HILTON HEAD ISLAND — What in the world is Sir Nick Faldo doing teeing it up in the 46th RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links?
Well, he is commemorating the 30th anniversary of his first PGA Tour victory at the Heritage in 1984, and the now 10-year broadcaster is apparently itching for some competition.
“I’m out here for three reasons: #freshair, #takingexercise, #curiosity, just to see what’s in my bones” Faldo said in Twitter-speak. “… Once I realized it was 30 years that this was the first event I won in America I thought that would be pretty cool. And I thought Hilton Head is in theory perfect for me. It’s through the trees and it’s dead flat. I pick the flat courses now because I have dodgy ankles.”
Faldo’s preparation for the tournament? “Well I drove here and so I’m ready. That’s it,” Faldo said. “Preparation is slim. I’m doing everything on fond memories at the moment, trying to gear myself up a little bit as a golfer. Between my TV schedule and other things, it’s kind of like: Start preparation on Monday.”
The six-time major champion is the lead analyst for CBS’ weekend coverage alongside Jim Nantz, so either CBS has little faith in Faldo’s game or has a Plan B in the case he makes the cut and plays deep into the afternoon. “Hopefully I’m first reserve for the weekend, just in case,” he joked. “But we’ll worry about that Saturday morning. I’ll call [CBS coordinating producer] Lance [Barrow] and say, ‘Hey, guess what?’”
Faldo doesn’t plan to end his season in Hilton Head. In July, he has an invitation to play in the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, followed by the Scottish Open and British Open.
Faldo last played a non-major PGA Tour event in 2006, when he played in six including the Heritage and made one cut before withdrawing from that event prior to the final round.
Since 2006, Faldo has missed the cut in four British Open appearances and tied for 14th and 38th in a pair of Senior British Opens in 2007 and ’09. That’s it for competitive golf. “Time flies,” he said.
He made his debut in a non-major Champions Tour event last month and tied for 53rd in the Mississippi Golf Resort Classic with three rounds between 72 and 74.
Faldo, who won three Masters and three British Open titles among his nine PGA Tour victories, has a new title since he last played at Harbour Town. He was granted knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009.
Mr. Watson returns
While we’re at it, what in the world is 64-year-old Tom Watson doing teeing it up in the Heritage?
Watson, 64, who won at Harbour Town in 1979 and ’82, is playing in his 24th Heritage but his first since 2001.
As captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Team, Watson’s motives for playing this week are more apparent.
“I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing as Ryder Cup captain and getting to know the players, getting to watch them,” said Watson, who has played rounds in recent weeks with Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed, who have a combined five wins this season. He’s paired with Jordan Spieth and 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III in the first two rounds this week.
“I’m also getting to know what other people think about the players, such as the caddies and other players,” Watson said. “There’s a lot of things that go into choosing the three picks that I have at my disposal.”
Other than playing the Greenbrier Classic for the past three years at a course Watson represents, the Heritage is his first non-major PGA Tour event since 2007. Like Faldo, the eight-time major champion and winner of 39 PGA Tour tournaments believes he’s chosen a good course for his return.
“I loved the golf course right from the beginning,” said Watson, who first played Harbour Town in 1971. “I still love it. I put it in my top five courses. It requires you to hit the ball the way you’re supposed to hit the ball. You have to move the ball left to right, right to left. You have to work the ball into greens, around some of the trees, over the trees. It has a tremendous amount of character to it. I’m glad I’ve made the decision to play here again.”
Watson famously came within a par on the 72nd hole of winning the 2009 British Open at the age of 59. At the Greenbrier Classic in the past three years he has tied for 38th and 73rd and missed the cut. He said he’ll be at the Memorial, Greenbrier, British Open and PGA Championship events in the coming months.
As presumed, world No. 5 Jason Day withdrew from the Heritage because of a troublesome left thumb that forced him away from the PGA Tour from his victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Feb. 23 until last week’s Masters.
Day won’t compete again until The Players Championship from May 8-11 to allow his thumb to heal, according to the Australian Associated Press.
Day received a cortisone shot into the thumb two weeks ago in order to play in the Masters, where he tied for 20th but experienced minor discomfort and swelling in the thumb, according to the AAP report.
Webb Simpson, ranked 27th in the world and a winner earlier this season, was among the last to commit to the Heritage on Friday but withdrew Monday without providing tour officials with a reason. Simpson lost to Graeme McDowell in a playoff at Harbour Town last year.
On the tube
Television coverage of the Heritage is on Golf Channel from 3-6 p.m. both Thursday and Friday with replays from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The final two rounds are broadcast by CBS from 3-6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Golf Channel has early coverage of the final two rounds from 1-2:30 p.m. both weekend days, with replays from 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and 7-11:30 p.m. Sunday. Golf Channel will also have an encore from 1:30-6 p.m. Monday.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.