Beaufort News

Lime time brings more good luck to Gay at Heritage

His game at Harbour Town Golf Links is back. So, too, are the lime green pants.

Two years after winning the Heritage in record-breaking fashion, Brian Gay put himself on solid footing Thursday to contend for another tartan jacket.

Gay fired a 5-under 66 on the opening day of the 43rd annual Heritage and sits two shots back of first-round leader Garrett Willis.

After a two-hour rain delay, play was suspended for darkness at 7:57 p.m. Thursday with 18 players still left on the course. Gay was in a tie for sixth among the players who finished their rounds.

"You can't win it on the first day, but you can certainly shoot yourself out of it," Gay said. "I'm in a good spot."

And a comfortable one. Gay called Harbour Town his favorite course on the PGA Tour, saying it has the feeling of home. It felt more and more cozy as his opening round progressed Thursday.

Gay said trips to Hilton Head Island cause him to think back to his memorable 2009 championship, in which he blistered the field to a Heritage record 10-stroke victory. Wearing the same shade of bright green pants he sported Thursday -- and yes, he is superstitious -- Gay shot a 7-under 64 in the final round of 2009 to finish at 20-under par, also a tournament record.

He finished in a tie for 32nd place last season, but he hasn't forgotten what carried him two years ago.

"Absolutely, you can build on the past," Gay said. "I know how well I've done here before, and I think about all those good memories (when I'm here)."

Some came roaring back as he made a handful of quality shots Thursday morning.

Gay played 1-under par for the first four holes, then eagled No. 5. He stuck his 228-yard second shot 16 feet from the pin and made the ensuing putt for eagle on the par 5. Gay said the shot jump-started his round, and he followed with three more birdies over the next seven holes. He bogeyed the par-3 17th, but it was his only blunder of the day.

Gay has finished among the top 25 in six of the nine events he's played this year, including fifth-place finishes at the Bob Hope Classic in January and the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun in February.

A fine line, he said, can propel him to the top of the leaderboard.

"You have to get breaks," Gay said. "It usually comes down to who makes more putts in the end, but you have to get some good breaks along the way."