We’re off to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on Thursday for the State’s only PGA Tour event – the RBC Heritage, won last year by Sweden’s Carl Pettersson.
Davis Love III (1991-92), Payne Stewart (1989-90) and Boo Weekley (2007-08) are the only defending RBC Heritage champions to repeat at the Harbour Town Golf Links. Pettersson is 90.0 with BETDAQ to make that a quartet.
Davis Love III is the tournament’s only five-time winner, while Stuart Cink (54.0with BETDAQ) and Boo Weekley (34.0) are two-time winners.
Unlike Augusta, it is not a course where big hitters have a major advantage. Can’t boom the ball off the tee and you really have to work the ball around this course. It isn’t easy.
In fact, Harbour Town Golf Links is ranked second over the last 10 years on tour in hardest-to-hit-greens in regulation. The only event that ranks higher is the US Open.
Harbour Town was lengthened last year to a par-71, 7,101 yards. It is a tight track, lined by many trees which impose, particularly on some of the par 4s, and boasts 145 bunkers with water coming into play on nine holes.
What sets this course apart, though, are the greens. They are among the smallest in the world, which sets things up well for ball strikers. As is the case in most tournaments, players who can putt consistently stand a better chance. Good putters like Brandt Snedeker and Brian Gay have won here, while there are few better ball-strikers than Weekley – who has made eight cuts from nine starts this year, is ninth in greens in regulation and fourth in ball striking – and Love III.
The wind can also be a factor, as it was in the first round last year when noted wind player Chad Campbell tied for the first round lead at four-under. Parts of the course sit directly on the Calibogue Sound and are exposed to the variants of gusting wind.
Adam Scott is giving this tournament a miss, as have 11 of the past 12 former Masters winners who considered it a let-down event and the field will consist of 132 players unlike other events, which has the standard 156.
Weekley appears to be one of the horses for this course, with finishes of 6-12-13-46 to go with his two victories in 2007 and 2008. It isn’t so far-fetched to see him contending again, given he has two top 10 finishes already this season (Puerto Rico Open and Tampa Bay Championship).
Charles Howell III did not get an invitation to The Masters, so will feel he has a point to prove. He has made nine cuts from 10 starts this season with four top 10 finishes. His course form, however, is merely commendable: 9-MC-22-37-12-MC-19 but his good iron play should see him contend.
While Luke Donald isn’t playing consistently well, the former World No1 was T25 at Augusta last week, showing flashes of his best form. The course sets up well for him if the wind doesn’t become too much of a factor. With gusting winds last year on the Thursday, he shot a 75. But his previous visits have yielded the following finishes: 2-T3-T2.
But in the end, let’s weigh in with the following quartet to follow:
Brandt Snedeker @ 15.0
He won this tournament in 2011 and although he let down in 2008 after his final-round Masters disappointment (finishing T53), he has the game to overcome any heartbreak now. While Sunday’s disappointment will hurt, he remains in excellent form and is a contender every time he plays. In many people’s eyes, he is the true No1 in the world at present (although Eldrick would no doubt have something to say about that). It goes against the grain to tip him, as many pundits and most bookmakers feel he’ll suffer another emotional let-down. So it is the obvious time to buy him with a view to trading him when he contends.
Jim Furyk @ 19.0
Layers are taking no chances, as Furyk is accurate off the tee and has good course form. He’s won here before (2010), tied for eighth last year and has also been runner-up twice at Harbour Town. He’s made seven of eight cuts this year with two top-10 finishes, and while he has not won a tournament since 2010, he is due and will end that barren spell before too long.
K.J. Choi @ 64.0
The South Korean played well over the first two days at Augusta, posting rounds of 70 and 71. But a wayward weekend saw him shoot 77-75 to leave him T46. But he has made seven of 10 cuts and has two top-10 finishes this season, notably a recent 6th at the Valero Texas Open. He has not had much experience around here, which is a concern – his last visit yielded a T41 finish. But the old boy is playing well, so is worth a little investment.
Bryce Molder @130.0
The Georgia Tech Yellowjacket will be out to earn a plaid jacket – which is given to the winner of this event. Eight cuts made in nine tournaments this season does not mean he’s been playing well. In fact, his season has yet to really catch fire, with his best finish a T12 at Pebble Beach. But there were signs his game was starting to come together at the Texas Open, bookending his rounds with a pair of 68s for a T22 finish. Expect him to do better than his last three trips here which have yielded results of T22-MC-MC.
Open De Espana
Don’t forget, there is also betting on the Open De Espana (European Tour) this weekend, where Francesco Molinari is out to defend his title at the Parador De El Saler in Valencia.
Sergio Garcia is naturally the favourite, following his T8 at The Masters. He is always a force on his home turf and 6.8 at BETDAQ seems a fair price, providing the long trip from Augusta hasn’t taken the edge off him.
Others to consider at this windy, seaside course which plays similar to a links, are Matteo Manassero at 29.0 and Joost Luiten at 52.0. The Italian is a shot-maker who is best when he isn’t faced with long courses, while Luiten is another who generally plays well in windy conditions.
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