Players Ready for Relaxed MCI Heritage

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
The PGA Tour seasons first major championship has officially been decided and there are 10 more weeks until the next one.
 
Its time to decompress.
 
Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink is trying to become the third player to win at least three MCI Heritage titles.
The tour heads from the ultra-tense grounds of Augusta National to the relaxed and friendly confines of Harbour Town Golf Links for the MCI Heritage.
 
It's more of a family-type atmosphere for us, said Players Championship winner Fred Funk. I've come off two high pressure, high intensity tournaments, and you come to a golf course that is fun to play ' it rewards you when you play well; it's not tricked up, doesn't have the windmills and loop to loops on the greens. You can go out there and feel like if you play really well you get rewarded.
 
I think in that regard, it does relax you a lot, and the relaxation disappears when you get in contention this week. When you get down to Saturday and Sunday and you're at the top of the leaderboard, all of a sudden it's a different story again.
 
The 48-year-old Funk, who is 23rd on the Official World Golf Ranking, is one of the higher-ranked players in this weeks field. None of the top 10 players are in attendance; though, No. 11, Stewart Cink, is the defending champion.
 
I don't know who's here and who's not here, Funk said. I mean, everybody is tired, playing the TPC and the guys that played Atlanta got worn out with the weather there and waiting in the locker room has been getting old, and then you go to Augusta; the guys that played there are worn out. It's been a tough year.
 
I think everybody is just taking a deep breath hoping Mother Nature is going to cooperate a little bit and we can finish these tournaments. It would be nice to go four straight days in a row with no delays, and we haven't had that this year. I think guys are reevaluating their schedules, looking at where they're going to go in the future and try and figure it out.
 
Mother Nature has been kind of the MCI Heritage recently, with only one round being suspended due to inclement weather over the last 11 years.
 
However, nine of the 15 events on the PGA Tour schedule this season have been shut down at some point due to the elements.
 
The Nissan Open was reduced to 36 holes because of inclement weather. An entire days play was washed away at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Players Championship and the BellSouth Classic were forced to finish on Monday. And it took all four days to get everything straight last week at Augusta National.
 
The tour seems to be traveling with nimbus clouds in tow.
 
Or maybe its just Zach Johnson who is bringing with him the bad weather. Johnson has played in every event thus far this season which has been affected by Mother Nature.
 
And hes teeing it up once again this week.
 
Of course, thunderstorms are in the forecast for Thursdays opening round.
 
Last year on Hilton Head Island, it was breezy and cool throughout the week, with temperatures never extending beyond 76 degrees ' and not a single drop of rain.
 
Stewart Cink won the event for the second time in his career, which is a theme at this event.
 
There have been 36 MCI Heritage tournaments and only 24 different winners. Cink is one of six players to have twice conquered Harbour Town Golf Links, a relatively short (6,973 yards), shot-makers layout. Hale Irwin has won it three times; Davis Love III has done so on five occasions.
 
Cinks second triumph, though, was not without controversy.
 
Cink, who hadnt won since the 2000 MCI Heritage, fired a final-round 7-under 64 to overcome a nine-stroke deficit and tie 54-hole leader Ted Purdy (73) at the end of regulation.
 
After trading pars over the first four holes of sudden death, Cink birdied the fifth extra hole ' the par-4 16th ' after playing an L-wedge from a waste bunker to 6 feet.
 
It should have been one of the happiest moments of Cinks professional life. Instead, it was the most bittersweet.
 
Cink had removed pieces of crushed coral behind his ball, using his finger to brush these loose impediments away and apparently improving his lie. But because a waste area is not a hazard, Cink was allowed to do so under the Rules of Golf.
 
Despite reviewing a tape of the incident nearly 10 times with rules officials and being found guilty of nothing illegal, Cink was nonetheless criticized. And Purdy, who wasnt clear on exactly what happened until all was said and done, was a little hot after taking a look at the tape himself.
 
When I saw the video tape on Monday morning ' I wasnt privy to it Sunday night ' it just made my gut sink, Purdy said while preparing for the following weeks tournament, the Shell Houston Open.
 
On the par-4 15th in regulation, Purdy was positioned in a similar waste area, just 70 yards from the hole, and was unable to advance his ball to the green. He made a costly bogey.
 
If I had interpreted the rules the way Stewart had, I would have drawn a line under my ball and hit the ball cleanly and knocked it on the green and, at worst, made par in regulation, he said.
 
This was a hot topic for about a week until it finally flamed out. Fortunately, things worked out well for both players.
 
Purdy went on to also finish runner-up in the B.C. Open and ended the year 36th on the money list, allowing him to keep his card and earn an invitation to his first Masters Tournament. Cink went on to win the WGC-NEC Invitational ' the biggest triumph by far in his career ' in convincing fashion and made the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
 
Last years playoff was the fourth at this tournament in the last six years. In 2001, Jose Coceres defeated Billy Mayfair, but did so on Monday. The lone weather interruption over the last decade came the Sunday of that tournament. It delayed play for over one hour and darkness eventually forced an extra day of play./
 
Related Links:
  • Weather Forecast - MCI Heritage
  • Full Coverage - MCI Heritage
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    McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

    By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

    The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

    McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

    McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

    ''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

    Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

    ''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

    McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

    ''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

    ''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

    The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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    Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

    Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

    The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

    Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

    “I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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    Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

    Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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    Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

    Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

    Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

    Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

    New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



    FALLING

    Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

    Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

    Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

    Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

    Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions.