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Relaxing trip is out this year

Monday, April 11, 2011

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For the past 27 years, golfers left Augusta National Golf Club at the conclusion of the Masters Tournament and drove 137 miles to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for the next PGA Tour stop.

"It made it nice and easy for travel," said Jim Furyk, the defending champion at the Heritage, the Hilton Head Island event. "We don't get the chance to hop in a car and go to the next event very often."

And they won't this year. The Masters participants who are playing this week will fly west to San Antonio, 1,130 miles from Augusta, for the Texas Open.

They'll then come back for the Heritage, which has been played at Hilton Head since 1969.

Because of "an anomaly in the 2011 schedule that adds an extra week between the Masters and the Players Championship," the Heritage was moved back a week for 2011, according to a tour release. The Texas Open, which was played May 13-16 last year, moved into its place.

"I think for a lot of people it's disappointing, logistically speaking," said Furyk, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. "If they're going to play this week and either flying to San Antonio and flying right back or flying home and coming right back, it makes it a little awkward travel-wise."

Under the old Masters-to-Heritage schedule, "you stayed in this part of the country and have a nice, relaxing week," David Toms said.

Aaron Baddeley, the 2007 Heritage winner, said: "It's a perfect week for after Augusta. It's chilled and relaxing after a high-stress week this week. It was perfect to have the week following."

Even the 2 1/2-hour drive down, through small towns, starting on South Carolina 125 and South Carolina 278, was relaxing,

"I'd usually go on Monday morning," said Baddeley, who is an Australian. "I remember, for an American way to put it, a lot of podunk towns."

Said Furyk: "I'm not a smell-the-flowers-and-look-at-the-scenery type of guy. It wasn't like the Red Rocks of Utah beautiful, but it was a cute drive."

The Heritage, which lost Verizon as its title sponsor after last year, is in search of a replacement. The tour plans to have it return to its normal spot after the Masters.

"Right now, if I were to bet, I would say that both of those tournaments would continue to be on the schedule," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in mid-March, referring to the Heritage and the Bob Hope Classic.

"I'd be disappointed," Furyk said of the possibility of the Heritage's being dropped from the schedule because of its lack of sponsorship. "It's been there a long time. I'm hoping something happens. It's one of my favorite golf courses (Harbour Town Golf Links)."

Baddeley said: "It would be sad if we lost the tournament."

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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