The RBC Heritage: First round leader Cameron Young learns Masters lesson, Joaquin Niemann chases

The American rookie thrashed an 8-under 63 to lead by two from the Chilean on an opening day of low scoring at Harbour Town.

Cameron Young's rookie campaign on the PGA Tour has been a good one, including a pair of second-placed finisher at the Sanderson Farms Championship and Genesis Invitational.

He was justifiably excited about his Masters debut last week, hopeful that he could improve on the two missed cuts in his first two Major Championship appearances.

Unfortunately, two rounds of 77 saw him crash out early at Augusta National.

But the 24-year-old from New York took the blow on the chin and opted to heed a harsh lesson.

"I learned that I have a long way to go," he said after bouncing back with an 8-under-par 63 to claim a two-shot first round lead at the RBC Heritage.

"I've shown that I can compete at this level, but so far in the Majors I've gotten to play, I haven't been able to do that.

"I think it just gives me more reason to go out and try to get better to a point where I'm more comfortable and able to have a week where I contend in one of those."

Harbour Town is a less severe examination than last week, but it is not without its difficulties.

"You can't get around here without thinking for sure," Young admitted, after circling eight birdies to bounce clear of second placed Joaquin Niemann.

"I think the preparation for a lot of tee shots is very important. And it can get pretty windy out there, so you have to really pick your spots where you think you can be a little aggressive and places where you just can't."

Chilean Niemann had his own disappointments last week at Augusta. He opened with a 69 to lie tied third, but never broke 74 in his next three laps to slump into a share of 35th.

"Coming off the Masters, I wasn't hitting it great," he revealed after a circuit which also saw eight birdies (and two bogeys).

"But I was really excited starting this round because I started hitting the ball great. I was doing some adjustments on the swing before in the week and it was feeling great.

"After a slow start, my putter got pretty hot. My irons felt great. Tee shot was good. So, yeah, it was a great day."

Like Young, he is enjoying the Harbour Town test.

"This is the kind of course you've got to hit it both ways, especially off the tee," he said. "There's tee shots that you must hit draws and others you must hit fades. I think that's kind of fun. That's kind of the courses I grew up playing when I was a kid."

No less than seven men share third including Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry, Corey Conners, Graeme McDowell and Sepp Straka.

Cameron Smith, who challenged for the Green Jacket last week before finding water at the 12th, laboured for a 73, while Dustin Johnson carded a 72. Both have a fight on their hands to make the weekend.

Hoffman's comeback starts well

Back in 2016 Morgan Hoffman was one of the PGA Tour's brightest prospects, but that year he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and he last played on the circuit in 2019.

Since then he has been dealing with his condition via alternative therapy (including drinking his own urine, hallucinogenic drugs and consuming 800 grapes a day) in Costa Rica, as reported by Golf Digest.

His return to action this week is the start of a fraught operation to save his card. Playing on a medical exemption he has three starts to earn enough points but the task is not simple - he'd need second place this week to achieve it in one go.

Nonetheless, he started in fine fashion, with a level-par lap of 71 playing alongside Harold Varner III and Matt Fitzpatrick.

"I felt great," Hoffman said. "The first tee shot wasn't as nerve-racking as I thought it would be. I had a great group. It was easy keeping it light out there. We played fast, which was nice.

"The game didn't feel anywhere near as bad as I thought it was, so it was pretty exciting.

"It was pretty surreal, a lot different than the lifestyle I've been living the last two years.

"Having the support and the media and getting the focus on what we're trying to build, the natural health and wellness centre in Costa Rica, it's going to be great. I'm really excited about the outcome and the building process.

"I was trying to be humble with myself really. I didn't have really any goals of a score, per se, but I was just trying to hit it solid. I mean, 80% of them were decent enough."

Varner III was impressed.

"He's still good at golf," he said. "It's like riding a bike. Obviously, it's going to take a while to get the rust off, but it's just good to see him."

Hoffman was notably short off the tee, even in comparison with his short-hitting partners.

"I don't think it really mattered," Varner said of this day. "Because he hit his 5-iron close to where I hit my 8-iron. On the third, I outdrove him by 30 yards, but he hit it to 4-feet and I'm sitting there at 25-feet.

"That's what makes the game so beautiful."

Hoffman was also blissed out.

"I had a great time out there," he said. "I think the game's closer than I thought, and it's exciting. I'm pumped.

"I love this game so much, it's so difficult."

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