RBC HERITAGE: Traditionally a week to decompress after the Augusta National pressure cooker, the RBC Heritage begins a new life this week as one of the PGA Tour’s eight Designated Events, complete with a $20 million purse and elevated FedEx Cup points. That means just about everybody is here… everybody but world No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who decided to stay home and lick his wounds after his Masters flameout, fines be damned.

While Rory would’ve been a great addition to the field, I’d have to think the good folks of Hilton Head Island are pretty excited to see the likes of Rahm, Scheffler, Cantlay, Thomas, and Morikawa battle it out over the next four days, especially because this tournament is usually comprised of the PGA Tour’s B-team, with a couple of stars making a post-Masters cameo. Well, those days are over.

The Pete Dye-designed Harbour Town Golf Links has played host to this event since its inception in 1969 and has changed very little over the years, with its narrow fairways, overhanging trees, and tiny greens providing ample challenge for the best players in the world despite its relatively modest length– in an era of 7,800-yard courses, Harbour Town tips out at just 7,191 yards. To succeed this week players will need to be accurate off the tee and precise with the irons, and since the greens are usually quite firm and difficult to hold, a deft short game touch will come in handy, too. Scoring is typically a challenge, as only twice in the past 7 years has the winning score here been lower than Jordan Spieth’s 13-under 271, which was good enough to get the job done last year. Harbour Town is the rare gem that can test a player’s entire bag despite not requiring length off the tee.

The stars are out this week and three players have separated themselves atop BETDAQ’s Win Market– Scottie Scheffler (10.5), Jon Rahm (13.5), and Patrick Cantlay (14.0). Of those three, only Cantlay has experienced significant success at Harbour Town, finding the podium three times in the past six years. Rahm’s lone appearance here resulted in a T33 in 2020, while this will be Scheffler’s first time seeing the course in competition. As we said, it’s a new era for this tournament. Everybody will get to experience Harbour Town.

Here’s what I’m thinking this week:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Patrick Cantlay (14.0)- Cantlay had a rough Sunday at Augusta, shooting a 3-over 75 and falling off the first page of the leaderboard. He still finished T14, his fifth consecutive top-20 finish of 2023, and his ball-striking has been absolutely brilliant this season, as he currently ranks 2nd on Tour in total driving and 4th in GIR percentage, a deadly combination that should serve him quite well at a thinking man’s course like Harbour Town. This course, and by extension this tournament, seems to be perfectly tailored for Cantlay’s game, and he’s contended nearly every time he’s teed it up here, with 3rd-place finishes in 2017 and 2019, a T7 in 2018, and a runner-up last year. It’s only a matter of time before he dons that tartan plaid jacket (yes… the winner here gets the ugliest jacket you’ve ever seen), and given the way he’s been striking it lately the price here seems pretty fair to me.

Sam Burns (48.0)- Though he was hoping to contend, I’m sure leaving Augusta National with two straight birdies to finish his tournament and sneak into the top-30 left a good taste in Burns’s mouth, and now he can get back to what he was doing before: dominating the PGA Tour’s regular schedule. In his last 10 starts prior to the Masters, Burns registered six top-15 finishes, including a victory at the WGC Match Play three weeks ago. He’s become one of the best young players in the world, and he’s particularly dangerous on the Bermuda-covered courses of the Southeast… courses like Harbour Town. He’s played this tournament three times, making the cut twice and finishing T9 in 2019, and I have a strong feeling that he’s going to have a new “career best” finish here after this week. At nearly 50/1, Burns might be the best value on the board.

Chris Kirk (110.0)- Kirk has been on somewhat of a tear lately, racking up four top-10s in 2023, including a victory at the Honda Classic. He hasn’t been taking much time off and it’s served him well, as he finished 10th in San Antonio two weeks ago and played solid golf at Augusta National, finishing the week in a tie for 23rd. That means he comes into this week with some momentum and confidence, and he has plenty of good memories at Harbour Town to draw from after finding the top-30 here four times in the past decade, including a T7 in 2021. Kirk has a lot going for him this week: current form, course history, the fresh taste of victory, and, most importantly for our purposes, a very attractive price.

THE STRIKER Sat: Premier League Preview
DAQMAN Thurs: Newmarket NAP
DAQSTATS Thurs: Newmarket NAP
2023 Ryder Cup preview
THE ULTRA Thurs: Serie A and La Liga Preview
THE ULTRA Fri: Bundesliga and La Liga Preview
PAT HEALY: Recapping a brilliant week in Listowel
WEEK AHEAD: It’s Ryder Cup week!
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