Since 1969, the PGA Tour Tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links has bewitched us.
By Lisa Allen
Whether it was the very first Heritage Classic or today’s RBC Heritage presented by Boeing, moments have been burned into our brains. We’ve watched routs, runs, collapses, and extended duels. Dull? Never. Winnowing and then ranking moments most memorable is nearly impossible and fraught with debate, but here’s our version. We invite you to discuss them with friends over a libation, in true Heritage style. While it’s really only its 49th birthday but 50th tournament, the Heritage Classic Foundation couldn’t wait and is celebrating with a cocktail-inspired chant “Cheers to 50 years!” Hear, hear!
1. PALMER PUTS US ON THE MAP
We start with the inaugural tournament on Thanksgiving weekend 1969. We’ve been grateful, and given thanks, for this event every single year since. Arnold Palmer, one of the most popular players in golf, wins the first Heritage Classic, thereby cementing the future of the tournament, a fledgling resort called Sea Pines, and the prosperity of an island few could have found on a map. Hilton Head’s population in 1969? 4,000 people. It’s now more than 10 times that with 2.6 million visitors each year.
Brian Davis calls a two-stroke penalty on himself in 2010 because his club brushed a single reed on a playoff hole against Jim Furyk. Furyk was declared the winner and the PGA Tour made a video emphasizing the honor and integrity that the Brit Davis displayed. He played the Heritage five more times, but didn’t crack the top 10.
3. SPRING FEVER
A staple of spring begins. In 1983, the Heritage settles into its long-time time slot of the week after the Masters. There was an exemption to that date nearly 30 years later, but that comes further down the list.
4. LOVE STRUCK
Then 23-year-old Davis Love III begins his Heritage dominance with his first win in 1987. He goes on to win four more times and remains the youngest, and winningest, tournament champion. He played every year between 1986 and 2011, and again in 2014, 2016 and 2017. He finished in the top 10 on 11 occasions.
5. NICK OF TIME
Jack Nicklaus wins his first tournament in 1975 after three previous tries. Nicklaus helped design the course with Pete Dye and perhaps enjoyed a little home field advantage. He finished in the top 10 in four of his six starts.
6. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
The fate of the tournament was in jeopardy when Verizon ended its sponsorship in 2010. Local governments offered lines of credit and Gov. Nikki Haley joined negotiations with potential sponsors. Uncertainty about the tournament’s future bumped it from its typical week after the Masters to two weeks after the Masters.
7. SPONSORSHIP SOARS
RBC and Boeing sign a five-year sponsorship in 2012, ending speculation about the tournament’s near future. The tournament returned to its traditional post-Masters week on the PGA Tour calendar.
8. HOMEGROWN HERO
Wesley Bryan in 2017 becomes the first South Carolinian to win the tournament, starting Sunday four strokes back. He sets the lowest average score of 67.75. His dad, George, played in the Heritage in 2004.
9. FOUNDATION FUNDS
The Heritage Classic Foundation, the tournament’s organizer, hands out more than $2.9 million in 2017 to charitable organizations, the arts, medical institutions and for college scholarships. It brings its charitable impact to $36 million to date.
10. MILLER MAINTAINS
Johnny Miller sees a 10-stroke lead shrink in 1973 to only 4 after carding 40 on back nine on that Saturday. He says “this is the easiest course in the world to choke on I’ve ever seen.” It’s a phrase repeated many times over the years. Miller survived to win, keeping his composure despite two streakers who ran nude on the course.
11. BLUE ANGELS
RBC and Boeing extend their sponsorships past 2020. A collective loud sigh of relief emits from the entire region.
12. MONEY TALKS
More than $25 million in clubhouse renovations are done just in time for the 2015 RBC Heritage presented by Boeing. The clubhouse nearly doubles in size on essentially the same footprint. A rebuild of Sea Pines Resort’s Plantation Golf Club clubhouse serving Heron Point and the new Atlantic Dunes course quickly follows.
13. SAM IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Sam Sneed makes the cut at age 67 in 1978, stealing the headlines from that year’s low-key champion Hubert Green. Green started Sunday five shots back and fired a 67 on a blustery Sunday.
Rain was the theme for the 1980 tournament, leading to a plethora of triple bogeys and protracted play into Monday, which required a 19th hole to determine the winner, Doug Tewell. It was the first Heritage playoff.
15. HALE STORM
Records fall like dominoes in 1994. Hale Irwin sets a course record with 18-under, winning 22 years after his first Heritage victory, beating that winning score by 13 strokes. It’s Irwin’s third Heritage win.
16. A GOOD ROGERING
Then a relatively unknown player Bill Rogers in 1981 bests Hale Irwin, setting the stage for Rogers’ best year ever, winning six times, including The Open played that year at Royal St. George’s.
17. BOTTOMS UP
Peter Lonard wins in 2005 with a 75 on his final round. He buys a round for dozens of volunteers. It was his only PGA Tour win. He returned to Heritage four more times and never finished higher than 36th.
18. ALL HALE THE CHAMP
Hale Irwin wins his first tournament in 1971. He played every year but one between 1969 and 1995, wins two more times. His winning rounds were 279 (1971), 272 (1973), and 266 (1994).
