HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. For a sports event whose marshals hold up signs telling the spectators to be quiet, please, or in some instances "Hush, ya'll," for a sport in which the click of a camera can earn a wicked glare from a player, for a sport in which a player has been known to yell at a bird to shut up, the RBC Heritage sure gets off to a noisy start.
As is traditional, the tournament was "played in" Monday with defending champion Carl Petterson hitting a shot into Calibogue Sound with a hickory-shafted club at roughly the same instant men wearing knickers and plaid jackets fired a cannon a few feet away, sending pelicans flapping and shaking the ground on which the Harbour Town Golf Links lie.
Its part of the charm of an event that, while not the Masters, has more going for it than most others on the PGA Tour.
The players love the golf course, ranking it among their favorites. Its easy to walk. Its beautiful, lined with trees draped in moss and playing past little dark ponds where there might be a stray gator. It ambles on around a corner to the spectacular closing holes lying beside Calibogue Sound. Out on the water boats lean with the breeze. Behind the 18th green, theres a yacht basin and lighthouse. Seabirds sweep by. White clouds decorate the sky.
In this setting, the golf almost seems secondary.
Another reason the Heritage has a feel to it: the list of men who have won it, including Arnold Palmer, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman, Payne Stewart, Nick Price, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk. Thats a pretty good hall of fame right there.
The tournament proper begins Thursday, so be ready to hush ya'll.
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