Ladies and Germs, this week in golf we have the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town. You would think that a week after the Masters the golf world would be abuzz, but for some reason the Heritage tournament is slipping. For the life of me, I can not figure out why. Let's take a few moments to look at the Verizon Heritage and how it might be saved in the future, as well as allow for some conjecture as to who might take home the plaid jacket this weekend.
The Verizon Heritage, formerly just The Heritage, is a tournament that has been around for 45 years now. It features past winners like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Payne Stewart and Greg Norman. Last year, the tournament's winner was Brian Gay. Gay. What used to be a welcome stop on the tour after Augusta is now skipped by many of the stars (8 of the last 9 winners of the Masters have not participated, including Lee Westwood this year). Moreover, next year the tournament is losing its title sponsor in Verizon and has yet to find a new one. What has gone wrong at Harbour Town? Honestly, I don't know. The only thing I can think of is to follow the money.
Harbour Town is obviously a beautiful location. Having been down there only a few weeks ago, this time of year is absolutely perfect in South Carolina. Hilton Head is also a very family oriented town so that golfer's can bring their families with them. Moreover, Hilton Head is accessible via plane, car or boat, and is only a short jaunt from Augusta, so it can't be travel that is the problem.
What about the course? Harbour Town is simply awesome. A shorter course, it tests players by making them place their shots perfectly on the fairway, and especially on the tiny greens. Distance is not king at Harbour Town, you gotta be accurate. The 18th hole is also one of the most picturesque holes in golf with Hilton Head harbor providing the backdrop. Clearly the course is not the problem.
What about the money? The purse this year is over $1 million. Shouldn't that draw some players who want to cash in? You would think so, but this is the only area where I can find issue with the tournament. The problem is that every tournament pays so much now that players don't need to participate in every one. I know we can't turn back the clock, but if the purses were lower I think you would find players entering more tournaments. Certainly money is a factor, but it doesn't explain everything. Honestly, I can't explain it. Can you?
Why would a tournament with seemingly so much going for it have such a struggle? It may not seem that bad, but the fact that they can't find a willing sponsor for a tournament with such history is pretty bad. I have no answer for you, but would love to hear your thoughts. One thought I had perhaps to fix the tournament would be to take a low ball offer from Nike, Ecco Skater Shoes, or some other sponsor tied to a single popular golfer. This would ensure that a guy like Tiger or Freddy would play. They need to start drawing some bigger stars if they want to sustain themselves.
All in all, the Verizon Heritage is not doing too badly, and I don't want to make it seem like a doomed event, but it has certainly dropped a bit in prestige over the years. I can't understand it at all, but here is who I like to win it this weekend:
Rickie Fowler- This is the perfect event for a kid like Fowler to break through for his first win.
DL3- The Donk's boy has won at Harbour Town, and also designed the nearby Eagle's Pointe Course in Bluffton, SC. A real gem of a course.
Boooooooooo- Another past champ looking to get his year going.
Big John Stud- It's not totally out of the question.
K.J. Choi- Shot a 64 today, and played very well for all but about 4 holes last week. Not sure about his child labor practices though. Probably only paying the kid two dongs a day or something.
Honestly, as someone looking to get into this business I would like to hear your thoughts on why you think this tournament has taken a step back over the years. I have broken it down from several angles and just can't figure it out. Maybe I'm over-analyzing. Maybe you don't think it's that bad. Let's get the comment board going.