Chill vibe of Hilton Head hides urgency for PGA Tour players
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) - The Hilton Head ambience doesn't change, an extremely peaceful setting amid oak shadows along Calibogue Sound. This week's serenity contributes to the absence of spectators for the second consecutive week on the PGA Tour.
It is the calendar that makes the difference.
The RBC legacy has been held for years in the week after the Masters, a time to exhale after building up to the first major of the year. Thanks to this shortened season triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now not time to relax for some players.
Dustin Johnson is No. 115 in the FedEx Cup classification, with nine events pending before the postseason begins. Brooks Koepka is in 204th place, and only one player in the last decade was in the top 200 so late in a season and made it into the playoffs.
Johnson still feels relaxed. Remember this is a guy who said his pulse only rises when he goes up a hill. The player who stayed cool even if he didn't know the US Open score he won.
However, there is an urgency that is usually not found at Harbor Town Golf Links.
"It took me a couple of good weeks to start this restart, but I didn't play a lot of golf," said Johnson. '' This is the sixth tournament of the season. So, yes, it's time to play well. ''
He will compete against the best again. Golf has been closed for three months because of the pandemic, and players are clearly keen to get started. The world's top 5 are in the field for the second week in a row, and Hilton Head has a list of stars that don't always exist.
"It feels great to look into range and see ... most of the best players in the world here," said Rory McIlroy at Hilton Head for the first time since 2009. "We all want to play against them." best fields week after week. I think the silver lining for all of this is that it looks like all the top guys are going to play a little bit more in the future, and that's good for the tour and for us and for the people at home who are watching. ''
It is even watched personally.
Spectators are blocked for the first five tournaments. About a dozen people still lived in Colonial through a chain link fence on the edge of the Fort Worth, Texas golf course, and three houses had makeshift tents and stands.
Harbor Town is lined with villas and vacation homes, and even during a practice session on Wednesday, several homeowners or guests were sitting on the deck somewhere with their morning coffee or a drink at 5:00 a.m. and watched the players go by.
Ropes line the fairway and give it the feeling of a regular PGA tour event. In this case, ropes also run along the backyards. People can watch from home, but they can't get on the course.
It was a scary feeling for five-time champion Davis Love III, who played against Hilton Head for the 31st time.
'' When I turned the corner at 16, it was like 'Holy Cow!' I mean, the other holes looked strange, but if you turn the corner at 16 and there are beautiful oaks and you see all the way to Daufuskie (island), I'm like: 'Wow. Where are we? "" Love said. '' You stand there on 17 green and can see as far as the lighthouse without walking around the large sky box.
'' It's a strange feeling not to have the gallery. ''
The course is also not exactly the same since the tournament takes place two months later. The rye seed has given way to Bermuda, with limited rough and flaking around the greens, which will be different.
But at least they're playing. The RBC Heritage was originally canceled this season when the tour ended four weeks after the pandemic started and four events thereafter (the Masters was postponed to November). But when the US Open was postponed to September and the Canadian Open could not be played, there was room for Hilton Head.
Father's Day winner will receive a tartan jacket, not a US Open trophy.
In the meantime, no positive tests for the new corona virus were reported on the PGA Tour, from those who tested on Saturday to board the charter flight to those who traveled alone and were tested upon arrival at Hilton Head.
And then it got back to work, especially for people like Johnson. The former No. 1 player in the world has played 20 tournaments without a win by the end of February 2019, a long time by his standards and talent.
'' I know what I have to work on. I know what I didn't really do well. So it's not rocket science, ”Johnson said. '' I just have to play a little better. ''
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