Harbour Town can be unforgiving for those trying to make up ground

04/18/2013 4:32 AM

04/18/2013 4:47 AM

Zach Johnson knew better.

When a reporter declared the Iowa native and nine-time PGA Tour winner in the thick of things after three rounds of the 2012 RBC Heritage Presented By Boeing, with Johnson trailing leader Carl Pettersson by four shots, Johnson balked.

"You can't go out and shoot 64 or 65, you've just got to play," Johnson said. "It doesn't work like that at Hilton Head and Harbour Town. There's so much trouble out there lurking."

Johnson's comments might have drawn a smirk from anyone who remembered Brandt Snedeker firing a final-round 64 the previous year to storm back and defeat Luke Donald in a playoff. But Snedeker's blitz, fueled by a hot putter, was a bit of an anomaly.

Harbour Town Golf Links protects leaders on the final day. Pettersson cruised to a five-shot victory during a season where only five of the previous 15 third-round leaders had gone on to win.

Six of the past eight Heritage tournaments were won by the third-round leader and 31 of the 44 have been won by the golfer who slept on the lead Saturday night.

Besides Luke Donald, Jerry Kelly in 2007 was the only other to lose a third-round lead the past eight years. Kelly was forced to sit on the lead for two days when the final round was delayed after a windstorm.

"It's because it's not an attacker's golf course," Kelly said. "You get behind on this golf course and you try to go for birdies and go against Mother Nature, and it bites you."

Despite the statistics, the leader isn't always comfortable the final day at Harbour Town. Pettersson wanted to shoot under par on the final nine Sunday during his victory march, knowing the back side offered some stressful tee shots. He shot 1 over on the back.

"The tee shot on 14, I don't like that tee shot one bit," Pettersson said after his victory, a nod to the par-3 with water right and a tree and pot bunker guarding the left side. "Anything can happen there. I've hit it in the water before, I've hit it left, and I knew 14 was a hole you could rack up a big number on. ... Once I got past 14, I thought I was okay, but then I snap-hooked it on 15. And I had some issues there. It wasn't really until 17 where I felt I had won the tournament."

Snedeker jumped on the front nine during his comeback, going out in 30, and birdied the final hole to post his number. He didn't watch a scoreboard, assumed one of the leaders would have posted a better number and thought about travel plans to the next week's stop in New Orleans.

Snedeker spoiled Pete Dye's best laid plans by firing one of his best rounds as a professional with everyone else grinding.

"It's tough to shoot a couple under par on this golf course," Snedeker said after his win. "It's really demanding. I didn't play in the toughest conditions. I had two hours before they did, the greens were softer and better. That makes a difference, a huge difference."

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