We’re off to South Carolina this week for the traditional post-Augusta event – the RBC Heritage – so read The Punter’s in-depth preview ahead of Thursday’s start here…
The late great Arnold Palmer won the inaugural staging of the RBC Heritage back in 1969 so this will be the 54th edition of the tournament.
Last week’s winner, Scottie Scheffler, has understandably taken the week off but as many as 42 players that teed it up at Augusta are in the line-up so it’s a strong field, headed by the world number two, Collin Morikawa.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Par 71, 7,191 yards. Stroke Index in 2021 – 70.33
Assisted by Jack Nicklaus, Hilton Head was designed by Pete Dye, who also designed Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship, and it’s always been the event’s venue, so there’s plenty of course form to go on.
The fairways aren’t overly narrow but you do need to find the right spots on them to attack the tiny Bermuda greens that this week will run at around 12 on the Stimpmeter.
The course plays slightly longer this year as both the par five second and the par five fifth have been lengthened by 50 and 20 yards respectively.
It’s one of the players favourite stop-offs on the PGA Tour and it’s very easy on the eye.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:00 UK time on Thursday.
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2021 – Stewart Cink 120.0119/1
2020 – Webb Simpson 32.031/1
2019 – C.T Pan -12 460.0459/1
2018 – Satoshi Kodaira -12 500.0499/1
2017 – Wesley Bryan -13 200.0199/1
2016 – Branden Grace -9 44.043/1
What Will it Take to Win the RBC Heritage?
Last year’s winner, Stewart Cink, ranked third for Driving Distance but this is a strategical track and Driving Distance is usually an irrelevant stat. The best any of the previous ten winners had ranked for DD was 31st and the seven winners before Cink ranked 33rd, 55th, 65th, 51st, 37th, 75th and 56th!
Historically, Driving Accuracy has been of more importance than distance. When the 2018 winner, Satoshi Kodaira, ranked fourth for D.A he was the seventh winner in ten years to rank inside the top-ten but Cink only ranked 57th, the 2020 winner Simpson, ranked 33rd, the 2019 champ, C.T Pan, only ranked 55th and the two winners before Kodaira, Wesley Bryan and Branden Grace, ranked 55th and 57th. The rough is minimal and missed fairways aren’t a disaster.
Kodaira ranked seventh for Greens In Regulation four years ago and, as was the case with D.A, that was the seventh time in ten years that the winner had ranked inside the top-ten but again, it doesn’t appear to be an essential statistic.
Cink ranked number one last year, but Simpson only ranked 12th last year, the 2019 winner, C.T Pan, only ranked 37th and Wesley Bryan ranked 66th in 2017.
Putting used to be the go-to skillset, with six of the seven winners between 2006 and 2012 having a Putting Average ranking of sixth or better and it looks like being a key stat once again.
Cink had a Putting Average ranking of seventh and the two winners before him ranked third and second but strangely, the six winners between 2013 and 2018 ranked only 24th, 36th, 11th, 21st, 16th and 47th.
The 2019 and 2020 winners only ranked 27th and 16th for Scrambling but I’d still consider that the most important stat to ponder.
These greens are smaller than average and everyone is going to miss plenty of them so getting up-and-down to save par is crucial.
Last year’s front three ranked fourth, second and third and in 12 of the last 13 years, whoever has topped the Scrambling stats for the week has finished inside the top-ten. And six years ago, eight of the top ten scramblers finished tied ninth or better.
Looking at the Strokes Gained stats, the last five winners have ranked sixth, seventh, 11th, seventh and first for SGT2G.
Being a seaside links, Harbour Town is exposed and wind-affected so great wind exponents do well here although the very early forecasts suggest the wind won’t be too harsh this week.
Is There an Angle In?
It’s a bit more open than this track, but form at the Seaside Course, Sea Island, home of the RSM Classic, is well worth considering. It’s only round the corner so it makes sense that it should correlate nicely and it does.
The first three RSM Classic winners all had a top-six finish here on their CVs and although there have only been 12 editions of that event, there are plenty of examples of players playing well at both tournaments.
For example, the 2020 winner of this event, Simpson, was beaten in extra time at Sea Island in 2019 and 2011 and Kevin Kisner, who was beaten in a playoff at the RSM Classic in 2020 also won the event in 2015, just months after losing in a playoff here. It’s a very similar exposed, wind-affected, seaside course so it’s no surprise that form there stands up well here.
Other courses to consider are Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Hawaii, TPC Southwind, which used to host WGC FedEx St Jude, the Grand Reserve Country Club, home of the recent Puerto Rico Open, and Colonial Country Club, which hosts the Colonial National invitational, but arguably the best new correlating course is the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, home to the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
Although a terrible final round saw him finish tied for 48th, last year’s Corales winner, Joel Dahman, was sitting just one off the lead with a round to go here in 2020 and the 2018 edition of the Corales was won by the 2013 Heritage winner, Graeme McDowell.
And finally, although not a coastal course, and designed by Donald Ross and not Pete Dye, Sedgefield Country Club, host of the Wyndham Championship, also correlates superbly.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Dave Tindall spectacularly picked out last year’s winner, Cink, at a juicy price and one of the reasons he picked out the former winner was his record in tournaments that immediately followed an appearance in a major championship (see below tweet) but he appears to be the exception rather than the rule here.
In the debate on whether to back someone if they’ve done well at the Masters, there’s a player at the Heritage whose first 5 wins came the week after a major, including 2 here!
T12 at Augusta. His finishes in those majors before he won a week later: 13-28-17-17-14
Cink or swim?
