By Pete Pappas
GolfWRX Staff Writer
The PGA Tour leaves the picturesque Magnolia Lane (and thrilling finish of the 76th Masters) and travels southeast to the magnificent scenery of Hilton Head, S.C., for the 44th RBC-Heritage (and 17th tournament of the Tour season).
With no “Green jacket” at stake, 10 of the past 11 winners at Augusta National have skipped Harbour Town the week following their Masters victory. But a $5.7M purse and (somewhat less famous) “Plaid jacket” for the RBC winner will be up for grabs just the same.
Perennially ranked as one of the nation’s finest courses, Harbour Town Golf Links will host a field of 17 major winners, eight previous RBC champions, and seven conquerors on Tour in 2012.
World No. 1 player Luke Donald will be teeing it up at Hilton Head looking to avenge his sudden-death playoff loss last year to defending champion Brandt Snedeker.
Snedeker held off Donald in sudden death to win the 2011 RBC Heritage (and is looking to become the first back-to-back winner of this event since Boo Weekly in 2008).
Ernie Els will also be in the field and is looking for his first victory of the 2012 season. Els came close in 2007 when Weekly chipped-in on the last two greens to defeat Els by just one stroke. “I can’t wait to tee it up this week,” Els said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Pete Dye designed (and Jack Nicklaus assisted) Harbour Town course doesn’t require “Bubba-Long” power at only 6,973 yards long. But it absolutely obligates precision shot-making, touch and imagination (ranked second in hardest to hit greens-in-regulation this millennium behind only the prominently wicked U.S. Open greens). Small misses result in walloping consequences.
“You really have to shape shots; you really have to think your way around, said Camilo Villegas. “Risk-reward is a very good challenge over here.”
Harbour Town has been referred to as a course featuring 17 hidden gems and one very famous one. The iconic red and white lighthouse positioned as the backdrop for the 18th hole paints a perfectly serene picture heading up the final fairway.
However, treacherous winds off Calibogue Sounds can wreck havoc on players second shots (with a 4.2 stroke average No. 18 is ranked as the second most difficult hole on the course), and in a moments notice turn the photographically charming hole into a hideous nightmare.
The first RBC Heritage was won by Arnold Palmer (283, one-under) in 1969. First time RBC champion Brian Gay established the new tournament record for lowest winning score (264) and lowest 72-hole score (20-under) in 2009. And Davis Love III tops a list of nine men who have won the Heritage multiple times (Love has 5 victories, his last coming in 2003).
Mark Wilson, Kevin Na, Jim Furyk
Luke Donald, Kyle Stanley, Brandt Snedeker
Bill Haas, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington
Camilo Villegas, Henrik Stenson, Justin Leonard
Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Bud Cauley
Lucas Glover, Matt Kuchar, Geoff Ogilvy
John Daly, Rickie Fowler, Ricky Barnes
Charlie Hoffman, Bo Van Pelt, Jerry Kelly
George McNeill, Fredrik Jacobson, Carl Pettersson
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