Perhaps Jim Furyk can shoot off the cannon.
Normally, the defending RBC Heritage champion strikes the drive into Calibogue Sound -- accompanied by the cannon blast -- that signals the official start to the PGA Tour's annual Lowcountry soiree. That will have to change this year, with Furyk having wrist surgery Monday that will keep him on the shelf until May.
"If he still wants to be a part, we'll welcome that," tournament director Steve Wilmot said Wednesday.
Furyk, who ended a four-year victory drought with last year's triumph at Harbour Town, has not played since withdrawing from the BMW Championship last September. What was first thought to be a pesky bruise turned out to be a bone projection that was jabbing into cartilage.
The winner of 17 PGA Tour titles hopes to start hitting balls again in 10 weeks. He becomes the first Heritage champion to not defend his tartan jacket in the tournament's 47-year history.
"We're disappointed, but we're certainly not upset," Wilmot said. "It's an injury. He wants to be here. This tournament has certainly been important to him over the years. (Last year's) win was one of the most important to him in his career."
Some 4 1/2 years of frustration came out when Furyk dropped his putter and punched the air as his clinching putt dropped to end a playoff with Kevin Kisner. It was his first victory in 100 starts, nine of which saw him unable to close out a 54-hole lead.
Furyk had expected to be back by now, but a three-month layoff proved fruitless when he started hitting balls again in December.
"Felt great for three or four days, then right back to the pain," he told Golf Channel. "Took some time off, started hitting balls again in January right after the holidays. Felt great for three or four days and back to the pain."
The 45-year-old veteran's new target is mid- to late May, in time to prepare for the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Meantime, Wilmot will have to come up with an alternative plan for the April 11 opening ceremony -- though Furyk can still have a role.
"He's an RBC ambassador who lives three hours away," Wilmot noted. "We'll certainly talk this through with him. If he's not here, we'd certainly understand. But if he can make it, we'll find a way to work him in."
This article was written by Jeff Shain from The Island Packet Online and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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