? Dave Tindall (@DaveTindallgolf) April 13, 2021
The US Masters was shifted to November in 2020 and this event was staged in June but prior to 2020, with the exception of 2011 and ’12, this event has traditionally followed the year’s first major since 1983 so I’ve looked at how the winners here had fared at Augusta on every occasion that this event has followed the US Masters this century below.
2021 – Stewart Cink – 12th
2019 – C.T Pan – Didn’t play at the Masters
2018 – Satoshi Kodaira – 28th at Augusta
2017 – Wesley Bryan – Didn’t play at the Masters
2016 – Branden Grace – MC at Augusta
2015 – Jim Furyk – MC at Augusta
2014 – Matt Kuchar – 5th at Augusta
2013 – Graeme McDowell – MC at Augusta
2010 – Jim Furyk – MC at Augusta
2009 – Brian Gay – Didn’t play at the Masters
2008 – Boo Weekley – 20th at Augusta
2007 – Boo Weekley – Didn’t play at the Masters
2006 – Aaron Baddeley – Didn’t play at the Masters
2005 – Peter Lonard – MC at Augusta
2004 – Stewart Cink – 17th at Augusta
2003 – Davis Love – 15th at Augusta
2002 – Justin Leonard – 20th at Augusta
2001 – Jose Coceres – MC at Augusta
2000 – Stewart Cink – 28th at Augusta
Matt Kuchar’s fifth at Augusta eight years ago is the result that stands out and the next best is Cink’s 12th last year.
Every other winner here has either not played at Augusta, missed the cut at Augusta or finished no better than 15th. And it’s perhaps worth highlighting that all those that have performed well here after a top-20 finish in the US Masters had very strong and usually winning form here anyway.
A high finish last week could be construed as a bit of a negative.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Between 2016 and 2019, the four winners were aged either 27 or 28 and that was something of a change to the norm given prior to 2016, 12 of the previous 14 winners were in their 30s and that Jim Furyk was 44 when he won here in 2015. Cink was 47 last year so experience often counts for plenty at Harbour Town.
Harbour Town is a tricky track that doesn’t suit everyone and course form used to stand up really well. In its 53-year history, ten men have won the event more than once and Davis Love III has won it five times but we have seen a few first time shock winners of late too.
C.T Pan was the third consecutive big outsider to take the title in 2019 and he was the fourth winner in-a-row winning for the first time on the PGA Tour.
Winner’s Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2021 – Stewart Cink – led by five 1.51/2
2020 – Webb Simpson – tied for the lead with three others 5.85/1
2019 – C.T Pan – T5 – trailing by two 36.035/1
2018 – Satoshi Kodaira – T12 – trailing by six 440.0439/1
2017 – Wesley Bryan – T6 – trailing by four 30.029/1
2016 – Branden Grace – T5 – trailing by three 15.014/1
Although Cink won from the front last year, this isn’t an easy track to make the running. The third round leader in 2019, Dustin Johnson, having traded as short as 1.564/7 during round three, eventually finished tied for 28th and as you can see by the data above, this is a venue where many a winner comes from way off the pace.
Until 2020, we hadn’t seen a 54-hole leader convert since 2012 and the winner had come from outside the final pairing every time since. Pan was the seventh winner in-a-row to come from at least a couple of strokes adrift and although he was quite close to the lead compared to some winners, he was still unfancied and a 36.035/1 shot after three rounds. Since Carl Pettersson converted from the front in 2012, and Prior to Webb’s win in 2020, the winners had trailed by four, four, four, three, four, six and two strokes.
In addition to the seven results before 2020, Brandt Snedeker also beat Luke Donald in a playoff in 2011, having trailed by six after 54 holes, but Cink easily trumps them all. Back in 2004, when wiing the second of his three titles, he came from an incredible nine shots back to win, so if your picks start slowly, don’t give up on them and taking on the leaders with a round to go has been a profitable exercise in many a year.
The par five 15th is the last hole in the woods at Harbour Town and it’s a tricky finish after that. The par four 16th is a tough hole if the fairways missed and the exposed par three 17th trips up many a contender. The fairway is ridiculously generous on 18 but it’s a tough second shot, even from the fairway so great rounds can untangle at the end quite easily.
There’s just a couple of ticks separating Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith at the head of the market and they’re the only three trading at less than 20/1, demonstrating just how strong this week’s field is.
All three have a single top-ten finish at Hilton Head but all three contended last week, finishing eighth, fifth and third so I’m happy to swerve them and after a disappointing week at Augusta after a bright start, Patrick Cantlay, with course form figures reading 3-7-3-MC may prove to be a better bet at around 22.021/1 but I’m happy to scan a bit further down the list for my two picks…
Kevin Kisner is very well suited to this track; he’s playing very nicely at present and his 44th at Augusta was a fine effort given the course is just far too long for him.
Having recently finished fourth at the Players Championship and second in the WGC Matchplay he was impossible to ignore at 55.054/1.
Tyrrell Hatton was again upsetting plenty of people with his on-course behaviour as he once again failed to sparkle at Augusta – a course that on paper should suit him – but I’m more than happy to overlook that and back him at 65.064/1 here.
The Englishman has been in decent form in 2022, with form figures reading 6-4-28-2-13-21-9-52, and he was third here 2020.
Away from the main market, Billy Horschel is in fair form and he very often starts well here, finishing inside the top-seven in three of his last four visits and on four occasions in total. I’ve backed him in the 1st Round Leader market.
Kevin Kisner @ 55.054/1
Tyrrell Hatton @ 65.064/1
Billy Horschel – 1st Round Leader @ 55.054/1
I’ll b back later today or tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter