Higgs grabs chance to share PGA lead

Harry Higgs lost his full PGA Tour card towards the end of last season but took a big step on Friday at Sea Island to getting it back.

Higgs played bogey-free on the more difficult Seaside course for a 7-under 63, giving him a share of the lead with Cole Hammer and Andrew Putnam going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Even without anyone from the top 20 in the world at Sea Island, plenty is at stake in the final official PGA Tour event before a six-week break to end the year.

Hammer, who had a 66 at Seaside, is playing on a sponsor exemption and has no full status on any tour.

Putnam, whose only PGA Tour title was in 2018, had a 65 on the Plantation course. He is playing for the eighth time in 10 weeks, having missed only the Bermuda Championship in the autumn because he's made every cut - he was a runner-up in Japan.

Higgs is an everyman, popular among his peers, and it stung to finish last season the way he did. After tying for 14th in his Masters debut, Higgs missed the cut in 10 of his last 14 events to finish out of the top 125 in the FedEx Cup.

He went to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and missed the cut in all three of those tournaments.

Now he has conditional status, and this presents a great opportunity. Job security can be stressful on the PGA Tour, especially going into a season in which only 70 will qualify for the lucrative postseason.

"It's in the back of your mind. It always is for almost everybody except for some of the top players in the world," Higgs said.

"But it can motivate you to work a little bit harder, make better decisions. The goal is to not really have to worry about it come March or as early as possible, right?"

The leaders were at 12-under 130.

Joel Dahmen (64 on Plantation), Beau Hossler (67 on Plantation) and Sahith Theegala, who matched Higgs with a 63 on Seaside, were one shot behind.

Dahmen won in the Dominican Republic last year and his exemption runs out after this season. He often rooms with Higgs, so he can appreciate the feeling of playing with the pressure of trying to keep a job.

"Golf is very hard and it can go sour quickly. To play with freedom for ... two-and-a-half years, really, never had that in my career. So yeah, teeing up in Napa was like, 'OK, we're back at square one. If you don't play well, you don't have a job.' I was very aware of that.

"I don't think about it necessarily when I'm out there, but there's been a couple extra days of practice, for sure."

Aaron Baddeley shot 68 to improve on his opening round by one to sit at 5 under for the tournament.

Baddeley is the lone Australian in the field after Jason Day (74-67) and Cameron Percy (69-72), both at one under, missed the four-under cut.

Brett Drewitt and Harrison Endycott shot 66s to return to even par for the tournament, both missing out on the weekend after posting identical 76s in the opening round.