Tournament: RBC Heritage, April 15-18, 2021
Course: Harbour Town Golf Links, par 71, 7,121 yards. Hilton Head Island (on the south western tip of the island - you can see the Tybee lighthouse on a clear day).
Purse: $7,100,000 in total and $1.278 million to the winner
Defending Champ: Webb Simpson. The Raleigh, NC native is somehow relegated to being the “other” current Wake Forest alum on the PGA Tour (thanks to Will Zalatoris). But he set the tournament record last June and carded a Sunday 64 to more than deserve the trophy, oversized check, and tartan plaid blazer.
Fun Fact: Instead of honorary starters, the defending champion hits a driver into Calibogue Sound just as a (supposedly) trained staff member fires a cannon! The timing is often funny, as the cannon may go off just prior to the golfer hitting the ball and scares the bojangles out of the guy.
TV Times: Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS)
‘Dawgs in the Field: 8. Russell Henley, Brendon Todd, Kevin Kisner, Hudson Swafford, Harris English, Chris Kirk, Sepp Straka, Brian Harman.
The Masters is over and done, and Japan has it’s first male major winner in Hideki Matsuyama. He was a deserving champion and if you want to discuss the weekend results in the comments, feel free. As for the former Bulldogs, here’s a quick rundown:
Swafford missed the cut... by a lot. Kevin Kisner had a frustrating putter and missed by 2 strokes. The good news is that the other four made the cut and played the weekend. Brendon Todd never got into contention but still finished at +5, T46. Bubba hung around even par just about every day and his +1 cumulative was good for T26. Harris English bounced above even par for most of the first 3 days but a final round 70 got him back to even par in total and a T21 finish. And Brian Harman, who was in 2nd place Saturday morning, had a only-slightly off weekend to keep in red numbers (-2) and most importantly, a T12 finish. That tie for 12th means he will be invited back to the Masters in 2022. So with Bubba a former champ and Harman qualifying based on his finish, at least two ‘Dawgs will be in Augusta next April.
As has been the case for two decades or more, the PGA Tour heads from the pressure cooker of the piedmont rolling hills of Augusta to the low country of Hilton Head Island, SC. I wouldn’t say these tournaments are exact opposites, but they do have significant differences. The Masters is a major, is watched more than any other golf tournament in the world, and players are fighting for a career-changing finish. Hilton Head is as laid back as can be, even pre-pandemic had limited crowds due to its proximity, and is just a regular PGA Tour stop. Augusta National is big and often very wide, huge elevation changes and lightning fast greens that undulate like Justin Fields’ draft stock. Harbour Town is flat, but super tight fairways lined with pines and live oaks that cut off approach angles quicker than Kirby Smart can land the top OL out of Tennessee, and tiny greens that will really deflate your GIR stats.
So it might not be a 180 degree change from last week for the pros (and viewers), but its still quite distinct. And it still carries a decent purse with 500 valuable FedEx Cup points, so many of our beloved golfing ‘Dawgs should take advantage of it.
Weirdly enough, this is the first of 3 pro tourneys in the state of South Carolina over the next two months. Normally this is the only one in a calendar year, but the PGA Championship will be played next month at Kiawah Island, and a pandemic-related change means the RBC Canadian Open will not be conducted north of the border and has been replaced at the last minute by the “Palmetto Championship at Congaree”. I’m dying to play, or at least see, the highly selective and highly secluded Congaree Golf Club. It has many PGA Tour pros amongst its 200 count membership, is supposed to be an absolute beast of a course, and sits unassuming about an hour inland of Hilton Head. But hats off to the Palmetto State for having such high profile events in the state that also includes Williams Brice Stadium and the inhumanity that is Myrtle Beach.
Enough getting ahead of myself. Listen, you have G-Day to look forward to this weekend, But sandwiching that are 8 former Bulldogs with an eye on yet another PGA Tour win. And as always...