HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) - It’s RBC Heritage Week on Hilton Head Island and Wednesday the greens are coming to life as fans make their way to Hilton Head Island.
It has been 723 days since spectators have been allowed on the course during the Heritage and they came out early. Several hundred fans were around the first tee for the first group in Wednesday’s pro-am and they kept showing up throughout the day.
Attendance is limited this year, about 5,000 fans per day being allowed in and a sellout was announced a full week before the tournament. So, people clearly ready to get back out to the biggest event in the Lowcountry.
And as excited as most were to see the world’s best golfers, the experience and opportunity to attend a professional sports event might have been just as meaningful.
“We were just saying as we walked in, we’ve all been through such a year and to watch it last year on TV and think we were going to come back in full this year still have to be limited, but it’s just so great, so beautiful. Everyone is just so thrilled and we are just so blessed,” said Deb Ault and Patti Doyle.
“It’s really nice, the course looks to be in great shape and it’s part of Americana that we can get out and do this, so I’m really thrilled to be able to do that,” said Tom Hansbury.
Even with limited attendance this year, it might look like there are as many people on the course as usual because there are no grandstands and very few sponsor pavilions. The PGA Tour has not brought those back yet because they don’t want to encourage large groups of people gathering in confined spaces.
South Carolina native and world number one golfer Dustin Johnson played the front nine with his group, which also included Bluffton resident and Clemson golf alumni Tony Nimmer, father to Bryson Nimmer, who will be competing against Johnson starting Thursday on a sponsor’s exemption.
Johnson’s reign as Master’s champion was the shortest on record. He won the event back in November 2020 with a record-setting performance, then last week, failed to make the cut, leaving his green jacket behind in Augusta.
This week he could add his first tartan jacket to the mix.
“I love playing this event. I think it’s a great golf course. It’s always in good season, and it’s a tough course, too, so you know you don’t have to shoot real low, which I like. I feel like the last few years I’ve played it pretty well. So yeah, somewhere I look forward to. Got a lot of support here from South Carolina, and yeah, it’s just a fun event. It’s kind of a great week after Augusta,” said Johnson.
Thursday will mark Johnson’s sixth start at Harbour Town, fourth consecutive. He’s finished in ties for 16th, 17th and 28th the last three years.
The 53rd RBC Heritage tees off Thursday at 7 a.m. Dustin Johnson’s group goes off at 8:17 a.m. on 10.
Last time the RBC Heritage was played, things were different. No fans and it was played in June - all due to the pandemic.
Webb Simpson came away with that title and the tartan jacket.
On Tuesday he got the 53rd Heritage underway with opening ceremony, Wednesday, he held a press conference after playing in the Boeing Pro-Am and said with the Heritage being back in April, he anticipates it being much tougher this time around.
“I’ve never seen it look this good. It’s firm. It’s going to be very different than what we saw in June. We’re kind of back to what we normally see this time of year with higher winds, firm greens, and I don’t think the scores will be near what we shot in June,” said Simpson.
Thursday will mark Simpson’s 12th start at Harbour Town.
Simpson tees off alongside Corey Conners and Paul Casey on one tee Thursday at 12:56 p.m.