When tee times for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing came out on Tuesday, one of the most intriguing threesomes was Brandt Snedeker, Kyle Stanley and Luke Donald.
All three golfers have won this year. Stanley is a former Clemson golfer and a resident at Bluffton's Berkeley Hall. Donald is the No. 1 player in the world.
And Snedeker, the defending Heritage champion, has beaten Stanley and Donald in playoffs to win in the last year. That win over Donald came here at Harbour Town Golf Links.
In the first round, Snedeker and Stanley shot solid even-par 71s, while Donald struggled to a 4-over 75 and looked in danger of not only missing the cut, but losing the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Ranking.
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If on Thursday the group disappointed, it made up for it with drama on Friday.
Snedeker made a run at the top of the leaderboard on his first nine holes, carding a birdie on the par-5 second before making five straight from Nos. 5 through 9 to go out in 30 and move within three shots of the lead at 6 under.
After making the front nine look easy, the back nine proved a tougher test with its swirling winds.
"The 37 coming in is probably better than the 30 on the front nine," Snedeker said. "I had great up-and-downs on the back nine. The wind was blowing more and the greens were firm, so it was impossible to get it close. As good as the 30 was on the front nine, I'm really proud of the 37 because I made a bunch of key par putts."
Snedeker finished the day at 4-under par and tied for seventh, five shots off the lead. Ironically, he was six shots off the lead at the same point in last year's tournament before going on to win.
"I feel like I'm in great position," Snedeker said.
Stanley had three birdies on the front nine to briefly crack the top 10 at 3 under before a bogey on the 10th put him back at 2 under. He would stay there for a while with a string of seven straight pars.
And then came a disaster on No. 18.
After hitting his tee shot right down the center, his second shot was off the left side of the green, down the hill and in the hazard.
His third shot, a chip back up on to the green, was too hard and rolled all the way across and onto the edge of the fairway. His long putt for par from the fairway missed right and rolled to the fringe on the other side. He missed his next putt close, leaving him a short putt for double bogey. The next putt lipped out before he finally made a tap-in for triple-bogey 7, putting him a 1-over 143 for the tournament.
"I played great today except for the last hole," Stanley said as he boarded a cart for the clubhouse. "That's a tough way to finish."
Donald, needing to finish eighth or better to keep from losing his No. 1 ranking, moved to 1 over with three birdies in the first seven holes and played the last 11 holes at 1 over to make the cut with a two-day total of 2-over 144.
Now he faces an uphill battle, and for the second year in a row, the Heritage will play a role in who the top golfer in the world is.
While Donald is motivated to keep the No. 1 spot, he's more motivated to get back in contention for the win.
"You can't control the other stuff."