By Tom LaMarre
The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., returns to its traditional spot on the PGA Tour schedule this week, following the Masters, and Carolina boy Webb Simpson will be back to defend his title.
Last year’s tournament was moved to June after the PGA Tour’s shutdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic and was the second event to be played when play resumed, a week after the Charles Schwab Challenge.
“Hilton Head has always been one of my favorite places on tour,” said the ninth-ranked Simpson, who claimed his second victory of 2020 and seventh on the PGA Tour by one stroke over Abraham Ancer of Mexico by posting four scores in the 60s.
“RBC Heritage has always been one of my favorite tournaments on tour even before I won. RBC Heritage was one of the very few tournaments I was crossing my fingers would not get canceled last year.”
In his previous 10 starts at Harbour Town, Simpson recorded six top-20 finishes, including a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland in 2013, before finally claiming the Plaid Jacket last year.
Even though he missed the cut a week earlier in the Charles Schwab Challenge, Simpson said he was able to keep his game sharp at home in Charlotte, N.C., because his local club never closed during the break.
“As a golfer, Quail Hollow Club never shut down so I was able to practice and work on my craft,” said Simpson, who played college golf not far away at Wake Forest. “Thankfully, we have a small gym in my house and I was able to stay in shape. My trainer lives in Charlotte. So aside from not playing tournaments, my day-to-day didn’t change a lot.
“I missed the cut my first week back and I was surprised since I had been playing and practicing a lot, but then we noticed a little something in my game Thursday at Charles Schwab which led me to have a great week the next week at RBC Heritage.
“ … I’ve always felt they could hold a major at Harbour Town.”
Other headliners in the field will be top-ranked Dustin Johnson, fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa, eighth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England, 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay, and former RBC champions McDowell, Jim Furyk, Davis Love III, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Stewart Cink, C.T. Pan of Taiwan, Satoshi Kodaira of Japan, Branden Grace of South Africa, Brian Gay and Wesley Bryan.
Sixth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau had committed to the RBC, but withdrew on Monday.
Simpson, who ended a streak of four straight first-time PGA Tour winners in the RBC Heritage, will try to become the first back-to-back winner since Boo Weekley in 2007 and 2008.
The 56-year-old Love, another Carolina boy, holds the tournament record with five victories, the last in 2003. It’s a mark that might never be broken.
- Webb Simpson, United States – The defending champion is playing the RBC for the 11th time and has seven top-20 results, including a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell in 2013. Simpson tied for 12th in the Masters despite a 76 in round 2, and his four top-10s this season, include a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open, a tie for sixth in WGC-Workday.
- Tyrrell Hatton, England –The top-ranked Englishman at No. 8 in the world, Hatton closed with a 68 to salvage a tie for 18th in the Masters after claiming his eighth professional victory earlier this year in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He has six top-25s on the PGA Tour this season and tied for third in the RBC Heritage last season.
- Collin Morikawa, United States – The fourth-ranked Morikawa, the reigning PGA champion, posted a tie for 18th in the Masters, and has three top-10 finishes this season, including his fourth PGA Tour victory in the WGC-Workday. In his RBC debut last year, he posted three rounds in the 60s before closing with a 74 to finish in a tie for 64th.
- Dustin Johnson, United States – DJ is trying to regain his world No. 1 form after missing the cut as defending champion in the Masters and failing to get out of Group Play in the WGC-Match Play. But he struggled some last year before winning the FedEx Cup. In his sixth RBC, and his best results are a tie for 16th in 2019 and a tie for 17th last year.
- Daniel Berger, United States – Surprising missed the cut in the Masters after winning at Pebble Beach, tying for ninth in the Players Championship, tying for seven in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tying for 18th in the WGC-Match Play. Berger is playing in the RBC Heritage for the third time and last year tied for third, shooting 63-65 on the weekend.
- Patrick Cantlay, United States – Based on his history in the RBC Heritage, Cantlay figures to bounce back from his missed cut in the Masters. He’s played at Harbour Town three times, tying for third in 2017 and 2019, in addition to tying for seventh three years ago. He has three top-threes this season, including a victory in the Zozo Championship.
- Tommy Fleetwood, England – Following a tie for 10th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tying for fifth in the WGC-Match Play, Fleetwood didn’t break 70 and could manage only a tie for 46th in the Masters after he tied for 19th at Augusta last year. He played in the RBC Heritage for the first time two years ago and tied for 25th.
- Sergio Garcia, Spain – After winning at Sanderson Farms, tying for ninth in the Players and tying for fifth in the WGC-Match Play, the 2017 Masters champion missed the cut at Augusta. Garcia is making his fifth start in the RBC Heritage, with his best results a tie for fifth last year, when he finished with three 65s, and a tie for 19th in 2007.
- Will Zalatoris, United States – The Korn Ferry Tour’s points leader isn’t going back there any time soon after finishing second in the Masters and tying for sixth in the U.S. Open among six top-10 results on the PGA Tour season. Zalatoris is playing in the RBC Heritage for the first time, but playing new courses doesn’t seem to bother him one bit.
- Corey Conners, Canada – Was in the hunt in the Masters before closing with a 74 to finish in a tie for eighth after tying for 14th in the Valero Texas Open, finishing seventh in the Players and third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational recently. After missing the cut in his first three RBCs, Conners tied for 21st last year, shooting 63 in the second round.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brandon Grace, South Africa; Billy Horschel, United States; Paul Casey, England; South Africa; Kevin Kisner, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Cameron Smith, Australia; Brian Harman, United States; Matt Fitzpatrick, England; Zach Johnson, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea.
- Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Still winless on the PGA Tour, Ancer finished T-26 in the Masters, just missing his fifth top-25 this season. Wound up second in RBC last season.
- Robert MacIntyre, Scotland – Coming off a T-12 in the Masters after finishing in T-9 in the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship. Is making his debut in the RBC Heritage.
- J.T. Poston, United States – Finished T-6 in the RBC Heritage in 2019 and T-8 last year, with six of eight rounds in the 60s. Has posted five T-25s on PGA Tour this season.
- Michael Thompson, United States – Coming off T-34 in Masters after T-5 in the Amex and T-19 in the Honda. Finished T-8 in the Honda last season and T-10 in 2019.
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – Started with a 70 first round of Masters, but faded to a T-40. Finished T-28 in his RBC debut last year, posting four scores in 60s.
For first-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html