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Hudson Swafford, Jonathan Byrd carrying the local banner at RSM Classic

By Garry Smits
Published on

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. -- Playing a home game isn't always what's cracked up to be on the PGA Tour.

The second round of the RSM Classic on Friday at the Sea Island Club was the same mixed bag for PGA Tour residents of the Golden Isles. A few are in contention and more than a few will have their weekend free -- such as tournament host Davis Love III and two of his U.S. Ryder Cup players, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

"There's added pressure ... expectations go up, responsibilities, more challenges," Love said earlier in the week, referring to area residents hosting family and friends, fielding ticket requests and trying to play four rounds of championship golf in the process.

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"Home games are tough," said Hudson Swafford. "It's a home game but it's a work week."

With two international Tour rookies and graduates of American college programs grabbing the limelight, it's been left to Swafford and Jonathan Byrd to carry the local banner this weekend as the tournament shifts to the Seaside Course for the final two rounds.

Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, a Kent State graduate, followed his opening 61 at the Seaside in the first round with a 67 at the Plantation Course and has a bogey-free 14-under-par 128 to lead C. T. Pan (64 at Seaside), a native of Taiwan and a University of Washington graduate, by two shots.

Swafford, one of the numerous former University of Georgia players on the PGA Tour, had a 67 on the Plantation and is tied for third with Blayne Barber (68, Plantation) of Lake City, Chesson Hadley (66, Plantation) and Chad Campbell (65, Seaside) at 11-under.

Byrd (70, Plantation), playing on a sponsor invitation and battling to regain his PGA Tour eligibility, is stuck in a traffic jam of 10 players who are 10-under, which includes Billy Horschel (66, Plantation), Charles Howell III (65, Seaside), Russell Henley (65, Seaside) another former Georgia Bulldog and Seung Yul-Noh (66, Plantation).

A pair of past U.S. Open champions are among nine players tied at 9-under, Jim Furyk of Ponte Vedra Beach (69, Plantation) and Lucas Glover (67, Plantation).

With the weather remaining calm and the greens on both courses rolling true, tournament scoring records continued to fall. Hughes set the 36-hole scoring record and the 68.064 half of the field averaged on the Seaside broke the scoring record there for the second day in a row.

The 5-under cut shattered the previous tournament record of 1-under in 2010, 2012 and 2015 and was the lowest qualifying score for the weekend since the 2015 Zurich Classic, also at 5-under.

Among the players missing the weekend at the Seaside Course: two current members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, the incoming member, Love, plus St. Simons residents Kuchar, Johnson, Brian Harman, Patton Kizzire and Harris English.

Swafford, who birdied four out of his next five holes after making his only bogey of the day, agreed with Love that Golden Isles residents don't automatically have the home-field edge.

"Home games can be difficult because you can overthink it," he said. "The golf course changes a lot from when we're playing at home just beating around with the guys that live here."

The closest a St. Simons resident has come to winning the tournament was when Love tied for fourth in 2012, four shots behind Tommy Gainey. That is one of only four top-10 finishes in the RSM Classic by Love or his homies. Kuchar tied for seventh in 2013, Glover tied for ninth last year and Brian Harman tied for 10th in 2013.

"There are a lot of expectations you put on yourself," Swafford said. "You feel you should go around here and have the advantage. You have family members and it's great to have them and they support you. They want nothing but the best for you but you get distracted, for sure."