19. SWEET SEPTEMBER
The tournament shifts from Thanksgiving weekend to September in 1973, providing better playing conditions.
20. TOM’S TRIUMPH
Tom Watson wins in 1979 with what was then a tournament record of 14-under.
21. A PUTT TO REMEMBER
Loren Roberts putts his way to victory in 1996 with a 45-footer on the 18th and a record 19-under that stood for 13 years.
22. LOVE ‘N IT
Davis Love III wins the tournament a second time in 1991 after struggling on the tour after his father was killed in a plane crash three years earlier.
23. TWICE AS NICE
Fresh from a Players win, Davis Love III wins again with 15-under in 1992.
24. NO LOVE
In 1993, Davis Love III misses the cut with a second round 79. No three-peat for him.
25. HARSH HERITAGE
Wind and cold made the tournament challenging in 1982. Tom Watson and Frank Conner head to three-hole playoff and Watson prevails.
26. GOOD DAY SIR!
Nick Faldo wins in 1984 after a 20th spot the week before at the Masters. He matches the course record and sets one for being the first player to post scores in the 60s all four days. There have been more than 30 all-60s shooters since, including six in 2015 alone.
27. KILLER ‘B’
Bernhard Langer wins the 1985 Heritage the week after winning the Masters. It took a one-hole playoff against Bobby Watkins to do so.
28. FUZZY FINISHES
Fuzzy Zoeller avoids a possible four-man playoff with a birdie on the 18th hole in 1986.
29. SHARK ATTACK
Greg Norman opens in 1988 with a 65 but was four back on Sunday. He fires a 66 to win. It’s his only win in 17 Heritages.
30. PAYNE’S GAIN
A year after winning, Greg Norman misses the cut in 1989. Payne Stewart dominates every round, setting a new course record of 16-under.
31. STEWART’S SECOND
In 1990, Payne Stewart wins again for the first back-to-back champion and his first playoff win.
32. BOB BOUNCES BACK
Bob Tway finds magic in 1995 after a long career drought. He beats Nolan Henke after a second playoff hole, earning comeback-player-of-the-year later that season.
33. PRICE WAS RIGHT
Nick Price wins in 1997 by 6 strokes and raves about the strategy required to win at Harbour Town.
34. DL3 DOES IT AGAIN
Davis Love III wins again in 1998, finishing 18-under and leaving the field in the dust. He was seven shots ahead of second-place finisher Glen Day and 10 strokes ahead of third-place finishers Phil Mickelson and Payne Stewart.
35. CINKING FEELING
Stewart Cink birdies three of the last four holes to win by two in 2000. It’s the most crowded leaderboard to date with six people finishing tied for third.
36. A PLAYOFF TO REMEMBER
It takes five playoff holes over two days for Jose Coceres to beat Billy Mayfair in 2001, setting a record for playoff holes.
37. JUSTIN TIME
Davis Love III hits a 62 in 2002, a first round record, but Justin Leonard wins for the first time, posting one stroke less than Heath Slocum. Love winds up 4 shots behind the winner.
38. LOVE TAP
Woody Austin entertains the crowd in 2003 with his antics, but Davis Love III beats him in a four-hole playoff after chipping in on the 18th to stay in it.
39. REPEAT PERFORMANCE
Stewart Cink cards a 64 final round in 2004, leading to a record-tying five-hole playoff in which he beats Ted Purdy.
40. GOOD AND THE BADDS
Aaron Baddeley was 14-under after three rounds in 2006 and edges out Jim Furyk by one to win.
41. WIND BREAKER
Boo Weekley wins in 2007 after a very windy Sunday. Second-place finisher Ernie Els misses another jacket, placing in the top 10 for the seventh time in 9 years.
42. WEEKLEY SPECIAL
Boo Weekley becomes the third back-to-back winner in 2008. He finished 13th the following year.
43. GAY PULLS AWAY
Brian Gay posts 20-under in 2009, setting a course record. It’s 19 shots less than Armold Palmer’s winning round in 1969. Gay’s closest competitor is 10 strokes back, another record.
44. FEELS LIKE HOME
Graeme McDowell wins in Sunday’s Scottish-like cold and windy conditions in 2013. A record number 92 people made the cut.
45. JUST ENOUGH
During a wet and stormy weekend in 2014, Matt Kuchar nearly gave the tournament to Luke Donald by three putting the 17th, but Donald misses three consecutive birdie opportunities. Kuchar wins.
46. ALL BUSINESS
Jim Furyk wins a 2015 playoff against Kevin Kisner, his second win. It’s the fourth playoff in five years.
47. SECONDS ACT
Jim Furyk comes in second for a second year in a row in 2006. It takes four more years for him to take home the trophy in 2010, after Brian Davis calls a penalty on himself. Furyk wins again in 2015.
48. AMAZING GRACE
Despite a 74 second round, Branden Grace beats Luke Donald and Russel Knox in 2016, who were tied for second.
49. FUZZY FINALE
In 1983, Fuzzy Zoeller wins on a rain-softened course. He wins again in 1986. In all, he played 19 Heritage tournaments.
50. WORTH THE WAIT
Brandt Snedeker posts a 64 early in the final day in 2011 and waits to learn his fate. He faces Luke Donald in a three-hole playoff and wins.