With the comedown from the Masters still freshly plaguing everyone’s mind, is anyone bothered about the RBC Heritage in South Carolina this week?
It’s an okay course. It’s an okay event. It’s an okay field (although it does include world-number-one Dustin Johnson).
That’s in comparison to Augusta National.
In fact, DJ is the only member of the world’s top 10 taking to Harbour Town Golf Links this week; Jon Rahm is heading to his first Open de Espańa on the European Tour but, other than that, the rest are taking time off post-Masters.
Johnson hasn’t been here since a missed cut 2009 but he is joined by a further nine from inside the world’s top 30 (Paul Casey, Marc Leishman, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Brian Harman, Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman, Xander Schauffele and Francesco Molinari) giving the field some credibility.Embed from Getty Images
FedExCup number-two Patton Kizzire will also tee off in South Carolina. Johnson and Casey join him from the top-10 on the PGA Tour’s money list.
In last year’s outing, also under the shadow of the preceding Masters, Wesley Bryan never shot above a 69 as he plotted his way to a one-shot victory, his first on the PGA Tour, in his home state. A final round of 67 was enough to see the YouTube star ahead of Luke Donald in second and US trio Patrick Cantlay, Ollie Schniederjans and William McGirt in a tie for third.
All of the above are back this year.Embed from Getty Images
As Bryan defends his sole PGA Tour title, he will not be the only past champion in the field. Kuchar (2014) has claimed this scalp before and Jim Furyk (2015 and 2010), Graeme McDowell (2013), Carl Pettersson (2012), Brandt Snedeker (2011), Brian Gay (who set the tournament record of 264, 20-under in 2010), Aaron Baddeley (2006), Stewart Cink (2004 and 2000), five-time champion Davis Love III (2003, 1998, 1992, 1991 and 1987) and Glen Day (1999) complete an abundance of Heritage winners hoping for another taste of glory.
Whilst the RBC Heritage might not rank highly in terms of status, it does in difficulty. Winning scorers at the Masters over the past five years have average at 11-under-par; here at the Heritage, it ranks just behind at 12-under.
Notably, since the RBC Heritage moved to the post-Masters slot in 1983, only seven winners of this event had not played at Augusta the week before. If that is to prove true this week, then only 28 of the 132-man field can have any hopes of winning.
And there’s another similarity between the two events. Winning the tournament means winning a jacket. This one’s tartan, though. Not green.Embed from Getty Images
That is largely down to the challenging constraints of the seemingly tame 7100-yard par-71 Harbour Town Golf Links. Its bite is most definitely worse than its bark, though. Celebrating 50 years of this event and 50 years of this course as host this week, Harbour Town was designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus and rewards those who think their way around the course, and don’t bulldozer their way through it.
The fairways are narrow and wayward shots will be towered over by surrounding trees. Even when players reach the (postage stamp) greens they are faced with tricky slopes and undulations.
Do keep an eye out, though, for the signature lighthouse overlooking the 18th green.
It is no Masters, no. Of course it isn’t. But it’s worthy PGA Tour event nonetheless. It boasts a $6.7million prize purse – with $1.206 for the winner – and a full 500 FedExCup points.
That could offer welcome news to Kizzire, hoping to gain an advantage at the top of the FedExCup standings whilst all his surrounding challengers still have their heads at Augusta.