Davis Love III thinks the Masters Tournament on a one-off basis in November could be a boost to the field of the RSM Classic, the PGA Tour event he hosts at the Sea Island Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.
Love, who conducted a 45-minute Facebook Live question-and-answer session with fellow St. Simons resident Zach Johnson, said he’s “thrilled” that the RSM, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last fall, comes a week after the Masters, which has been rescheduled for Nov. 12-15 at the Augusta National Golf Club.
Love said his reason for optimism is simple: the driving distance from Augusta to Sea Island is 200 miles. Since many of the world-class players in the Masters have historically followed that high-pressure week up with a trip to the laid-back South Carolina Low Country to play in the RBC Heritage, 136 miles way, Love reasons they might do the same to play at Sea Island Nov. 19-22.
“Having the Masters the week before has always helped the Heritage,” Love said at the Sea Island Performance Center, where he and Johnson fielded questions for 45 minutes. “Players would just drive over from the Masters and have a more relaxing week . We think this will be very similar, going to a world-class resort the week after a major. It fits nicely into the schedule.”
Last year’s RBC Heritage field included European stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, and U.S. stars Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau.
Love noted that under the revised PGA Tour schedule, the Tour Championship will be played in Atlanta Sept. 4-7, which will decide the 2019-20 FedEx Cup champion, followed two months later by the Masters and the RSM Classic.
“There’s going to be so much great golf in Georgia,” he said.
Love predicted that field strength as a whole will improve for the rest of the season, given the fact that by the time the schedule resumes, players will have been idle for three months.
“Every event is going to get more guys playing because we’re behind,” he said. “Behind on contractual obligations, making a little money … there are a lot of reasons to play … rankings, FedEx points. We’re all anxious to get back.”
Both Love and Johnson will be playing during the first two weeks of the PGA Tour’s re-start. Johnson is in the field for the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, June 11-14, while Love, who is playing a hybrid PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions schedule, will play in Hilton Head.
They are past multiple champions on those events. Johnson won at Colonial in 2010 and 2012 and Love holds the tournament record with five RBC Heritage championships, the last coming in 2003.
Those two events, plus subsequent tournaments in Cromwell, Conn., and Detroit, will be played without fans.
They’re both more than ready to return.
“We want to get back to work,” Love said. “I agree with being safe but it’s time to go.
“I applaud the Tour for getting a plan,” Johnson added. “It will be different but it’s time.
Both players also addressed the upcoming Ryder Cup, which will be Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. Love, a two-time Ryder Cup captain, and Johnson will be assisting U.S. captain Steve Stricker.
For Johnson, it will be his first turn as a vice-captain after playing in five Ryder Cups.
“Personally, it’s the best thing I’ve ever been associated with from a competitive standpoint,” he said. “You want to play. Davis and I are competitors first. It’s where we want to be and what we strive to do. That said, if you can’t play, if you can be a part of the team and serve, you want to do that. It doesn’t matter to what degree or capacity. Any time you can represent your country, you’re going to take advantage of it.”
Love said the brawny, windswept course that sits astride Lake Michigan should play into the hands of a U.S. team that will be loaded with bombers such as Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Gary Woodland.
“Whistling Straits will look like, for the European team, that they’re at home,” Love said. “ Pete Dye did an incredible job with a piece of property to make it look like links golf. We have a lot of players who played well there in the past and it’s a big, long, hard golf course. We have great ball strikers who can handle a tough golf course in tough conditions.”