Jason Day Contends as Australian Augusta National Hangover Reaches Hilton Head
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It’s a different kind of tradition here than The Masters. The RBC Heritage is where golfers come to lick their wounds after getting beaten up by Augusta National.
The yachts and sport fishing boats bob gently at the docks of the small harbor in the shadow of the famed red and white lighthouse. Coveys of preppies, young and young at heart, stroll the walkways and fairway carrying ubiquitous beverages that have a mixed-drink fragrance.
There are a lot of pinks, greens, yellows, logos, flip-flops and sunburns. It is the anti-Augusta. And yet here, too, Australians are leading.
You could throw a big sunhat over the scores of Jason Day and Marc Leishman and eight others. Day and Leishman were close at Augusta. After round one, they are two behind fellow Aussie Brian Davis, who says he hopes to be known for a victory here instead of the ruling that once lost him the tournament.
He hit a stem of grass in a greenside waste bunker during a backswing in a playoff with Jim Furyk in 2010. Furyk went home with the plaid jacket and Davis became a rules icon.
“It was one of those things I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye,” Davis said at the time. TV played and replayed and zoomed and finally agreed. Davis was hailed as the most honest man in the world, and like most golfers who call penalties on themselves, just knew he had to do the right thing.
Except for the ruling, Davis likes the course.
“I still have people stop me in the street or at the golf club or at airports,” he said.
Yet he likes Harbour Town.
“I always like coming back here as a lot of guys do,” Davis said. “It’s a very different course than what we normally play, very old school.” He shot 65. Par is 71.
To hear a Pete Dye course called old school will bring a smile to the designer’s face. It was controversial and definitely NOT old school at the time.
Jason Day is also enjoying the week-after-Augusta.
“Playing last week it felt like there was pressure the whole week,” he said after his round of 67. He had no bogeys, which on a tight, Pete Dye golf course is golfing your ball. “Coming in this week, it’s pretty laid back, but it is a Tour event and I want to do well.”
Day hopes to ride the wave of good play all the way to a victory and a tartan jacket.
"When someone’s playing really well, they’re normally going to play well in bunches,” Day added.
About the only comparison he could make to Augusta National is that the wind tends to swirl in the tall pines that surround the golf course. Harbour Town GL is known for being tight and tree-lined, and Day even said something that PGA Tour players usually do not say about any course.
“It’s short,” he said. “I hit a lot of 4-woods, a couple irons off tees, but I think I only pulled the driver out maybe once or twice.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good course. It reeks with legends. It’s a course where Greg Norman won in his prime, where Davis Love III won five times, so often they probably gave him plaid pants, shirt and underwear to go with the jacket. It’s a ball-stricker’s golf course, where Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Fuzzy Zoeller, Payne Stewart, and Nick Price have all had victories.
The first winner here was none other than Arnold Palmer. And Jack Nicklaus contributed to the design, giving Pete Dye an assist.
How can anyone not want to come here to cure what ailed them at Augusta National? It’s like a holiday after that.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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