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RBC Heritage to roll out red carpet for star-studded field as 2023 ‘elevated event’

Designated one of the PGA Tour’s “elevated events” for the 2022-23 season, the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing will feature almost all of the Tour’s most popular players in April.

“A lot of buzz, a lot of excitement,” longtime tournament director Steve Wilmot said. “We had an opportunity (for elevated status) and RBC stepped up to the plate.”

But with the excitement comes expectations.

Indeed, Wilmot and his staff have always made the Heritage a special stop for Tour players. But the timing — the tournament has become a fixture on the schedule the week after the Masters — left big-name some competitors taking time off after a major championship.

Now with an opportunity to impress occasional or first-time Heritage participants — Rory McIlrory, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Max Homa and Viktor Hovland, to name a few — Wilmot and tournament organizers will really roll out the red carpet.

This year’s RBC Heritage — the 55th installment of the tournament — is April 13-16 at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island.

“We want to make that three-hour drive from Augusta to Hilton Head the best it can be,” he said. “We want to make sure the players who haven’t been here often, or at all, see what we have to offer and will want to be here for years to come.

“We’re thinking, ‘What can we do better?’ We’re planning some little extras that will enhance the experience.”

Impressing players used to the perks of the Tour might be challenging, but the $20-million purse will get their attention. That’s an increase of more than $11 million from the 2022 tournament.

The “elevated event” concept came out of a players-only meeting last August to boost prize money to get the best players to compete more often in the same tournaments and to combat the LIV Tour. The top 20 in the previous year’s Players Impact Program are required to play in the designated tournaments, although each can opt out of one.

“The Tour set the price (for elevated status), and RBC said, ‘We’re in,’ ” Wilmot said. “(RBC officials) want to be here, and we will put our best foot forward for the Tour’s best players.”

Nine of the top 20 in last year’s PIP standings competed in the 2022 Heritage, which Jordan Spieth won in a playoff over Patrick Cantlay. Only the 2020 Heritage, delayed until June and the second event after a three-month shutdown for the coronavirus outbreak, attracted a similar field in terms of strength in recent years. But the 2020 tourney was played without fans.

Competing a week after the Masters has been a drawback to some, including Rahm, currently the hottest player in the world whose only Heritage appearance came in the 2020 event. But he said he could deal with the challenge.

“I’m not keen on playing the week after a major,” he said in October at the CJ Cup in South Carolina at Ridgeland’s Congaree Golf Club. “But I’ve seen people do it, and I’ve seen people do well, so there’s no reason why you can’t (play well).”

And there’s another enticement.

His wife “Kelley will be extremely happy,” Rahm said at the CJ Cup. “She’s been wanting to go back to Hilton Head for a long time.”

All the preparations “are gung-ho,” Wilmot said. “We’re ahead of the game in planning and ticket sales. Put everything together — great course, great players, great fans — and we’re going to have a great week. We couldn’t be more excited.”

The RBC Heritage expects a sellout for the second straight year. Ticket information is available online at www.rbcheritage.com.

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