The grind, the pressure, the scrutiny.. all that is The Masters is behind us and now the players can relax a bit in the comfort of The RBC Heritage at beautiful Hilton Head, South Carolina.
It is only about one hundred and thirty miles that separate Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina and Augusta National, the site of last week’s Masters in Augusta, Georgia. However, the differences between the two golf courses are extensive. Fresh off of the season’s first Major Championship, The PGA Tour exhales and relaxes seaside this week for The RBC Heritage as a new grind begins in preparation for The Players Championship and The U.S. Open.
Pete Dye designed Harbour Town Golf Links. It is a classic, a gem of a course that will be hosting this event for the 50th time. Unlike Augusta’s big, undulated, bent grass greens, Harbour Town has some of the smallest greens on Tour with a bermuda grass surface. A massive landscape with wide fairways and very little rough to speak of, is what 31 players in this week’s field saw last week at Augusta National. This week, they will find narrow fairways, doglegs, and the need for Driving Accuracy. Putting and Scrambling are incredibly important at both The Masters and The Heritage but it is a different type of layout completely around the greens, so the challenge of getting up and down from in close, will be a far different kind of test this week.
We saw some rain at Augusta and we’ve had some rain in Hilton Head but we will see a different setting for the wind this week. At Augusta it swirles high in the trees. At Harbour Town, it is a seaside breeze. The forecast looks to be very nice on Thursday and Friday but the breezes are supposed to pick up this weekend.
Finally, Augusta National is pretty unique – extremely unique in many ways – but some other indicator golf courses can be looked at when handicapping the action at Harbour Town. Pete Dye also designed TPC Sawgrass, where they play The Players Championship. The RSM Classic and Sony Open are both similar seaside venues with a steady breeze and bermuda greens. And one will also find some crossover success here and at The Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, a course that too makes one be accurate, working the ball, and scrambling around the greens.
Dustin Johnson (+9.91 Pinnacle) The world number one has three Top 10’s in his last five starts. Finished 10th at The Masters but never really made a run. He hasn’t played here since 2009.
Paul Casey (+16.50 Pinnacle) A winner at The Valspar this year, Casey was cut at Harbour Town in his last visit in 2016. He was 18-22-and-11th in his other three trips and is coming off of a 15th at The Masters.
Matt Kuchar (+2072 Bookmaker) Kuchar has made 14-straight cuts here in Hilton Head and in his last four appearances, has gone 11-9-5-1. He has two Top 10’s in his last three starts on Tour.
Patrick Cantlay (+3300 5Dimes) Cantlay missed the cut at The Masters but nine of the last eleven winners here at The Heritage have either missed the cut at Augusta or not played. The extra time away from the hoopla may serve him well. In his debut here last year, he finished 3rd.
Adam Hadwin (+37.43 Pinnacle) Hadwin hasn’t missed a cut all season. He was 24th at The Masters and strung together four straight Top 20 finishes prior to that. He was 22nd here last year and has won The Valspar.
Charley Hoffman (+4500 5Dimes) Charley was cut at The Valspar but took 14th at Bay Hill and comes off of a 12th place finish at The Masters. He’s only missed the cut here twice in eight tries and does have two Top 10 finishes.
The Long Shots
William McGirt (+7700 Bookmaker) Excelling in ball striking and scrambling, William McGirt has recorded three Top 10’s here in the last four years. He was 8th at The RSM and 16th at The Valspar.
Jason Kokrak (+9500 Bookmaker) Kokrak is a big hitter but is able to work his way around the shotmaker tracks quite well. He was 8th at The Valspar a month ago and before missing the cut here at Harbour Town last year, he went 6-18-12.
Chris Kirk (+10000 5Dimes) Not far from home, this Georgia Bulldog has found success at similar courses, taking 4th this season at The RSM and 10th at The Sony. He was 12th last year at The Players Championship. Kirk missed the cut here at The Heritage last year but had his best ever finish the year before, taking 23rd.
Webb Simpson (+3000 5Dimes) Simpson really had it going on Sunday at Augusta before settling for a 5-under par round of 67 and a 20th place finish. I believe his momentum carries over to Hilton Head where he finished 11th last year, 2nd in 2013, and where he hasn’t missed a cut in seven straight trips. Webb was 8th at The Valspar last month and 4th at The Sony in January. He was 16th last year at The Players Championship. Simpson ranks 7th on Tour in Scrambling and 10th in Putting Average. With the way he’s going right now and his history of results, I like him to be putting on a plaid jacket this Sunday.
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