Let’s do a quick recap of the 87th Masters Tournament, where 8 former Georgia Bulldogs competed:
Bubba Watson shot 77-76 to miss the cut by 6.
Brian Harman didn’t fare much better with his 2 rounds of 77-74.
Kevin Kisner was okay after an opening 72, but a 2nd round 77 in the bad weather means he missed the weekend. Don’t worry, it gets better.
Keith Mitchell opened with 75, but a second round 71 moved him a stroke clear of the cut line. It didn’t carry over to his final rounds of 77 and 79. He did earn $43,200 for his 53rd place (and last of those who made the cut) finish.
Sepp Straka started strong with a 70 and a Friday 73 kept him playing. A 74 in Saturday’s bad weather and Sunday’s 79 resulted in a T46 and $57,600.
Harris English started with consecutive 1-under par 71s, and weekend rounds of 77-75 put him in a tie for 43rd. That was worth $66,600.
Chris Kirk played typically steady golf: 70-74-72-71 and might be the only player to improve each round Friday through Sunday. That’s a top 25 finish (T23) and $187,200.
Russell Henley didn’t lose the tournament with a first round 73, snuck onto the 2nd page of the leaderboard in the 2nd round with 67, and shot 71-70 to capture a T4 finish and $744,000. He was scaring 2nd place for a lot of Sunday’s final round, ending up tied with Jordan Spieth. He’s probably most grateful for his automatic invitation to the 2024 Masters, given to the top 12 at the conclusion of each Masters.
So we leave Augusta, and head down the Savannah River, cutting across to Hilton Head.
Tournament: RBC Heritage, April 13-16, 2023.
Course: Harbour Town Golf Links, par 71, 7,121 yards. On the southern/southwestern tip of Hilton Head Island, SC.
Purse: $20 million total, $3.6million to the winner. This is another designated event meaning bigger purses and guaranteeing a field full of big stars.
Defending Champ: Jordan Spieth. The follicly-challenged Texan caught up to Shane Lowry and Patrick Cantlay and Sunday, and forced a quick playoff with the UCLA Bruin Cantlay. Both played from the bunker on 18 and Jordan used his usual Spieth-ian magic to tap in while Cantlay bogeyed.
Fun Fact: The lighthouse was not original to the island. It was built in the late 1960s by the course owner/developer. And apparently the first lighthouse constructed in the US in the 20th century. The marina underneath is nice, but both quaint and crowded. And the surrounding market has some overpriced restaurants but several nice shops.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 2 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).
‘Dawgs in the field: 10. Davis Thompson, Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, Greyson Sigg, Russell Henley, Harris English, Sepp Straka, Brendon Todd, Keith Mitchell.
The RBC Heritage is the big, deep, relaxing breath after the tight clenching of the Masters. Held the week following the masters for the past couple of decades, it has a laid back atmosphere (the kids call it a “vibe”), comparatively little pressure, a less prestigious field, is located in a resort beach town/island, and even the golf course is markedly different from Augusta National and requires a different approach and different shotmaking. At least it used to be.
Thanks to Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, because they’re taking credit for it, the PGA Tour pumped up some of the available purse money in order to keep its stars happy and to put the stars together more often. As such, this RBC Heritage is going to be a “designated event”. So you know who is playing this week? Essentially the top 10 of the Masters final leaderboard (sans LIV golfers) and most of the top 50 in the world.
It will still be in the lowcountry and players will still stay in desirable houses overlooking the Atlantic or Calibogue Sound; their wives will still enjoy the local sights and sounds and entertain young children; everyone will decompress from Augusta, and the crowds will be lighter. But the money is big, the field is strong, and the Pete Dye design will draw its share of blood.
Hilton Head has always been the contrast to Augusta because everything gets ratcheted down after a major; and not just any major but the most-watched golf tournament at the most desirable course in the world. It still has a decorated history. The past winners include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Davis Love III, and most recently Jordan Spieth.
As you can see there have always been stars in Sea Pines. But rarely have the current best of the best all gathered in Harbour Town the same week.
Augusta National has always been referred to as a “second shot golf course” due to needing accurate approaches to the undulating greens. The same goes for this week but for a slightly different reason. The course is roughly 400 yards shorter - sounds easy, right? Except for the overhanging live oaks lining every fairway and protecting most of the greens. Tight fairways, forced layups and doglegs, plus the original waste bunkers make this a very different looking test, but requiring the same precision that ANGC demands.
It is a shotmakers course, and the best shotmakers in the world will be on the South Carolina coast. Which includes 10 former Bulldogs. I understand you may have a viewing conflict say, Saturday afternoon. But otherwise I hope you enjoy the golf, and as always...