ST. Simon Island, Ga. — Harry Higgs lost his full PGA Tour card late last season and took a step back Friday at Sea Island.
Higgs went bogey-free on the more difficult beach course for a 7-under 63, giving him a share of the lead with recent Texas graduate Cole Hamer and Andrew Putnam heading into the weekend’s RSM Classic.
While there is no one in the world’s top 20 at Bay Island, much is at stake in the final PGA Tour event before a six-week break to end the year.
Hammer, who was 66 at Seaside, is playing on sponsor exemption and does not have full status on any tour.
Putnam, who had his only PGA Tour title of 2018, shot a 65 on the Plantation Course. Playing for the eighth time in 10 weeks, he only missed out on the Bermuda Championships in the fall because he made every selection — he was runner-up in Japan — and the weather wasn’t as good near home in Seattle.
Higgs is everyman, popular with his peers, and had trouble finishing the way he did last season. After losing to 14th in his first Masters tournament, Higgs has missed the cut in 10 of his last 14 events to finish inside the top 125 at the FedEx Cup. He went to the finals of the Korn Ferry Tour and missed the cut in all three of those tournaments.
Now he has a situation, and this gives a great opportunity. Job security can be a concern on the PGA Tour, especially entering a season where only 70s qualify for the lucrative postseason.
“It’s in the back of your mind. It almost always is for all but some of the best players in the world,” Higgs said. “But it might motivate you to work a little harder, make better decisions. The goal is that we don’t have to worry about March or as early as possible. Right?”
The leaders were 12-under 130.
Joel Dahmen (64 on Plantation), Beau Hossler (67 on Plantation) and Sahith Theegala, who tied with Higgs with a 63 on Beach, were 1 shot back.
Dahmen won last year in the Dominican Republic and his exemption expires after this season. He often sleeps with Higgs, so he appreciates the feeling of playing in an effort to keep a job.
“Golf is tough and it can hurt fast,” Dahmen said. “To play in freedom … for two and a half years, in fact, in my career, there was nothing like this. So, yes, the crowd in Napa said, “Okay, we’re back in the square. If you have Don’t play well, you don’t have a job.’ I was very aware of that.
“I don’t necessarily think about it when I’m out there, but there’s definitely a couple more days of practice.”
The weather was not as cold as the opening round, and the score remained low. The cut was 4-under 138.
Hammer, who made his debut as a PGA Tour professional last week in Houston, made bogeys from fairways on the seventh and eighth holes – two of the easiest of the day – and then rolled his approach. Birdie to 3 feet on No. 9 and then 18 feet on the next hole.
He was bogey-free the rest of the way and will be in the final group at the weekend.
“I was a little worried after 7 and 8. I put myself in a really good position to make birdies and I got out with two bogeys, and that’s no excuse,” Hammer said. But to shoot back on 9 and make birdie on 10 — erasing those bogeys right away on those two tough holes — was huge for speed and confidence.