What We Learned: RBC Heritage


Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on the RBC Heritage and how it makes us impatient for the U.S. Open; Luke Donald's remarkable accuracy; Suzann Pettersen's unusual putting method; Adam Scott's lack of interest in celebrity; why at least one of us loves Harbour Town and Angel Cabrera's under-the-radar comeback this week.

When Graeme McDowell is in contention, he practically bounces from hole to hole. His feet barely touch the ground. His putts roll with purpose. Every shot seems to end up right where he’s looking.

Whether jousting with Tiger Woods at Sherwood, carrying the European Ryder Cup team in Wales or winning the United States Open at Pebble Beach, McDowell’s ability to embrace the stress of Sundays has become a mighty 15th club.

There he was again on Sunday, this time on windblown Hilton Head Island, pouring in putts and stalking another victory. Did his feet even touch the ground?

What McDowell lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in grit and attitude. Some players don’t like that pressure. McDowell turns it into fuel.

He doesn’t always win, but he never backs down. – Damon Hack

If watching the final round of the RBC Heritage didn’t leave you impatiently longing for the upcoming U.S. Open, you were doing it wrong. Harbour Town treated us to a preview of the year’s second major championship – from the short, tight, Merion-ish course that promoted a bevy of ball-strikers on the leaderboard to the two recent U.S. Open champions who met in the playoff. Even the way Graeme McDowell defeated Webb Simpson on the first extra hole – by hitting the 18th green in regulation and two-putting while his opponent committed an unforced error – was reminiscent of something we’d see at the U.S. Open, where par is always a good number. It’s been 32 years since Merion last held a major championship and though the wind, cool temps and Calibogue Sound may not resemble anything we’ll see in eastern Pennsylvania, most other characteristics provided a good window into what we’ll find come the second week of June. We’re only one week removed from the last major, but it’s never too soon to look ahead to the next one. And this past week it was impossible not to. – Jason Sobel

He didn’t close the deal at the RBC Heritage, but Luke Donald again proved this week at Habour Town Golf Links that if the PGA Tour played tight, tree-lined layouts where straight counts and a soft touch trumps a sledgehammer driver he’d still by No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking – by a long shot. The Englishman tied for third, two strokes out of a playoff despite 31 putts on Sunday. Donald’s week on Hilton Head Island also suggests he may be the perfect pick for June’s U.S. Open at Merion, another target golf test that will reward precision over power. – Rex Hoggard

When it comes to putting, seeing isn't necessarily believing. Suzann Pettersen won the Lotte Championship Saturday putting with her eyes closed.

When it comes to putting, sometimes it's convention that makes no sense. Whether it's a claw or saw grip, left-hand low or split-hand grip, long or belly putters, so much of good putting is trusting your stroke. Well, Pettersen took it to the extreme. Really, is there any way to put more trust in your stroke than to close your eyes? She said she used to putt and practice that way to get a better feel. She was feeling it in Hawaii. A strong ball striker, Pettersen's putter has held her back from challenging more vigorously for the Rolex No. 1 ranking and from winning more majors. It's funny, she may not have to see more balls going in the hole to build confidence in her putting and make that vigorous challenge. – Randall Mell

Being a major champion doesn’t seem like it will change Adam Scott. Unlike Bubba Watson, who never saw a late-night TV spot he didn’t like, the only U.S. appearance the newly minted Masters winner has made thus far has been 'CBS This Morning.' No reading of David Letterman’s Top 10 list. No time in the chair next to Jay Leno. Unable to get the golfer Adam Scott, Conan O’Brien memorably resorted to the actor who shares the same name. Sure, the Aussie has endured an uncomfortable interview with Charlie Rose and Gayle King, the latter of whom told the 32-year-old, “You are very hot, Adam Scott.” But he just smiled and hasn’t surfaced since. How refreshing. – Ryan Lavner

For many sports fans, a highlight of the year is March Madness. For me, it's April Awesomeness. It starts with the Masters, of course, but it doesn't end there. My third-favorite 'regular' PGA Tour event venue, behind only Pebble Beach and TPC-Sawgrass, is Harbour Town. It's one of the few Tour courses I've played, which is a factor, but I love the fact that it proves you don't have to make a course absurdly long to make it interesting and difficult. 'Weak' field? Couldn't care less. I'd watch a Hooters Tour event on this track, with its 'hold on to your butts' finishing hole. Funny thing is, I'm not usually a huge fan of Pete Dye courses, but he got this one right. – Al Tays

Angel Cabrera’s approach to the 72nd hole a week ago at Augusta National was no fluke. Playing this week on the course he grew up on in his native Argentina, Cabrera needed an eagle on the final hole Sunday to force a playoff with Rafael Gomez at the Abierto OSDE del Centro. The two-time major winner nearly drove the green on the short par 4, chipped in for eagle to cap a Sunday 64 that saw him play the final seven holes in 5 under, and promptly defeated Gomez on the first extra hole.

Players can deal with major-championship near-misses in a variety of ways; some will take a few weeks off, while others will get right back on the proverbial horse. Cabrera not only teed it up this week in a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event – a testament to his desire to grow the game in that part of the world – but also took home the trophy in thrilling fashion. Two weeks, two playoffs and two very different results for El Pato, whose resiliency and clutch performance were again impressive – though his recovery from last week’s runner-up finish may have been hastened by the fact that he will still receive an invite from Adam Scott to next year’s Champions Dinner at Augusta. – Will Gray