ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Davis Love III and Davis Love IV did everything together Thursday at Sea Island.
They have the same pre-shot routine, a full practice swing before setting up over the ball. Both hit 3-wood off the tee and made birdie on the opening hole. Both wound up with an even-par 70 on the Seaside Course. And both have a lot of work to make up ground on Kevin Kisner.
Kisner hit 3-wood to about 25 feet on the fringe and made eagle on his penultimate hole on the Plantation Course for a 7-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead based on par after the first round of the RSM Classic.
Jeff Overton, Canada’s David Hearn and Tom Hoge each had a 6-under 64 on the Seaside Course.
The biggest crowd – which wasn’t much on a day when storms threatened but never arrived – filled the bleachers behind the first tee to see some familiar faces.
Love, the 21-time winner on the PGA Tour, has lived at Sea Island since he was 4. They saw his son, known as Dru, go from a toddler with a plastic club to a 6-foot-5 junior at Alabama who earned a spot in the RSM Classic through a qualifier for the final exemption.
Those belonged mainly to dad.
“I was a little flustered,” Love said. “I was running late and nervous for him, and then he hit it right down the middle and hit it stiff and made birdie. And I stopped worrying about him and started worrying about me a little more.”
Neither made many birdies on a soft, calm and cloudy day that was ideal for low scoring _ 110 players in the 156-man field broke par. Love’s round went the wrong direction with a poor tee shot that led to double bogey on the 13th hole. Dru Love caught his dad with a big tee shot and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th. On the final hole, Love had a 10-foot birdie putt to finish 1 under and just missed it.
This wasn’t a father-and-son competition – at least not to the father.
Asked his goal for Friday, Dru Love smiled and said, “Beat my dad.”
“I didn’t beat him today,” the son said. “Obviously, my goal is to make the cut. I’ve got that in the back of my head. I’ll try to be more patient. After I birdied the first hole, my expectations were a little high. I’ve played this course a lot and I’ve played it well. So I think I thought I could play better than I did.”
Making it easier for Dru Love was having Justin Thomas along for the ride. Thomas, who missed two short birdie putts at the end and had to settle for a 67, played two years with him at Alabama, and he made it feel like an old college match, even telling Dru Love, “Nice save, Bigfoot,” after a nifty up-and-down on the 16th.
Dru Love has a size 13 shoe and has been called that since his freshman year at Alabama.
Kisner had done everything but win this year. He has lost in a playoff three times – to Jim Furyk at Hilton Head, to Rickie Fowler at The Players Championship and in a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier Classic – and he was runner-up at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai two weeks ago.
“I haven’t been disappointed in any stretch of golf coming down the stretch to have a chance. I always rate myself on that,” Kisner said. “I’ve just gotten beaten a few times, so hopefully I’ll have a chance coming down with a couple-shot lead on Sunday.”
It is rare for fathers and sons to play together on the PGA Tour. Craig Stadler and son Kevin played in the 2014 Masters. Jay Haas has played numerous times with son Bill, a six-time tour winner. Jack Nicklaus played his final full season in 2000 when son Gary earned his tour card.
Love is curious to see if his son can develop into a PGA Tour player.
“I hope that he’s another one of these kids that come out here and is chasing me off,” Love said. “I hit a really good drive at 15 and I think Dru was 20 (yards) by me and Justin was 40 by me. I was like, ‘Oh, they’re going to run me off eventually.’ It’s fun to watch Dru play. … I was proud of him. Heck of a first day.
“With everything going on around our family and him getting in this tournament and all the attention, I thought he handled it really well and played a good round of golf.”
Dru Love conceded to having a few nerves, too, though it helped to be with Thomas, and to know “just about everyone in the stands behind us everyone in fairway.”
And it helped to have his father along for the ride.
“We talked about normal stuff, mostly about what we’re going to have for lunch and dinner,” Dru Love said. “He’s good at leaving me alone when I need to be left alone. He tried to treat me like he would anyone else out there.”