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Heritage a prize despite the jacket

The Augusta Masters has its green jacket. The Heritage, which tees up Thursday at Harbour Town Golf Links, has its tartan plaid jacket. And to think, some people speak disparagingly of the green one.

As you might imagine, players don't talk about their dream of one day winning the plaid jacket. Winning The Heritage, yes, but, well, when former champion Glen Day was offered matching pants if he won the Heritage again, he politely declined.

But a lot can be said about that jacket. It blends well with the springtime colors of Hilton Head and winning it puts a player's name on a list that is as stylish as a roomful of tuxedos.

Defending champion Jim Furyk had this tournament on his "bucket list" for a long time because it "has one of the greatest histories of any event on the Tour. When you look at the list of former champions, it's a who's who of golf." He didn't say it was because of the neat haberdashery.

Arnold Palmer won the first one, in 1959. Hale Irwin and Johnny Miller each won a couple of the early ones. Jack Nicklaus prevailed in 1975. Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer came home first, Langer the week after he won the Masters. His closet runneth over.

One six-year stretch -- 1986 through 1992 - had a special warmth for the galleries. Fuzzy won again, Davis Love III won his first three of four, Greg Norman, the glamour guy who arrived in a glistening yacht the size of Rhode Island, won a jacket and Payne Stewart got a pair. All of those were huge crowd favorites, especially Love, who lives an hour or so down the road, and Stewart with his trademark knickers that went so well with the plaid jacket.

As it has demonstrated, Harbour Town might produce any kind of champion. It is lined with trees and has the smallest greens on Tour. One of the shorter hitters, Brian Gay, blew the place away two years ago with a 72-hole record of 264. Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes and their fellow homer hitters have yet to win this event.

There are some serious candidates for a jacket fitting this year, among them two-time champion Stewart Cink, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Mark Wilson and two-time champion Boo Weekley, who said upon returning last year, "Ain't nothing difrerent from last year, except now I'm the two-time defending champion. I'm still nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs."

I don't recall that Davis Love III put it that way.

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