The RBC Heritage had a strong enough field on a classic public-access course to entice viewers and avoid a post-Masters letdown.
There was even some final-round drama with a three-hole playoff. Just one problem: The playoff between Si Woo Kim and Satoshi Kodaira wasn’t aired live on television. It wasn’t streamed on the internet.
Fans weren’t able to watch remotely as Kodaira birdied the par-3 17th to capture his first PGA Tour title at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C.
The decision was made Saturday night to have players tee off earlier than scheduled in threesomes with Sunday afternoon storms in the forecast. CBS aired the final round on tape delay in the regularly scheduled broadcast slot.
It ended up being a huge moment for Asian golf with 22-year-old Kim from South Korea and Japan’s Kodaira going toe-to-toe.
The victory served as Kodaira’s U.S. breakthrough. The 28-year-old from Tokyo began the final round six strokes back and shot 5-under 66 to notch a 12-under 272 for the week. It was the 10th time a Tour event went to a playoff this season.
“To win this quickly is a big surprise to me,” Kodaira said through an interpreter.
Kim made bogey on three of his last six holes in regulation and missed a 6-foot birdie putt on 18 to fall into a playoff. The two traded consecutive pars at the par-4 18th hole, then Kodaira sank a 24-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to capture the plaid jacket.
A six-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, Kodaira did not have PGA Tour status entering the week but qualified as one of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Now he has a two-year exemption and will be back at the Masters next April after a T-28 finish in his Augusta National debut last week.
“This is a stage I’ve been dreaming about,” Kodaira said. “Having this opportunity to play full time is a dream come true. So, of course, I will accept full-time membership.”
Kodaira had never even cracked the top-25 in 14 prior PGA Tour starts and finished under par in just two of them. He’s projected to move inside the top 30 in the Official World Golf Rating and is the No. 2-ranked Japanese player behind Hideki Matsuyama, who is No. 8 in the OWGR and the nation’s all-time Tour wins leader.
“I’ve been watching Hideki Matsuyama in Japan, and I’ve always looked up to him or wanted to play just as well,” Kodaira said. “I feel that I’m getting closer to that level.”
Kim had a chance to do something special, too. He was looking for his third Tour win before his 23rd birthday, something only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have accomplished.
He shot even-par 71 in the final round and will look to defend his Players Championship title next month at TPC Sawgrass, where he became the youngest winner in tournament history a year ago.
“Even though I’m not an American player, I’m just incredibly grateful to see some of these fans cheering my name and cheering for me in the playoff,” Kim said. “And I hope that even if I’m playing with an American player these fans would cheer for me.”
Most in Tokyo were still sleeping when Kodaira sank the winning putt around 4 a.m. in Japan Standard Time.
“Once they wake up and find out, they’ll be very surprised,” Kodaira said. Gwk