Carl Pettersson came prepared for the cannon blast in Monday’s opening ceremony for the 45th RBC Heritage.
As the professional golfer walked towards the heavy artillery on the 18th fairway of Harbour Town Golf Links, he slipped a pair of hunter orange plugs into his ears.
Tradition asks the defending Heritage champ to hit a ceremonial tee shot into Calibogue Sound as the cannon fires. With his earplugs, Pettersson was ready for the boom. It was the vintage wooden club sitting next to the cannon that threw him for a loop.
“Equipment has changed over the years, that’s for sure,” Pettersson said. “I was actually wondering if I was going to get it airborne.”
The stocky Sweede didn’t disappoint the thousands of fans and dignitaries in attendance, striking the ball with precision just as the cannon went off, shaking the ground.
“I put a little fade on it out there,” Pettersson said.
The ability to shape a shot is critical at Harbour Town, and nobody did it better than Pettersson last year. He used a string of early birdies to pull away from the field and held on for a dominant five-stroke victory in 2012.
“The memories started coming back as I walked up the 18th green,” Pettersson said. “This is a cool tradition and I’m glad that I’m part of it. I know all the PGA Tour players love coming here. It’s a special week and we’re ready for the week to start.”
Heritage Week officially started with bagpipes and a tartan parade, featuring dignitaries such as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin, Heritage Classic Foundation chairman Simon Fraser and popular entertainer Gregg Russell.
“It is my pleasure to welcome you to the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing,” Laughlin said to the crowd. “This is a time that we on Hilton Head look forward to. The Heritage is deeply woven into the fabric of our community.”
Monday’s opening ceremonies were followed by a practice round for professionals and a pro-am presented by Boeing. Tuesday offers another practice round for professionals and Coca-Cola Youth Day from 3-4 p.m.
Official tournament play is Thursday through Sunday.
FEEDING OFF THE MASTERS
Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot feels the excitement created by the Masters will carry over to his event this week, considering several golfers from that leaderboard are here for the Heritage.
“Augusta is just three hours away,” Wilmot said. “If the Masters was in Texas, it wouldn’t mean what it means to us. We’re somewhat the same demographic and in somewhat of the same market. We had people call and ask, ‘Is Jason Day in? Is Brandt Snedeker in? Is Marc Leishman in? Is Adam Scott in?’ Unfortunately, he’s not, but there is a connection between us and Augusta to a certain degree.”
Scott’s playoff victory over Angel Cabrera helped provide a 26 percent boost in overnight ratings for the Masters on CBS. The Golf Channel and CBS will broadcast this year’s RBC Heritage Thursday through Sunday.
PETTERSSON WANTS SIMPLER RULES
Tiger Woods’ ball-drop fiasco was the talk of the Masters last week. The defending champion of the RBC Heritage, Carl Pettersson, experienced a similar situation at last year’s PGA Championship on Kiawah Island. He was penalized two strokes for tipping a leaf on his backswing and finished in third place, potentially losing a half million dollars.
“The ruling with Tiger was certainly a different one,” Pettersson said on Monday. “I think golf has some silly rules. It just needs to be simplified, I think. With the call-in viewers and stuff, it’s a little different (than other sports) I think.”
Pettersson said he would like to see a different set of rules for the PGA Tour and the USGA.
“We do this every week,” he said. “There’s certain rules that could be changed that I think would simplify things for us a little bit more than some of the USGA rules.”
OTHER HERITAGE NOTES
Players Amateur champion Daniel Nisbet put on a show while a large crowd waited for Monday’s opening ceremonies. The 21-year-old Australian and two other unidentified golfers approached the final hole of their practice round and decided to finish before the tartan parade started. After Nisbet dropped his chip on the green, many in the stands applauded. … Gov. Nikki Haley was scheduled to participate in opening ceremonies but did not make it in time due to poor weather conditions. Haley was instrumental in the Heritage securing sponsorship after Verizon dropped out in 2011. … Presenting sponsor Boeing announced it will provide another flyover in Friday’s round. A 787 Dreamliner made a low-altitude flyover at last year’s tournament.
FULL HERITAGE FIELD RELEASED
Former world No. 1 Luke Donald and Snedeker highlight the 2013 RBC Heritage field, which features 10 of the top 25 golfers in the world rankings.
de Jonge, Brendon
Howell III, Charles
LaBelle II, Doug
Potter, Jr., Ted
Snyder III, Joey
Van Pelt, Bo