RBC Heritage 2013: Players and Storylines to Watch at Harbour Town

James McMahonContributor IApril 16, 2013

RBC Heritage 2013: Players and Storylines to Watch at Harbour Town

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    With the excitement and controversy of the Masters resonating, the PGA Tour turns to the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island with storylines still flowing from Augusta National. Yet with a strong field of top-ranked players and a world-class venue of its own, the Heritage is poised to make its own headlines this weekend.

    It takes a special event to run second to the Masters, and for decades, the Heritage has been up to the task. Pete Dye's layout is unlike most on tour, and the champions it has produced reads like the who's who of professional golf. 

    Here are the top players to watch and storylines to follow as the PGA Tour turns to the famed Harbour Town Golf Links this week.

8. Toms Forgot to Do What Now?

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    David Toms had his hotel, his car and maybe even some dinner reservations set for Hilton Head this week. Only thing is, he forgot to commit to the event prior to this past Friday’s deadline and therefore has an unexpected post-Masters week off.

    That’s right; Toms had every intention of playing on Hilton Head for the first time in four years yet simply forgot to let Tournament Director Steve Wilmot know about it. Following his impressive 13th place finish in The Masters on Sunday, Toms was lining up his courtesy BMW for the two-hour drive to Hilton Head before being told he was not on the list of commits for the Heritage. Oops.

    Toms said he will instead watch his son play in a tournament this week. Not a bad trade off to taking on the challenging Harbour Town Golf Links.

7. A Teenager Competing; but Not That Teenager

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    The Masters had Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old who shocked the world by making the cut at Augusta National this past weekend.

    For its part, the Heritage has 19-year-old Texan Jordan Spieth, who received one of the tournament’s four sponsor exemptions last week in a mild surprise.

    As a temporary member on the PGA Tour, Spieth is allowed an unlimited number of sponsors' exemptions this year, and the former Texas Longhorn has taken advantage of the four he has gotten by making three cuts and earning $500,000. Spieth, who makes his first start at Harbour Town, was the low amateur in the 2012 U.S. Open, finishing 21st.

    First-timers don’t tend to do well at Harbour Town, but this kid managed to make the cut at the 2010 Byron Nelson Classic at the tender age of 16 and even challenged for lead on Sunday, so don’t be shocked to see him contending over the weekend.

6. Where Is the Love (III)?

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    For the first time since 1986, five-time Heritage champion Davis Love III will not be present when the action starts at Harbour Town on Thursday.

    Love is still recovering from neck surgery he underwent back in February, meaning Hilton Head’s signature event is without its most beloved golfer.

    Love not only made his Heritage debut in 1986, but he captured his first-ever PGA Tour victory that year, a triumph that started a 27-year love affair with the galleries of Harbour Town as well as the legendary Pete Dye-designed layout.

    Love, who designed a golf course in the Hilton Head area, last won at Harbour Town in 2003 and has amassed more than $2.5 million in earnings at the event. The Georgia native will be back next year, but he will undoubtedly be missed this time around.

5. Will the Heritage See a (re)Pettersson?

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    Coming off a difficult Masters weekend (77-81), Carl Pettersson looks to reverse form and join the likes of Davis Love III, the late Payne Stewart and Boo Weekley in successfully defending his title at Harbour Town.  

    Last year, Pettersson was the runaway winner by five shots over Zach Johnson on the strength of a stellar final round two-under 69 in difficult conditions on Hilton Head. His form entering this year’s event, however, doesn't promise that repeat as Pettersson has struggled to hit fairways, find greens and sink putts so far this year.

    It just so happens those three skills are critical around the cramped spaces of Harbour Town, meaning Pettersson has some work to do if a repeat is indeed in the cards.

4. Déjà Vu All Sned Again

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    In 2008, Brandt Snedeker arrived on Hilton Head Island following a disastrous 77 in the fourth round of the Masters while playing in the final pairing. This year, history repeats itself as Snedeker comes to Harbour Town fresh off a 75 on Sunday from the last group yet again.

    The 2008 version of Snedeker, who was extremely emotional following his Masters collapse, struggled at the Heritage, finishing in a tie for 53rd after a final-round 76 that followed a trio of 70s.

    This year, a more mature and successful Snedeker seems to have taken his rough Sunday at the Masters more in stride as he looks to add a second tartan jacket to his Heritage resume.

    Snedeker won the Heritage two years ago in a playoff over Luke Donald, a victory that delayed Donald’s eventual rise to No. 1 in the world. Question is, will the Vanderbilt grad be able to put his latest Masters meltdown behind him to contend again at Harbour Town?

3. One Good Pairing, Eh, Mate?

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    If we can forget for a moment a rules controversy here and there, the story of the 2013 Masters was the trio of Australians challenging for the green jacket.

    While the Australian Adam Scott is not in attendance this week, the Heritage does offer a pretty stout pairing of Aussie bridesmaids Jason Day and Marc Leishman during the first two rounds at Harbour Town.

    Both Day and Leishman have their own share of Sunday regrets from Augusta National, but their pairing at Harbour Town should help quiet those issues and help them focus on winning another coveted jacket, albeit a tartan rather than green one.

    Leishman, making his fifth start at Harbour Town, has never finished better than 40th. Day, who has played three times previously on Hilton Head, finished tied for ninth in his 2011 start, the same year he placed second at Augusta National.

2. Tasty Tartan Trio

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    Perhaps the most popular grouping of the first two days, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker and Carl Pettersson—the past three Heritage champions in order oldest to most recent—will be paired together Thursday and Friday.

    The question with this group is who will be asking for and who will be giving the most advice as they work their way around the challenging Pete Dye layout.

    Furyk and Snedeker will arrive to their Thursday afternoon tee time off strong showings at Augusta National, and Pettersson has a trio of top-10 finishes at Harbour Town to buoy his confidence, so your guess is as good as ours.

    There's no telling who wins this two-day battle of Heritage champions, but it's more than likely that all three will be around for the weekend and will have a great chance to challenge for a second tartan jacket. 

1. A New Day in 2013

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    It's not unheard of for players who challenged at Augusta National to break through at Harbour Town Golf Links the following week, and there are plenty of those players to choose from this year.

    Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Ernie Els are just some of the players who had their own Masters moments last week. 

    Harbour Town likes players who can hit it straight, putt it right and think their way through difficult conditions. Furyk, Snedeker and Johnson are three of those players, and each has a good Heritage resume.

    Yet, we're going against the grain and picking a player coming in hot who has a tendency to run hot and cold during the same round.

    Day puts his 2013 Masters "could haves" behind him and celebrates a first Heritage title along Calibogue Sound come Sunday.