Hilton: Charley Hoffman had four birdies his first five holes en route to a 5-under 66 at the RBC Heritage on Saturday, taking a two-stroke lead at 11-under over US Open champion Webb Simpson. Hoffman struggled in his first two appearances at this tournament but last year he discovered a new appreciation for Harbour Town Golf Links and is now closing in on his third PGA Tour victory.
"I would say I wasn't mature enough to play this golf course," Hoffman said. "I didn't understand how to play it. I guess I would get frustrated when I hit the fairway and didn't have a shot at the green."
Hoffman opened play with a 66 on Thursday, moved into a three-way tie for the top Friday and took control with his hot start in the third round.
"It was definitely the best playing round I've had in a long time," he said.
He'll need to have one more to hold off those chasing him down. Simpson, bidding for his first victory since winning his major at Olympic Club, finished with a bogey-free 65, tying the lowest round of the tournament.
Kevin Streelman shot a 69 and was alone in third at 8 under.
The round started with 91 players making the cut, tying the tour high set in 1981 at the Travelers Championship. Jesper Parnevik moved the cut line Saturday morning to 2 over as he missed a 5-footer to complete his rain-delayed second round and opened the door for 21 players to keep playing.
Brendon de Jonge and Graeme McDowell were tied at 7-under par, four shots off the lead. De Jonge shot a 67, and McDowell had a 68.
The last of Hoffman's two career PGA Tour victories came at the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship. And early on, he threatened to turn the RBC Heritage into a runaway.
He made a 30-footer for birdie at the first to break from a three-way tie with Streelman and Steve LeBrun, then followed that by getting up and down from about 30 feet on the par-5 second hole. Hoffman was pin high, 12 feet away on the par-3 fourth to move to 9 under and closed his hot start with another up-and-down birdie - this one from 65 feet - on the par-5 fifth.
Hoffman played steadily the rest of the way to maintain his lead - even though he appeared on the verge of cracking several times.
Simpson, who started three shots off the lead, birdied three of his first six holes. Two more birdies on the 10th and 11th holes moved him within two shots of Hoffman. Simpson's 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th - Simpson made birdie on all three of Harbour Town's par 5s - drew him closer still.
Simpson is eager to break through again with a victory. "This year I just haven't gotten in contention enough," he said.
Streelman, tied with Hoffman and rookie LeBrun through 36-holes, had consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to stay in contention. LeBrun held steady with a 71 and was in a group of eight five strokes behind that included Bill Haas.
"I don't have much to lose," said Streelman, whose first tour win came at the Tampa Bay Championships last month. "I'm going to see what the course can give us."
Among those saved by Parnevik's miss was Brandt Snedeker, at No. 5 in the world the highest ranked golfer here and on the verge of missing the weekend after shooting 73-71. Snedeker, who contended for the Masters' title last Sunday, was not spectacular in his bonus round, but did enough with an even-par 71 to hang around Sunday.
One of those who didn't make the tournament's second cut was Parnevik after a 73.
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