Spring break on and off the PGA Tour

AP News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2017 2:02 AM

This time of the year can feel like Spring Break on the PGA Tour, even if the destination is not the Bahamas.

The amount of attention paid to Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Smylie Kaufman and Jordan Spieth during their post-Masters break to Baker's Bay in the Bahamas is enough to indicate there isn't a lot of interest in PGA Tour competition at the moment.

Sergio Garcia is disappearing with his hard-earned green jacket for a month before returning at The Players Championship. Dustin Johnson is back in the gym, though he won't be playing the next three weeks until the Wells Fargo Championship (that's the plan, anyway).

The next time Rory McIlroy plays, he'll be married.

It shows in the field assembled at Harbour Town Golf Links for the RBC Heritage.

The highest-ranked player in the field is Tyrrell Hatton of England. He is No. 16, and odds are no one at Hilton Head had ever heard of him a year ago. The only other player from the top 20 at the RBC Heritage is Matt Kuchar at No. 17.

Then again, just going to Hilton Head has been regarded as the best way to decompress after a major.

"A lot has been made of this nice, relaxing tournament after the Masters," Jim Furyk said.

The LPGA Tour already has started, teeing off Wednesday at Ko Olina in Hawaii with a Saturday finish. The PGA Tour Champions didn't have to go far for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, which is outside Atlanta at the TPC Sugarloaf.

That's where the PGA Tour used to go the week before the Masters.

PGA TOUR

Along with being a working vacation, the RBC Heritage is the first event where a player can book a return to the Masters by winning. A year ago, that was Branden Grace of South Africa, closing with a 66 for two-shot victory and his first PGA Tour title.

Only six players at Hilton Head already are assured of being back to Augusta National next year — past Masters champions Danny Willett, Vijay Singh; Jason Dufner and Martin Kaymer, who have won majors in the last five years; and Russell Henley and Matt Kuchar, who finished in the top 12 at the Masters.

Furyk won two years ago in a playoff over Kevin Kisner, a dynamic conclusion that showed the grit of both players. It was the first of three playoff losses that season for Kisner, who eventually broke through at the end of the year at Sea Island.

Davis Love III is back for his 29th visit to Harbour Town, where he won the last of his five victories by chipping in from 65 feet on the last hole, considered the top highlight of many at Hilton Head.

Also back for more is Luke Donald, and one of these years he might actually win. Donald has been a runner-up four times in the last eight years.

Television: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 p.m. (CBS Sports).

LPGA TOUR

Speaking of working vacations, the LPGA Tour continues its domestic tour by crossing the Pacific Ocean to paradise for the Lotte Championship on Oahu.

It's the first tournament since the ANA Inspiration , where So Yeon Ryu won in a playoff over Lexi Thompson, now famous for being assessed a four-shot penalty with six holes to play in the final round of a major.

Ryu is playing. Thompson is taking the week off.

The most popular victory at Ko Olina is when Michelle Wie won in 2014 in her native state, allowing her to do a hula dance . That's the tradition of Ko Olina winners.

Television: Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Golf Channel).

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Fred Couples is not playing this week, which is probably good news for the rest of the field.

Couples, who is leading the Charles Schwab Cup, showed up at Augusta National and featured on the leaderboard well into Saturday until he finally faded. He shot 74-72 on the weekend and still tied for 18th, making him low senior, even if there is no such crystal awarded for that.

Bernhard Langer, another ageless wonder, leads the field along with five other players who warmed up for the return to the PGA Tour Champions by playing in the Masters — Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark O'Meara, Tom Watson and Ian Woosnam.

Mize also made the cut . Olazabal had the greatest contribution by sending Garcia a meaningful text message on Wednesday night. Garcia joined Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros as Spaniards in a green jacket.

Television: Friday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (Golf Channel).