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Sabbatini goes from questionable to Heritage leader

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – When Rory Sabbatini arrived at Harbour Town early Thursday morning he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play.

Four days earlier he’d tweaked his back “doing something stupid,” with his golf swing, and he’d spent the last few days trying to rest and recover in order to play the RBC Heritage. The South African decided to play and it turned out to be the right decision.

“I was just happy to be able to play today,” said Sabbatini, who opened with a 7-under 64 for the early lead. “I was just trying to simplify everything and wasn’t trying to hit it hard, just put it in the fairway, find the greens.”

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He found 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. His putter took care of the rest, with birdie putts of 51 feet (No. 14) and 12 feet (No. 15) to turn in 4 under. He completed his bogey-free round with birdies at Nos. 5, 8 and 9.

Sabbatini, who injured his back when he practicing last Sunday while trying a new posture at address, said he was stretching his back on the ninth tee, his last hole of the day, and felt a pop.

“I’ve been trying to get it to [pop] all week and it kind of released everything for the closure of the last hole,” he said.