RBC Heritage

After pressure-packed finish at the Masters, pros back to business on Hilton Head

Pros Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson play cornhole, PGA Tour style

SC native Dustin Johnson and NC native Webb Simpson participate in "Battle of the Carolinas"
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SC native Dustin Johnson and NC native Webb Simpson participate in "Battle of the Carolinas"

After having a chance to win perhaps the world’s biggest golf tournament last week, two of the contenders laughed it up while taking in a salt breeze Wednesday.

Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson are on Hilton Head Island after competing in the year’s first major championship, and on Wednesday took the chance to goof off during an exhibition for fans near the skyboxes just off the 18th tee box. Johnson finished tied for second and a shot behind Tiger Woods at the Masters, and Simpson is coming off his best Masters finish, a tie for fifth.

But while the island vibes can be seen as a chance to unwind after a pressure-filled week on the leaderboard, the golfers’ focus has returned to PGA Tour business as the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing begins Thursday at Harbour Town Golf Links.

“There’s certainly less to do this week for me,” Simpson said. “A major championship, there’s kind of more going on. But especially now that the pro am is done, I’m going to go practice, prepare just like I did for the Masters and get ready for competition tomorrow.”

The Heritage can be an easy pass for some players, a natural week off after a grueling major.

Five players in the field on Hilton Head finished in the top 10 in Augusta. And 13 players here finished tied for 21st or better, within eight shots of Woods’ 13 under total.

World No. 1-ranked player Johnson said last year the week after the Masters is typically a vacation week. But he’s now sponsored by tournament sponsor RBC and has adjusted his schedule to include Harbour Town, where he competed with Simpson.

Hilton Head might be a more laid more back than Augusta, and Johnson’s family is in town, but that doesn’t mean the world’s top golfer is lounging after a close call at the Masters.

“We’ve got three weeks off after this,” Johnson’s caddie and brother Austin said Wednesday. “We’ll decompress after that.”

Simpson drove to Hilton Head on Monday and didn’t work out or do anything golf-related, he said.

“I really just tried to not think about golf at all, and that was good for me,” he said. “After a big event, you need a little time away. But the nature of our sport is there’s an event every week, so you’ve got to be able to rebound after that rest pretty quickly, get your mind right and get ready to compete.”

San Diego native Xander Shauffele said he was taking positive lessons from a tie for second in Augusta. He arrived for a news conference Tuesday before his second Heritage appearance buoyed by the perfect Hilton Head weather and activity in Harbour Town.

“It’s very relaxing and almost feels like home, sort of a San Diego vibe,” he said.

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Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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