By TOM LaMARRE
The RBC Heritage, this week’s event on the PGA Tour, received bad news on Monday morning when third-ranked Rory McIlroy withdrew from the tournament, two days after he missed the cut in the 87th Masters.
However, the tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C., still has a field that organizers of many other events on the circuit can only envy.
Top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who claimed his second major title on Sunday in the Masters, will tee it up on Thursday along with second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele, seventh-ranked Max Homa, ninth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway and 10th-ranked Sam Burns.
Jordan Spieth (pictured) will defend the title he won in a playoff over Cantlay last season in the shadow of the Harbour Town Lighthouse behind the 18th green on the shores of Calibogue Sound.
Also in the star-studded field are Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick of England, Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners of Canada, Justin Rose of England, Matt Kuchar, Sungjae Im of South Korea, Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Tom Kim of South Korea, Tyrrell Hatton of England, Tony Finau, Shane Lowry of Ireland, Rickie Fowler and Russell Henley.
Spieth won’t have the head start he did at Harbour Town a year ago, when he missed the cut in the Masters.
“I don’t watch golf if I miss the cut in the Masters,” Spieth said last Sunday after he tied for fourth in the first major of the year. This time last year, I was playing golf in Hilton Head. Yeah, I love that golf course (Harbour Town). It probably couldn’t be any more different than (Augusta National) but I really enjoy playing it. You have to think your way through it. Hopefully, it’s drier.
“This year, I can’t wait to take a couple days off (after the Masters), though, and then maybe Tuesday late afternoon kind of get in a few rhythmic swings and kind of get into it. … So I won’t be as prepared, but contending in a major is pretty good prep.
“I think I played way too much golf coming into (The Masters). I came in mentally fatigued, and you overwork this week every year. I played way too much golf in the last—I mean, this is eight out of 10 weeks. So I need to change my schedule up going forward to be a little sharper this week. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
The players love the laid-back feeling at Hilton Head after the high-stress atmosphere of the Masters, but with such a strong field things will pick up after the first tee shots on Thursday.
1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – After having been overtaken for No. 1 in the world by Masters winner Jon Rahm, Scheffler will try to climb back on top this week in his first appearance in the RBC Heritage. He tied for 10th in his title defense in the first major of the season and has eight top-10 finishes this season including victories in the Players and in Phoenix.
2. Jon Rahm, Spain – The Masters champion is getting right back to work this week by making his second start in the RBC Heritage after tying for 33rd in his debut in this event last year, when he closed with 67-66-68. The top-ranked Rahm has recorded seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, including four victories in 11 starts to give him a total of 11 wins in his career.
3. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The fourth-ranked Cantlay was in the picture before a closing 75 to tie for 14th in the Masters. It was his seventh top-25 finish of the season, including a tie for second in the Shriners, solo third in the Genesis and a tie for fourth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has four top-10 results in the RBC Heritage, losing in a playoff last year.
4. Viktor Hovland, Norway – Hovland, who is ranked ninth in the world, was near the top of the leaderboard most of the way before closing with a 74 to tie for seventh in the Masters. It was his ninth top-10 finish of the season, including his eighth victory as a professional in the Hero World Challenge. He tied for 21st in his only appearance in the RBC Heritage two seasons ago.
5. Jordan Spieth, United States– Continuing to bounce out of his slump of the last few seasons, Spieth closed with a 66 to tie for fourth in the Masters. It was his seventh top-20 finish of the season, including a tie for third in the Valspar and a tie for fourth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He won the RBC Heritage last year among four top-12 finishes in the tournament.
6. Xander Schauffele, United States – The sixth-ranked Schauffele finished in a tie for 10th in the Masters, his seventh top-20 result this season, including a tie for third in The American Express, fourth in the Hero World Challenge and a tie for ninth in the Zozo. He has played three times previously in the RBC Heritage, but his best was only a tie for 32nd five seasons ago.
7. Collin Morikawa, United States – Trying to return to the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings, No. 11 Morikawa opened with 69-69 in the Masters, but a 74-72 finish left him in a tie for 10th. It was his seventh top-15 result this season, including second in the Sentry TOC, third in the Farmers and two sixths. His best in three RBC Heritage starts was a tie for seventh in 2021.
8. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The 2022 U.S. Open champion made another good showing in the major championships by finishing in a tie for 10th in the Masters, his fifth straight result in the top 21 in the Grand Slam events. Fitzpatrick has five results in the top 15 on the PGA Tour this season, but he missed the cut at 70-75—145 in his only start in the RBC Heritage last year.
9. Cameron Young, United States – The 2021-22 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year still has not won on the circuit, but he continued his strong play on the circuit by closing with a 68 to tie for seventh in the Masters. It was Young’s sixth top-25 finish of the season, including third in the Hero World Challenge. He closed with a 66 to tie for third in his RBC Heritage debut last year.
10. Sungjae Im, South Korea – Im tied for16th in the Masters after tying for six in the Players in his previous start and he has nine finishes in the top 25 on the PGA Tour this season, including a tie for fourth in the Farmers and a tie for sixth in Phoenix. A two-time PGA Tour winner, his best result in the RBC Heritage was a tie for 13th in 2021, and he also tied for 21st last year.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Justin Thomas, United States; Matt Kuchar, United States; Russell Henley, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Corey Conners, Canada; Sam Burns, United States; Tyrrell Hatton, England; Max Homa, United States; Tony Finau, United States; Tom Kim, South Korea; Justin Rose, England; Rickie Fowler, United States.
1. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner as a professional finished T-9 in Houston after a T-14 in the Honda. Jaeger shot 75-76 to miss the cut in his RBC Heritage debut last season.
2. Garrick Higgo, South Africa – The left-hander, who earned his seventh pro victory in the 2021 Palmetto Championship, finished solo third at Sanderson Farms and T-11 in the AmEx.
3. David Lipsky, United States – Two of Lipsky’s four pro victories came on the DP World Tour and recently he was T-4 in the Sony and T-10 in the WW Technology. Making his RBC debut.
4. Callum Tarren, England – Winner of the 2017 PGA Tour China Order of Merit, when he captured the Jiangsu Open, Tarren finished T-2 in the RSM Classic, T-13 at Sanderson Farms. Making RBC debut.
5. James Hahn, United States – Has won twice on the PGA Tour, but not since 2016 Wells Fargo and has five victories as a professional. T-27 in Houston and T-35 in 2013 RBC Heritage.
For first-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard