By Ron Patey
The 2015 RBC Heritage tournament takes over Hilton Head Island this week. Can Jordan Spieth continue his Masters dominance? Or will the current Green Jacket holder be bested by world No. 1 Rory McIlroy or last year’s winner Matt Kuchar?
CBS Sports announcer Bill Macatee watched Spieth’s record-setting performance at Augusta. As a fellow resident of Dallas, Texas and a fellow member of Dallas National Golf Club, Macatee has also followed the 21-year-old’s rise from an early age. He weighs in on the Masters winner and what to expect at RBC Heritage.
Does Masters champion Jordan Spieth continue his torrid pace (two recent wins and two seconds), or does he suffer a post-major victory letdown in the RBC Heritage?
I would say he has a lot on his plate, but he’s a very focused young guy. He’ll probably need a little time to absorb what he has accomplished. I expect though that he’ll get right back to work and be a force, especially in major championships throughout his career.
Who would you compare Spieth to regarding his game and character from golf’s previous generations?
You could make the case that Spieth is part Arnold Palmer in that he’s got this everyman quality that people embrace and he’s got this whimsical side that he showed when he gave the thumbs-up to Justin Rose after Rose hit the great shot at the seventh hole. When you’re in the heat of battle at the Masters, you’re supposed to be grinding. You’re not supposed to be smiling and giving your opponent a thumbs-up. So, I think we saw the Arnold Palmer side, yet Spieth has the ability to focus, step up and grind hard with his game when he needs to, and that’s definitely a Jack Nicklaus quality. And then his putting and creativity in general around a golf course remind me of Seve Ballesteros.
Luke Donald comes into the RBC Heritage with three second-place finishes and two third places in his last six appearances. How does he close the deal this time?
Luke Donald is an immensely talented golfer. It’s surprising that he hasn’t won more often than he has, but I think he has a huge opportunity at the RBC Heritage because his game suits the course’s tight fairways and smaller greens. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is there standing with the trophy on Sunday.
Which former champion has the best shot to win?
Matt Kuchar has a good chance. He didn’t have a great Masters by his standards; he finished at +2. But he loves Harbour Town because he can work his ball around the course and handle the small greens well.
What is your bold prediction for which player surprises?
It’s tough to say. There are so many variables with the Masters having just concluded. Several players are playing well and have a chance after missing out on the green jacket, but now they have a chance to continue their outstanding play on a very different type of golf course than Augusta National. I really can’t say because it’s right in the shadow of the greatest tournament in golf, so it will be a surprise when whoever wins.
Which of the up-and-comers, Daniel Berger or Justin Thomas, finishes higher on the RBC Heritage leaderboard?
I think it’s interesting that you call them up-and-comers, I’d say they have arrived. They’re both around 22 years old. Berger just turned 22 this month, and Thomas turns 22 later this month and Jordan Spieth is 21 years old. He was an up-and-comer not so long ago, and now he’s a major champion and a guy we expect to watch battling in major championships for a long time to come. I would say Berger is probably the guy this week because he’s had three top-10s this season and lost in a playoff at the Honda Classic.
What does Rory McIlroy take away from The Masters after his slow start left him in a hole he couldn’t dig himself out of, even though he went 15-under for the final 45 holes?
What Rory takes away from it is he played well — even with a couple of bogeys on Saturday. He knows that this kid who just won The Masters is going to bring out the best in his own game. And I think he’s excited about having somebody like that challenging and pushing him. We’re going into a sweet spot time for golf. Tiger is coming back and playing well, and Phil played well at The Masters. Then there are the many outstanding young players led by Rory and now joined by Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and a 23-year-old from Japan, Hideki Matsuyama. While he’s been under the radar for most fans in the U.S., he’s going to be a huge factor in a lot of tournaments going forward.
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.