For the second time in 2021, the PGA Tour is coming to the Lowcountry. But this time around, it’ll be a little bit different.
With the RBC Canadian Open scrapped this year due to COVID-19 protocol, the show is moving down to Ridgeland with a new name: The Palmetto Championship at Congaree. The one-time tourney will start on Thursday, as the world’s best golfers make their final preparations for next week’s U.S. Open while some up-and-coming stars eye a breakout weekend out at Congaree Golf Club.
As we approach the first tee time in just a handful of days, here are a couple of key storylines to keep an eye on in preparation for a memorable weekend in the Lowco.
How will players react and perform at a brand-new course?
During most events on the docket throughout the PGA Tour season, the players are very familiar with the course they are about to tackle. Whether it’s a perennial favorite like Harbour Town Golf Links or a rotating staple like Kiawah Island or Torrey Pines, the vast majority are well-known and familiar to the competitors. But the Palmetto Championship at Congaree will be a whole new experience.
It’s the best-kept-secret of a small Lowcountry town, a beautiful oasis waiting to be discovered by the golf world’s elite. Instead of using their detailed knowledge on how to attack each hole, the competitors will be almost flying blind. The four-year-old track is located amongst the lush wetlands of the Lowcountry and will offer a unique challenge reminiscent of links golf with a little Carolina flair. Watch for balls to take fast bounces down the turf, with a missed shot punished by a variety of unforgiving waste bunkers sprinkled around the course.
The winner of this one-off tournament will be the one who can quickly adjust to what the course offers and find a way to consistently strike accurate shots. It may not play exactly like Harbour Town, but it will be a difficult task for all who make the trip down. It will take well-executed strokes, a strong golf IQ with the ability to experiment, and a couple of fortunate bounces along the way.
Can DJ break through in his home state?
Dustin Johnson has soared to become a worldwide star in this generation of golf. After a slow start and an inability to close out the big ones, DJ has picked up a pair of major championships. But the South Carolina native has yet to claim a PGA Tour event in his home state. After a strong 13th-place finish in the RBC Heritage, the world’s top-ranked golfer couldn’t find a way to make the cut on a difficult and windy Kiawah Island course.
But we know Johnson has all the tools to pull out a stellar performance at a moment’s notice. He’s right at the top of the tour in driving distance, but he’ll need a lot more from his approach and short game to push for a victory.
Can a new name rise to the occasion for a breakout performance?
Some well-known figures are coming to Congaree like Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Kevin Kisner, but don’t forget some potential future stars who could use the week as a massive springboard.
Leading the pack of up-and-comers is the Lowco’s own Bryson Nimmer, who will look to carry some momentum after a scorching 3-under 68 on Friday capped off his first RBC Heritage just under two months ago. Making his third PGA Tour start of the 2020-21 season after a pair of top-27 finishes in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Simmons Bank Open and Visit Knoxville Open in May, Nimmer could use a hot start on the greens to put himself in consideration going into the weekend.
Davis Thompson could be another young star to keep an eye on at Congaree, as the 2020-21 SEC Player of the Year looks to make a splash in the Lowcountry for his first professional start. The number-one ranked amateur golfer in the world back in November fired an impressive 69 to start the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and placed in a tie for 23rd at the RSM Classic back in 2019. After celebrating his 22nd birthday on Saturday, Thompson will have a solid opportunity at a special week in Ridgeland.
John Pak could do the same, as the Fred Haskins Award winner for the country’s top men’s collegiate golfer travels down to the Lowcountry. The Florida State Seminole turned heads at Winged Foot back in September, making the cut as an amateur. Now, he’s earned a sponsor’s exemption into his first PGA Tour event. As a full-time 2021 member of the Korn Ferry Tour, it’s a massive chance for Pak to elevate his game to the next level and prove once again that he belongs on the biggest stage.
Could any three of these make a serious run into the weekend? With the Ievel playing field of a new course like Congaree, I absolutely think one of these guys could catch fire and surge up the leaderboard.
We’ve waited all spring, and the time has finally arrived for a once-in-a-lifetime event in the Lowco. The Palmetto Championship is here, and we can’t wait to bring you coverage in words, in pictures, and in audio on the LowcoSports Lowdown podcast. After a long year of uncertainty, I think we all deserve a special treat of a second PGA Tour event. This coming week, our wish will be granted.
By Wes Kerr