Scheffler back in familiar spot, with lead at RBC

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was relentless as ever Saturday with another bogey-free round at the RBC Heritage, an 8-under 63 that gave him a 1-shot lead and left him one round from joining some rare company.

Not since Bernhard Langer in 1985 has a Masters champion won the following week on the PGA Tour at Harbour Town. The only other Masters champion to win the next week was Gary Player in 1978 at the Tournament of Champions.

And the last player to win a major and then win on the PGA Tour the following week was Tiger Woods in 2006 (PGA Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).

“I think when I’m playing my best, sometimes it feels like I’m competing against myself a little bit out there, trying to keep pushing and stay as focused as I can,” said Scheffler, who has converted each of his past three outright 54-hole leads on tour.

“At the end of the day, we’re out here competing against the best players in the world. I love competing against these guys, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of coming out and competing tomorrow.”

Scheffler was at 16-under 197. Sepp Straka made a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 65 to get within 1 shot. They will be in the final group Sunday, with a different wind and thunderstorms in the forecast.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa made one mistake late, coming up short of the 16th green and missing a 10-foot par putt. He had a 68 and was 2 shots behind. Masters runner-up Ludvig Åberg was among those 3 shots back.

All of them are chasing the No. 1 player in the world amid a dominant stretch of golf not seen since Woods in his prime.

Scheffler has gone 51 consecutive holes at par or better at Harbour Town. He posted his 39th consecutive round at par or better dating to the Tour Championship last August.

“I think we all expect him to play well, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Åberg said. “All I try to do is focus on myself and make sure that I hit the shots the way I want to and then see where that takes me.”

Scheffler started 3 shots behind and already was tied for the lead with a tee shot to a pin at the back right corner of the 221-yard seventh hole, converting a 10-foot birdie.

Even the bad breaks led to birdies. On the reachable par-4 ninth, his drive stopped short of the bunker on a down slope of grass, leaving him a flop shot to a short pin with the green running away from him. All he could manage was a pitch to 35 feet. Scheffler rammed home the birdie putt and never really stopped until finishing with a 7-foot birdie on the 18th.

For a moment, it was setting up as a duel with Åberg, the rising Swedish star who has been a pro for 10 months and already is regarded as Scheffler’s biggest threat because he never seems to miss. But he missed a drive on the 12th into the trees and made bogey to fall out of a share of the lead, and Åberg had to settle for pars the rest of the way.

The crowds were particularly large on the warm, sunny day, often lining the entire fairway two- and three-deep to watch golf’s newest sensation. Scheffler has three wins and a runner-up finish in his past four tournaments.

The only player to beat him was Stephan Jaeger by 1 shot in the Houston Open — Scheffler missed a 5-foot putt that would have forced a playoff. They played together for the first time since then, and Jaeger held his own with a 67.

Against Scheffler these days, that’s just not enough.

“I think I’ve been very fortunate to have played with a lot of top players,” said Straka, who played in his first Ryder Cup last fall in Rome. “I don’t think anybody has been quite on the run that Scottie is on right now.”

Scheffler wasn’t entirely prepared for this week. Winning can be draining, even more when it involves a Masters green jacket. He flew home to Dallas on Sunday night, spent two days with his pregnant wife, managed nine holes of a pro-am at Harbour Town and here he is again.

Patrick Rodgers is the only player within 5 shots of Scheffler who has yet to win on the PGA Tour. The former Stanford star has felt his game was in a good place, and he was hopeful of getting another chance. And then he saw Scheffler’s name starting to rise on the scoreboards as he was starting his round. Rodgers hung in there with a 68.

“It feels inevitable at this point,” Rodgers said. “His ballstriking is incredible. For me to have a chance tomorrow, I’m going to have to play 18 great holes. And I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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