MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The field for the 48th annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is already taking shape.
Several of the game's top players have committed more than a month in advance of the April 14-17 event at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, including Jason Day, who is ranked third in the Official World Golf Ranking, and numerous past champions.
In addition to Day, early commitments include reigning British Open champion Zach Johnson, World Golf Hall of Famer and four-time major champion Ernie Els, and recent RBC Heritage winners Brandt Snedeker, Graeme McDowell and Matt Kuchar.
The title sponsorship of RBC continues to boost the field for South Carolina's lone PGA Tour event, as Day, Kuchar, Snedeker, McDowell and Els all have endorsement agreements with RBC and are known as Team RBC Ambassadors.
Five-time Heritage winner and 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Team captain Davis Love III, two-time Heritage winners Stewart Cink and Boo Weekley, and fellow tournament champions Glen Day, Justin Leonard and Carl Pettersson have also registered for the $5.9 million tournament.
Other commitments include 2011 FedExCup champion Bill Haas, Englishman Paul Casey, Ben Crane, Jason Kokrak, Peter Malnati, Seung-Yul Noh and 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am winner Vaughn Taylor.
Snedeker (No. 16), Johnson (20), Casey (25) and Kuchar (28) are all ranked in the top 30 in the world.
Day claimed five PGA Tour victories last year to reach No. 1 in the world -- four in a stretch of six events late in the season including the PGA Championship and FedExCup playoff events The Barclays and BMW Championship. His caddie, Colin Swatton, has lived in the South Carolina Lowcountry since 2007, first moving to Hilton Head and then Bluffton in 2009.
Day is returning to Harbour Town for the fifth time and first time since 2013, and has one top-10 finish.
Johnson earned his second major win and 12th PGA Tour victory at last year's British Open and has competed in the Heritage 12 times, including just days after winning the 2007 Masters.
Kuchar, a seven-time PGA Tour winner, holed a bunker shot on the 18th hole to win the 2014 Heritage by a shot.
Haas, a Greenville resident, hasn't missed the Heritage since getting through the tour qualifying tournament in 2005.
Reigning champion, world No. 15 and RBC ambassador Jim Furyk had wrist surgery in early February and is not expected to defend his second Heritage title.
Day and Johnson possess two of the four major championship trophies. Last year, world No. 1 and 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth participated in the Heritage following his win in Augusta but has yet to commit this year.
None of the tournament's eight sponsor exemptions have been awarded yet. One is traditionally extended to the winner of the affiliated Players Amateur at Berkeley Hall Golf Club in Bluffton. South Carolina senior Matt NeSmith of North Augusta won last summer but has declined his invitation in order to participate with his Gamecock teammates in the SEC Championship.
Harbour Town Golf Links underwent a complete re-grassing this past summer to go along with a new $23 million clubhouse that was completed in the past year.
The greens are TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass, green collars are TifGrand Bermuda, and Celebration Bermuda encompasses the rest of the course from tee to green.
"Our commitment is year-round tournament-type conditions," Harbour Town head pro John Farrell said. "We want 52 weeks a year. We want our guests and members enjoying tournament-type conditions on a year-round basis."
Minor changes have been made to three holes. Some remodeling was done to the back and left of the green on the 502-yard par-5 second hole; the fairway has been raised slightly on the 530-yard fifth hole, which was extended 9 yards and moved left 15 yards from a right tree line, and the left fairway bunker on the dogleg left par-4 16th hole now has small grass islands creating a church pew-like visual.
"It's a bit more of a hazard now than it was, and if you get up against one of those lips you could have some trouble," Farrell said. "But really they are very modest changes. We are very protective of the integrity of the design."
This article was written by Alan Blondin from The Sun News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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