Hideki Matsuyama ended a four-year winless drought by capturing his first major championship last weekend at the Masters. Matsuyama (40-1) fired a 30 on the back nine after a two-hour rain delay Saturday to seize control. While he had some wobbles along the way, he won his first green jacket by one stroke over Will Zalatoris. Being the face of Japanese golf can impose a great deal of pressure, and it certainly has for Matsuyama, once ranked No. 2 in the world. But now he has his elusive major championship, a first for a Japanese male, and has the potential for more at just 29. He is not in this week’s field at the RBC Heritage, but five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are. That includes favorite and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (10-1), who returns to his home state smarting after missing the cut at Augusta. Last year’s RBC Heritage victor, Webb Simpson (12-1), returns to defend his title off a top-12 Masters finish. Patrick Cantlay (16-1) missed last year’s event but went 3-7-3 from 2017-19 and is looking to rebound from a missed cut last week. Collin Morikawa (20-1), Daniel Berger (22-1), Tyrrell Hatton (25-1) and Cameron Smith (25-1), who posted his third Masters top-10 in four appearances, follow in the market. They’re just ahead of Paul Casey (28-1), Matthew Fitzpatrick (30-1), last year’s runner-up Abraham Ancer (30-1) and Zalatoris (30-1). Hatton and Berger tied for third here last year.
The RBC Heritage was established in 1969 as the Heritage Classic. The inaugural event was won by Arnold Palmer at just 1-under 283, still the highest score to win this tournament. Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island has been the host since its inception. The tournament returns to its customary mid-April dates following the Masters after being rescheduled to June last year due to COVID-19. It is an invitational that hosts just 132 players, with half of the Masters field participating.
Harbour Town Golf Links was designed in 1967 by Pete Dye, assisted by Jack Nicklaus in the Golden Bear’s first foray into course design. Harbour Town plays as a par-71 of 7,099 yards. It is a tree-lined coastal links with doglegs and narrow sight lines off the tee, as you will find with most courses in the Carolinas. The trees can also disguise the wind. Harbour Town annually ranks as the course with the fewest drives over 300 yards and shortest average driving distance on tour at just 267 yards, compared with the average of 284. The fairways and rough are Celebration Bermudagrass, and the greens are TifEagle Bermudagrass. This event will likely have the usual overseeding of perennial rye for fairways and rough and Poa Trivialis for the greens. The average fairway width is about 29 yards, less than the tour average, so ball striking is of great importance. The tiny, dome-shaped greens are a Dye trademark. They average about 3,700 square feet and are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour.