Matt Bettencourt's week started with a scare but improved significantly Thursday.
The Greenville resident, only minutes into his trip from home to Hilton Head Island on Monday, totaled his BMW on Interstate 26 after plowing into a camper shell that fell from a pickup truck. No one was hurt, and Bettencourt's ride was towed to BMW's Greenville plant, where he picked up a fresh vehicle through a deal he has with the German automaker.
"Fortunately, we were fine," Bettencourt said. "That's the most important thing. Vehicles are replaceable."
Bettencourt recounted the story numerous times Thursday after firing an opening-round 65 to join the mix after the opening round of the Heritage. His day included six birdies and no bogeys and placed him in a group of four a shot of the lead.
Bettencourt, a California native, transplanted to South Carolina after marrying his wife, Kelly, a Palmetto State native. The 36-year-old started 2011 well, with two top-10 finishes. But a bout of bursitis temporarily derailed his season.
He withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational and pulled out of the Valero Texas Open last week. He missed cuts at the Transitions Championship and Shell Houston Open, where he had the fluid drained from his elbow.
The injury worsened with iron shots, Bettencourt said, when he would hit down on the ball. When he reached the point of playing timidly, he decided to take a break.
With an exemption this week, Bettencourt said he feels better but started the week with low expectations.
"I played probably two rounds of golf in the last two and a half weeks," he said. "It feels good just to be out there competing and playing."
Bettencourt started Thursday with four birdies on the front side, including a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 3 after he drove into a divot and sent his approach long over the green. He added birdies at 11 and 12 after sticking his approaches close.
Early in the week, Bettencourt found the course playing firm and thought a couple under par would be a good score. But he started early Thursday and said the course played softer, which he attributed to a recent rise in humidity before Thursday's storm.
After the round, Bettencourt said he would ice the elbow but that he had not felt any problems this week. He played Saturday and again this week with friends at Berkeley Hall.
The report: So far, so good.
"I'm just really enjoying everything," Bettencourt said. "It's frustrating when you're injured, but I'm going to take advantage of every moment that I'm healthy and feeling well."