 2.

Around the country there are various hotbeds of tour players. Jupiter, Fla. Dallas. Scottsdale, Ariz., and St. Simons Island, Ga.

So it should hardly be a surprise to see a few players who call Sea Island Golf Club home near the top of the leader board. Patton Kizzire, who is tied for third, Harris English (T-5) and Zach Johnson (solo 7th) are all playing a home game, and all are in contention.

Yet for all the players who call the island home, oddly none have ever won the event.

“People from outside feel like you should play well on your home course, but we really never play the course under these conditions,” English said after his 66 on the Plantation Course on Friday. “The greens are never this fast. Some of the pin placements we’ve seen the last couple days we never see on a day-to-day basis.”

Perhaps this is the year the streak ends? With no fans allowed, not having the pressure of a lot of friends and family in the gallery might actually help.

“I think this year I treated it more like a regular tournament, staying in my same routine,” English continued. “I don’t have anybody staying with me this week, which I normally do. Treating it like a normal week and preparing like a normal week, and not really getting out of my day-to-day routine. It’s been good. I feel like I’m more focused this year and happy with the way I played and looking forward to the weekend.”

Sea Island is feeling more like Streb Island

In 2014, Robert Streb stormed back on the weekend at the RSM Classic—known then as the McGladrey Classic—with rounds of 68 and 63 before emerging victorious from a three-man playoff.

How long ago is six years in golf years? He beat Will MacKenzie and Brebdon de Jonge.

Friday, Streb was even better. The 33-year-old’s 63 was a career low as he poured in nine birdies and had nary a bogey on the resort’s Plantation Course. And even when things appeared they wouldn’t go his way, they still did.

On the par-5 18th, with the wind whipping, Streb’s approach with a fairway wood cleared the water by about two yards and the ball stopped maybe 10 feet away, setting up an easy two-putt birdie.

“It wasn’t exactly by design,” he said. “I figured I was going to go 25 feet past the hole, think I missed it a little bit. Got pretty lucky there.”

There were other moments of good fortune, too, like on the 13th and 17th holes, where his ball took the slope of the green and funneled toward the flag on each.

The other bit of good news for Streb: Each of the last four winners at Sea Island had the lead after 36 holes.

It’s just golf to Villegas (and it was pretty outstanding)

Villegas’ story and his play this week have been well-documented. But if there’s a category for strokes gained/attitude, he’s doing pretty well in that, too.

Asked if the thoughts from his last win, back in 2014, were still with him as he enters this weekend, Villegas pointed out the obvious given the circumstances.

“Yeah, man, you know what, it’s golf,” he said. “I’ve been out here for a while. [This year] has been a crazy year for us, but once again, I’m just happy to be swinging a golf club, shoulder feels pretty good and we’ll keep it going.”

He and playing partner Bronson Burgoon had it going pretty well, all right. Villegas made five birdies, an eagle and just one bogey. Burgoon, meanwhile, made nine birdies, including six in a seven-hole stretch around the turn on his way to a 63 of his own on the Plantation Course.

So much for the Euro Ryder Cup invasion

With last week’s Masters just a couple of hours from Sea Island, naturally, several players from the field at Augusta National made their way toward the coast for this week’s event. Among them is a group that would make up a pretty formidable Ryder Cup contingent for the Europeans.

But this week isn’t match play, of course, and a number of notable names won’t be sticking around for the weekend. Among those to miss the cut were Englishmen Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett. Also out were a couple of major winners from South Africa, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.

Rose’s missed cut was particularly brutal. After playing his first 14 holes Friday in two over thanks to a double bogey on the fourth, he staged a furious rally with birdies on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to move inside the cut line by one.

Then came the par-4 18th at Seaside, where he missed the green left and from the sand only blasted to 18 feet. He two-putted for bogey and has the weekend off. Ouch.

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