By Tom LaMarre
Even though there will be no spectators allowed this week as the PGA Tour plays for the second time since ending its shutdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic in March, there will be some iconic scenery for television viewers of the RBC Heritage.
The top five players in the World Golf Rankings will be playing for the second straight week, and there will be plenty more eye-candy for fans with the famed Harbour Town Lighthouse and the views of Calibogue Sound.
That will be the backdrop for Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, the aforementioned top five in the world, the best in a strong field at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Others ranked in the top 25 who are playing include Xander Schauffele (pictured), Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Matt Kuchar.
Daniel Berger, who won the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Golf Club in Fort Worth, Texas, last week also will be on hand along with Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Kevin Kisner and Bubba Watson. Not to mention youngsters Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, along with defending champion C.T. Pan of Taiwan.
In all, 114 players in the field for the have won a PGA Tour title, the most winners in a PGA Tour event since 2000.
Some of them might want to ask Davis Love III for a few tips about how to play Harbour Town, which has been the tournament’s only site in its 52 years, since Love has claimed the trophy five times.
“Not a whole lot of tournaments have had their whole history on one golf course, a great golf course like this,” said the 56-year-old Love, who won at Harbour Town in 1987, 1991, 1992, 1998 and 2003.
“And this is one when people say what are your favorite courses on the PGA Tour, they always list Pebble Beach and they list Harbour Town and they list Colonial—they list classic golf courses.”
Love remembers coming to Harbour Town for the first time in 1969 when he was 5-years-old and his father, Davis Love Jr., was playing in the first edition of the tournament.
His father tied for 40th, but that’s not what Davis remembers.
“I remember playing in the marsh mud,” Love said with a laugh.
Harbour Town has been a Love affair, but Davis isn’t the only golfer who feels that way about the place.
- Xander Schauffele, United States – Only a monster lip-out at No. 17 in the final round kept him out of the Colonial playoff. That tie for third and two runner-ups this season put him 12th in the FedEx Cup standings and 10th in the world. Schauffele makes third start in the RBC, tying for 32nd after opening with 68-68 in 2018, and tying for 63rd last year.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Was in the hunt all the way to the finish in the Charles Schwab Challenge, missing a putt on the last hole that would have put him in the playoff. With four straight top-10s finishes, DeChambeau is 13th in the FedEx Cup standings. He tied for third in the RBC two years ago and also tied for fourth in 2016.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – The top-ranked player in the world was in the chase at Colonial before a closing 74 dropped him to a tie for 32nd. That ended his streak of six straight top-five finishes, but he still is third in the FedEx Cup standings. Rory played at Harbour Town only in 2008, when he wound up in a tie for 58th and didn’t break 70.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – Showing a little rust after the break, the second-ranked Rahm shot 69-71—140, even par, and missed the cut by two strokes last week at Colonial. Before that, he had four top-10 finishes and a tie for 17th in his last five PGA Tour starts, and is 24th in the FedEx Cup standings. He is making his debut at Harbour Town this week.
- Justin Thomas, United States – The third-ranked Thomas has two victories this season and made a run for his third before closing with 71 to tie for 10th at Colonial. His sixth top-10 finish of the season kept him second in the FedEx Cup standings. He tied for 11th in the first of his two starts at Harbour Town in 2016, but was 75th the next year.
- Collin Morikawa, United States – Will try to bounce back from the disappointment of missing a short putt to lose in a playoff at Colonial when he makes his first appearance at Harbour Town. Morikawa won in his eighth start as a pro last year and has posted six top-10 finishes to rise to 27th in the World Golf Rankings since leaving the Cal campus.
- Patrick Reed, United States – In addition to leading the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with the help of his victory in the WGC-Mexico Championship, Reed is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings after tying for seventh last week at Colonial, his fourth top-10 this season. His best result in three starts in the RBC Heritage was a tie for 48th in 2014.
- Branden Grace, South Africa – His 2016 victory at Harbour Town is Grace’s only title on the PGA Tour, but he has won 13 times in his professional career. In addition to winning the RBC Heritage, he tied for seventh in 2015 and tied for 11th in 2017. Grace posted three 66s last week at Colonial before a closing 73 dropped him to a tie for 19th.
- Jordan Spieth, United States – Playing his best golf of the season, Spieth was among the leaders in the Colonial before fading on the back nine Sunday to tie for 10th, only his second top-10. Tied for ninth at Harbour Town in 2013, tied for 12th the following year and tied for 11th in 2014, but struggled to a tie for 54th when he returned last season.
- Matt Kuchar, United States – Kooch captured the Heritage in 2014 and came close to winning again last year before finishing one stroke behind champion C.T. Pan, giving him six top-10 finishes in 16 appearances at Harbour Town. He missed the cut last week in the Charles Schwab Challenge, but has recorded five finishes in the top 25 this season.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Justin Rose, England; Webb Simpson, United States; Daniel Berger, United States; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Dustin Johnson, United States; Brooks Koepka, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea; C.T. Pan, Taiwan; Jason Day, Australia; Rickie Fowler, United States.
- J.T. Poston, United States – In addition to winning the Wyndham Championship last year, Poston also tied for ninth in the RBC Heritage. Finished T-10 last week at Colonial.
- Joel Dahmen, United States – Two-time winner on Canadian Tour, Dahmen has four straight top-20s, including T-19 at Colonial. Had T-16 in RBC Heritage debut last season.
- Viktor Hovland, Norway – Making his debut at Harbour Town after posting a T-23 at Colonial last week and winning the opposite field Puerto Rico Open earlier this season.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – Had a win at Greenbrier and T-5 in Sentry TOC early this season. Carded two 65s in T-32 last week at Colonial. Making his Harbour Town debut.
- Patrick Rodgers, United States – Makes first start at Harbour Town after recording a T-14 with closing 65 last week at Colonial, his fifth top-25 in last eight starts this year.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html