PGA Tour

Quietly, Claxton crafts solid score in first round at Harbour Town

Auburn grad's effort gets lost in wake of Daly, Fowler

mmccombs@islandpacket.comApril 12, 2012 

Never have two rounds of golf looked so different. But sometimes, your eyes are playing tricks on you.

On Thursday at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, golf's every man John Daly blasted tee shots and strolled down the Harbour Town fairways sporting his brightly colored pants, toting a lit cigarette and drawing throngs of followers willing to endure any ride with the two-time major champion just to be there if he returns to glory.

Factor in Rickie Fowler's presence in Daly's threesome, and the fans gathered at some holes resulted in a strange combination of rowdy men and squealing teenage girls in some bizarre 18-hole pep rally.

Just one group behind, Will Claxton shot a 1-under 70, just like Daly. He earned his score, good enough for a tie for 11th, to the cheers of, well, just about nobody.

That's not entirely fair. Claxton did have some followers, but they were more like a lunch gathering among friends than a Rascal Flatts concert.

For Claxton, it was impossible not to be aware of the fans in front of him.

"I know when I get out here, I'm not even used to as many fans that come to see me, and that's not many," Claxton said. "You definitely see that stuff, but it's funny, when you step over a golf shot, you don't really think about it."

Though this is just the 10th PGA Tour event for the plainspoken Swainsboro, Ga., resident with an economics degree from Auburn, he's had a little success this year, making five of eight cuts and tying for ninth at Mayakoba and 20th in the Puerto Rico Open.

But Claxton still isn't guaranteed to get in every tournament, and he made the journey to Hilton Head Island without knowing if he'd make the field.

"I've always wanted to go around this place, so I decided I'd come check it out regardless," said Claxton, making his first visit to Harbour Town.

A weekend phone call from RBC Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot eased Claxton's mind. Wilmot told him sponsor's exemption or on his own, he was in.

Regardless, Claxton made the field and turned in a good score on a day when most golfers struggled with the course and the wind. He bogeyd No. 3 but went on a run with birdies on Nos. 5, 7 and 8. But bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 threatened to spoil what had been a good day.

But his birdie putt found the cup on the 18th green to get him back to red numbers for the day.

"I went out there and played pretty well," Claxton said. "My putter let me down a little bit, and I started losing my thinking some, which I tend to do from time to time."

"It'd be nice if I putted a little better," he said, "but If I can go out there tomorrow and hit the ball like I did today, I'd be very pleased."

As he made his way to the scoring trailer, he passed the crowded spot where Daly -- you remember, the other guy who shot 70 in this tale -- had been wrangled by several members of the media.

After leaving the scoring trailer, Claxton wandered past the area where Daly was now signing autographs and Fowler was holding court with a couple dozen female admirers. Claxton walked to the end of a row of fans and had a brief but friendly conversation with three men who had traveled to see his first round at Harbour Town.

But don't let your eyes fool you. Daly and Claxton played two identical rounds of golf in the only way that matters -- on the scorecard.

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