Players Ready for Relaxed MCI Heritage


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
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