Dylan Frittelli takes clubhouse lead after Sunday 62—and makes it sounds like he's got zero shot of winning

June 21, 2020

Dylan Frittelli's closing 62 left him with a two-shot edge over the 54-hole leaders who had yet to tee off in the final-round of the RBC Heritage.

Sam Greenwood

HILTON HEAD ISLAND — The general consensus among the 54-hole leaders of the RBC Heritage on Saturday night was that Harbour Town Golf Links would play much tougher on Sunday. Tucked pins, faster fairways and greens, and general final-round pressure would keep scores lower.

“Sundays are always different,” co-leader Ryan Palmer said. “I think Saturday, they call it moving day, which it is, but Sunday seems to tighten up a little bit. I don’t know if you’ll see six eight-under-par rounds that early.”

Palmer may still be right, but early returns Sunday morning indicate that while we may not have quite the same slate of 63s, the pyrotechnics continue and Harbour Town remains mostly defenseless. Dylan Frittelli was the star of the morning, leading the early wave with a 62. It was the lowest round of the week, and just a shot off the course record.

“I felt like everything was pretty much a tap-in,” he said of his phenomenal iron game.

It was his best round by far since returning from the coronavirus break, and a signaled a legitimate breakthrough.

“I guess the major thing I was struggling with last week was just the mental side,” he said. “Not having played competitive golf, going out there and being able to execute a tough shot. The little gremlins that get in your head, they seemed to be miles away from me today.”

Frittelli finished his round at 1:17 p.m. holding a two-shot advantage on the foursome of golfers who slept on the lead overnight. And yet, he had no illusions about his chances to win the tournament.

“I think, if anything, it’s going to give those guys confidence,” Frittelli said of his low round. “The course setup is not very tough today. With the top players in the world playing here, there’s going to be someone that’s going to shoot four or five under. I’m going to go home and pack my bags … I’ll probably be sipping something cold by the time they’re finishing.”

Joining Frittelli in wrapping up a nice red number early on Sunday was Ernie Els, who made five birdies en route to a 68. Despite the slightly more difficult set-up, he called the course “very scoreable.”

“Yeah, the flags are on Sunday positions,” Els said, “but there’s no wind, very humid. So it means the greens are soft, very receptive. … I think it’s going to be a nice shootout. I think the leader can shoot a six-, seven-under-par round today if he plays properly.”

Matthew NeSmith, fresh off a final-round 66, concurred. “There’s just not a whole lot of wind,” he said. “If you hit it good, you can really go at a couple flags and make a bunch of birdies. I think the scores will be pretty low again today.”

C.T. Pan, the defending champion, echoed their sentiments about the soft, windless conditions after finishing his Sunday with a 69. Unlike his winning round a year ago (when he shot a closing 67), Pan believes today’s winner will have to be much bolder from the outset.

“Right now it’s blowing at like five miles or less,” he said, “so I think they do have to [play more aggressive] … everyone has a chance.”

Just like last week at the Colonial, the leaders are tightly packed. As of 1:30 p.m., an astounding 37 golfers—nearly half of the remaining field—were within three shots of 15 under, the score that led after 54 holes. Frittelli’s 62 launched him out ahead of the pack at 17 under, but it remains unlikely that his score will hold up for longer than an hour or so after the overnight leaders tee off.

As Els noted, nothing short of constant birdies, especially on the easier front nine, will be needed to win. Frittelli said the greens have remained soft through a hot weekend, to his surprise, and that iron play will likely define who wins.

In the history of the RBC Heritage, only two players have ever reached 19 under or better; Loren Roberts in 1996, and Brian Gay in 2009. If Gay’s record 20 under stands after today, it will do so by the skin of its teeth.