Bob Gillespie



Heritage Saturday: 2013-record field heads into weekend at RBC Heritage

Posted 4/20/2013 9:09:00 PM

Thanks a lot, Jesper.

Depending on one’s point of view, that phrase was either sarcastic or heartfelt as a field of 91 players – most to make the cut in a PGA Tour event this year – teed off Saturday morning at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

When rain halted play late on Friday afternoon, veteran player Jesper Parnevik stood over a five-foot, five-inch putt (specificity courtesy of the PGA Tour’s Shotlink system) for par. If he made it when the second round was completed starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, Parnevik would be the 70th player at 1-over par for 36 holes – exactly the number (plus ties) entitled to play on the weekend.

Miss it, and the number of players at 1-over or better dropped to 69, opening the door for another 21 players at 2-over, and creating a monster third-round field.

Parnevik missed.

Thus, when the third round kicked off at 10 a.m. (later than usual to accommodate the second-round finishers), Tour officials at Harbour Town Golf Links faced a logistical logjam. As a result, players were sent off both the first and 10th tees in an effort to complete the round by day’s end.

Some, of course – those 21 who got new life – weren’t all that concerned about the prospects of a long, long day. They were happy to still have a chance to make a check.

Among those at 2-over were some of the tournament’s biggest names: Hunter Mahan, Mark Wilson, former Masters winners Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman, two-time RBC Heritage winner Boo Weekley, Ben Crane and European Ryder Cup member Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium. Oh, and perhaps the hottest player in the world not named Adam Scott: 2011 Heritage champion Brandt Snedeker.

The expanded cut field wasn’t enough to salvage the week for Ernie Els, whose “Els for Autism” foundation was spotlighted on Friday. Others missing the cut were former Clemson stars Kyle Stanley (4-over) and Lucas Glover (7-over after a 79 Friday), Haig Point club pro Matt Bova and John Daly, USC football coach Steve Spurrier’s Wednesday pro-am partner.

Parnevik’s “save” could to be short-lived. Whenever a PGA Tour cut exceeds 78, a second cut to the top 70 and ties takes place after the third round. Still, it’s second life for those 21 players.

Parnevik, after his miss, enjoyed his “savior” status. “Everybody in the field at 2-(over), put your envelopes in my locker,” he wrote on Twitter.

Home course advantage: Kevin Streelman, Charlie Hoffman and Steve LeBrun shared the second-round lead, but most eyes were on a dynamic duo just a shot back: Luke Donald, ranked among the world’s top 10 players, and Greenville native Bill Haas, winner of the 2011 FedEx Cup and its $10 million payday.

Haas especially will have motivation to add a RBC Heritage title to his resume. The son of PGA Tour and Champions Tour veteran Jay Haas (who played in 30 RBC Heritage tournaments), Bill Haas laughingly acknowledged that “probably the reason I exist” is because his parents (Jay and wife Jan) met during the 1977 Heritage.

“Yeah, we talked about it a little bit,” he said. “Even though it’s a four-hour drive from my house, it still feels like hometown, it’s got that hometown feel. My parents met here, and the fact that they got together at this tournament … it means a lot to our family.”

Haas doesn’t have much family on site this weekend, though. Brother Jay Jr. is his caddie, but Bill’s wife, Julie, is back in Greenville awaiting the birth of their first child. And Jay Sr. is playing in a Champions Tour event in Atlanta this weekend.

When Bill won his first PGA Tour title at the 2010 Bob Hope Classic, he was surprised afterward by his father, who’d flown from Hawaii to see long-time instructor and friend Billy Harmon and was close enough to get to the end of the tournament. Bill said that isn’t an option this week if he wins, despite the family ties.

“He’s in Atlanta. He’s playing. So no, even if I’m playing late (Sunday), that’s not happening,” he said.

Home course, Part II: Seven players with South Carolina connections, led by Haas, made the cut early Saturday and will play the weekend. Closest to the leaders are North Augusta’s Scott Brown, Boiling Springs’ William McGirt and Justin Bolli of Simpsonville, all at 2-under 140, and former Columbia resident (and lone Clemson cut survivor) Jonathan Byrd at 1-under 141.

Also still playing are Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey of Bishopville and Daniel Island resident Russell Henley, both at 1-over 143.

On the mend: Byrd, a former Clemson All-American and five-time PGA Tour winner, is playing only his third tournament of 2013 this week. He underwent surgery on his left wrist last Oct. 29 – “two tears in my TFCC cartilage,” he said – and didn’t even hit balls for three months. He returned at last month’s Houston Open and played the Valero Texas Open, missing the cut in both.

“(The wrist) felt great,” Byrd said. “There’s still some tightness, but the surgeon (Dr. Andrew Weiland in New York City) says that’s scar tissue breaking up. (The recovery) has gone pretty well.”

Byrd conceded that, as with any surgery, he had concerns about his ability to regain his previous form. “There’s always doubt, but I was able to talk with Jim Furyk, Luke Donald and Trevor Immelman, who all had the same surgeon,” he said. “It’s just a long healing process – five months to get back,” though Byrd said he was able to do some light swing work after four months.

“I’ve got to be patient with myself. I needed the extra time to work on my game. After six and a half months off, there’s a period of adjustment. I’m in that process now, and I want to stick with it.”

The forced time away from the Tour had its good points, he said. Byrd was able to spend more time with wife Amanda and his three children, including new daughter Kate, now a year old. “I would’ve missed more of (Kate’s first months) if I wasn’t at home,” he said.

Byrd’s last win at the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions gives him exempt status on the PGA Tour through this year. Should he not make the Tour’s top 125 this year, he has the option to take a medical waiver for 2014. “I’ve asked those questions,” he said. “If I need it, it’s there.”