With the help of a new putter and a local caddie, Matt Wallace shares the lead with Camilo Villegas at 6-under after the first round of the 2020 RSM Classic.
Wallace had Jeffery Cammon on his bag during Thursday’s round. Cammon is a club-fitter at the Sea Island Resort and stepped up after Wallace’s caddie tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
Wallace is a first time player at the RSM, and with two courses in play, he said he thought it would be good to use a local guy who knows the surroundings.
“Yes. He was on the fourth hole, fifth hole, he was one-for-one in green reading, so I said, ‘Don’t read any more putts because you’re 100 percent.’ But no, he’s been great,” Wallace said. “He’s really chill. Justin Parsons put me in contact with him, which is great, and very fortunate for Jeffrey to jump on the bag in the absence of Dave.”
Wallace said Cammon’s first question to him was, “What do you want me to do or say?”
“I was like, ‘Listen, mate, I don’t need anything. I’ll ask you a question, and you answer it just with pure facts of what you think.’ It worked well today,” Wallace said. “I said to him, “Is the wind more out of the left than it is like helping,” and he’s like, ‘Yep,’ and that was it…”
Cammon wasn’t the only addition to Wallace’s bag this week, as he also added a new putter to the mix. He said his putting hasn’t been where it should be, so after talking with his team about his routine and understanding why he does certain things on greens, he chose a new one.
Wallace said he went to a no-sightline putter this week for the change.
“Joe Toulon at Callaway’s been brilliant this week,” Wallace said. “He came up with three putters, and I chose the no-sightline one and able to roll the ball end over end, which is part of my game that I do really well. I haven’t been doing that, so getting back to that this week has been really nice.”
Wallace said he thought he putted great today and got the round off to an excellent start. Despite the wind increasing throughout the round and he said it really got going on Nos.13 and 14 — the two holes right by the sea on Seaside.
“Yeah, hitting a 5-iron from 150 yards is not normal, but I’m kind of used to that from being back home, just normally playing on links courses rather than these types of courses here,” Wallace said. “Putted great. Got off to a nice start and holed a good putt on the third hole for bogey.
“I hit a decent shot to the right-hand side, and I practiced putts up this to the back left flag, and I put in my book it’s slower and stuff like that, and I still managed to putt it through the back and off the back edge and left myself a wedge, which wasn’t nice, but holed a good one. Good momentum there — that was a good putt. Carried it on till the end there.”
Wallace isn’t the only one that shot a 64 as he shares the lead with Villegas. Like Wallace, they both played Seaside for their first round of the tournament.
Villegas said it was tough out there but loves it as he has been coming here since 2000.
“It was kind of nice this morning. I got on the range and see a little rainbow out there,” Villegas said. “I start thinking about Mia and said, hey, let’s have a good one. Nice to have Manny on the bag, and yes, it was a good ball-striking round. It was a great putting round. I was pretty free all day. It’s tough to be free under these conditions, but I found a way to do it.”
Villegas lost his daughter Mia to cancer earlier this year, and one of her favorite things was rainbows. PGA Tour players wore rainbow ribbons on their hats this year in her honor. Villegas said he got a little emotional mentioning her in his interview but could stay focused on the course.
“When I’m out there, I’m so focused, there’s so much going on, especially under these conditions,” Villegas said. “I’m there with my brother, and you just follow a process. So to answer your question, you’re so focused on what you’re doing that it doesn’t really — I’m not going to say it doesn’t distract me, but like I said, when I got on the range, and I saw a rainbow, hey, listen, here it is. She loved colors and rainbows, and my wife was all about it. And it was cool. It was a nice way to start the day.”
However, Villegas said he felt like his experience on Seaside helped him today in these harsh conditions.
“I’ve been coming here since 2000, and you know where to miss it or not to miss it, and you know that the wind here plays stronger than you think,” Villegas said. “Walking down one of the holes, my brother goes, like there’s no way it’s blowing 18, and I don’t think it was.
“I think it was pretty strong out there, and we managed to keep the ball low. I have no problem keeping the ball low. And roll some putts. The greens are perfect. They’re getting fast, firm and I managed to read them pretty good today.”
Both Wallace and Villegas will take on the Plantation course today as the golfers switch courses after the first round.
As for the local guys, five managed to stay under par after the first round. Patton Kizzire, Zach Johnson and Harris English all had strong days. English and Johnson both finished with -4, and Kizzire is one stroke off the lead at -5.
Kizzire made 138 feet in putts on Thursday and said he felt like he made a lot and that it was a great start for him.
“I was reading the greens really well,” Kizzire said. “I know the greens, and they’re certainly faster in the tournament than we play normally, so I had to adjust to that, but local knowledge definitely came into play.
“It was tough out there. I really tried to stay patient. I bogeyed the first hole, so that wasn’t ideal, but I hung in there and started making some really good putts… Anytime you can do that, your score better be pretty low.”
Round 2 of the RSM Classic begins at 9:30 a.m. on both courses again. It’s moving day, and the cutline could be pretty low if guys continue to score as they did on Thursday.