A quick recap of the former Bulldogs who played in the 86th Masters last week:
Brian Harman was the lone Athenian to miss the cut after rounds of 74-75 (missed by 1).
Kevin Kisner opened with 75, but a Friday 70 put him at 1 over par and he paired with Tiger Woods during the cold and blustery third round. He did beat Tiger, but 75-77 on the weekend left him in a tie for 44th.
Bubba Watson also was lurking after starting 73-73, but a Saturday 78 pushed him down. A final round 71 moved him into T39.
Hudson Swafford and Sepp Straka both finished at +5, good for T30.
Russell Henley wasn’t ever in contention, but he did make noise early Sunday, shooting 31 on the opening nine (including 4 straight birdies on #s6-9. Alas, a 39 on the second nine brought him back to the same T30 as Swafford and Straka.
All that means that only Bubba Watson is qualified for the 2023 Masters based on his Champion status. So everyone is looking ahead, hoping to get a win (or FedEx Cup points, or World Golf ranking points) and right in front of them is Harbour Town. The PGA Tour heads to Hilton Head Island, for the annual attitude reset after the stress of Augusta National.
Tournament: RBC Heritage, April 14-17, 2022
Course: Harbour Town Golf Links, par 71, 7,121 yards. Located in Sea Pines, the far southern tip of Hilton Head.
Purse: $8 million in total, $1.440 million to the winner
Defending Champ: Stewart Cink. The worst hat tan line in golf came out of the gates hot and led wire to wire to capture his 3rd victory at Harbour Town. The North Avenue Trade School product was seemingly in the twilight of his PGA Tour career, but had a resurgence last season and parlayed that into a couple of wins and probably his best season in the last 10 years.
Fun Fact: If the pros are lodging outside of Sea Pines, they also have to pay the daily entry fee of $9, just like all the other schlubs out there. **
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS). Jim Nantz will use this trip to calm down from calling the Final Four and the Masters. Nick Faldo will probably just spoil the surprise.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 7. Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Sepp Straka, Hudson Swafford, Brendon Todd.
It’s not a complete 180 degree turn, but the RBC is definitely a stark contrast to the Masters. In Augusta, you have all the pressure of a major, an intense media spotlight, and seemingly benign manicured grass bedeviling you at every turn. The hallowed grounds, tradition, and prestige put everyone on their best behavior, so you don’t hear the term “relaxed” around there much.
In Hilton Head, the only thing NOT relaxing are the tight fairways. Everything else is laid back. Much smaller crowds, and those not really that intense. A nice coastal breeze off the Sound, pretty steady temperatures, palmetto trees swaying instead of pine pollen pods. The course is flat as a pancake, and the greens are slower and have hardly any undulation. They give the winner a tartan plaid jacket, and not a green one. It’s just different.
Kirk and Todd had the week off last week and will be rarin’ to go. As mentioned in the opening, the others all played the Masters and might just be looking to decompress.
It’s a very strong field, with players like Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, and even the Mullet From Down Under Cam Smith. The story of the week is the return of Morgan Hoffman. Hoffman was a college phenom, had early success on the PGA Tour, but a mystery illness put him on quite the interesting journey. The definitive telling of the story is this article by Dan Rapaport. It does make one ask questions you might not normally ask.
I’m sure most of us will be busy on Saturday, either attending G-Day, watching on TV, then spending the evening wringing hands on why Carson Beck threw 20 passes and Brock Vandagriff only attempted 5, and why Arik Gilbert was never targeted. But if you’d like an alternative, check out these former Bulldogs chasing little white balls. Either way...
**I doubt it. But one of my favorite past times is watching SUVs and minivans with Ohio plates pull to the gate house, figure out it costs money to enter, and using the turn around to buy Cleveland Browns tchotchkes in Coligny Market. This exact scenario must happen hundreds of times a day.