The First Look: RBC Heritage
April 12, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- April 12, 2019
- Satoshi Kodaira is the defending champion at RBC Heritage. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
FedExCup leader Matt Kuchar is joined by recent World Golf Championships winners Dustin Johnson and Kevin Kisner – both South Carolina natives – as the PGA TOUR transfers from Augusta National to unwind on Hilton Head Island.
Jordan Spieth, who in 2015 was the last Masters winner to tee it up at Harbour Town, returns for the first time since placing 11th that year. Bryson DeChambeau and British Open titleholder Francesco Molinari add to a strong marquee to challenge Satoshi Kodaira's title defense in the week after the Masters.
FIELD NOTES: Xander Schauffele, No.3 in the FedExCup standings, and Honda Classic winner Keith Mitchell help give the field 17 of the top 30 in the season points race. … Davis Love III, a five-time winner at Harbour Town, is set to tee it up in a record 31st start in the event. That breaks a tie with Jay Haas. … Corey Conners, whose win at the Valero Texas Open earned him the final Masters berth, will tee it up for the fourth consecutive week and sixth in his past seven. … South Africa’s Justin Harding, a European Tour winner last month who fired an opening 69 at Augusta, will stay stateside after getting a late invitation.
STORYLINES: Kisner, who beat Kuchar in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play final, seeks to add to his trophy count at a place he feels at home. He was a playoff loser to Jim Furyk in 2015, the first of three top-11 finishes in the past four editions. … Johnson takes on Harbour Town for the second straight year after an eight-year absence. The WGC Mexico Championship titleholder tied for 16th last year. … Luke Donald, five times a runner-up at Harbour Town, tries once again for that elusive RBC Heritage win. He has seven top-3 finishes in the past 10 editions, but missed the cut last year before an injury layoff. … Each of the past six winners at Harbour Town has rallied from at least three shots back on the final day. Carl Pettersson was the last to close out a 54-hole lead, winning by five in 2012. … No defending champion has missed the Heritage cut since Love in 1993 – a run now at 24. Furyk gets an asterisk, unable to defend in 2016 with injury.
COURSE: Harbour Town Golf Links, 7,099 yards, par 71. The only tournament site the RBC Heritage has ever known, the Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaboration begins its sixth decade in use after putting both men on the design map. Narrow fairways framed by live oaks and pines give way to a Scottish approach around the greens, with strategic bunkers and small, deftly contoured putting surfaces. Though Harbour Town lost some 300 trees when Hurricane Matthew struck the island in October 2016, replacements have taken hold in key locales. Harbour Town’s iconic red-and-white lighthouse behind the 18th green still helps vessels navigate Calibogue Sound.
For those visiting South Carolina’s Lowcountry, must-play courses include Palmetto Hall Plantation (Hilton Head Island, S.C.), The Club at Savannah Harbor (Savannah, Ga.) and Dolphin Head GC (Hilton Head Island, S.C.). Book your reservations via TeeOff.com.
72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Brian Gay (2009).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, David Frost (2nd round, 1994), Troy Merritt (2nd round, 2015).
LAST YEAR: Hoping just to play well enough for another PGA TOUR start, Kodaira wound up earning full membership with a sizzling charge from six shots back to outlast Si Woo Kim in a playoff. Kodaira fired a 5-under-par 66 on the final day, fearful that a bogey at No.17 would deny him a top-10 finish that would get him another start. But with winds intensifying as storms approached, only two men in the final five threesomes managed to break 70. Kim’s 71 managed to force extra holes with a 71, limping home with three bogeys in his final six. Both parred two replays of Harbour Town’s 18th, then went to the par-3 17th where Kodaira drained a 25-foot birdie for the victory. A six-time winner on the Japan Tour, Kodaira was making just his fifth start in a TOUR event that wasn’t a major or World Golf Championships stop.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 7:15 a.m.-6 p.m. (featured groups). Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (featured groups), 3-6 p.m. (featured holes). International subscribers (via GOLF.tv): Thursday-Friday, 11:15 to 22:00 GMT. Saturday-Sunday, 13:00 to 22:00.