Course form is key at Harbour Town

April 12, 2022 10:38 PM
USATSI_18030887

The RBC Heritage in gorgeous Hilton Head, South Carolina, provides a soft landing after the mental and physical grind of the Masters. Less than 150 miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia, Pete Dye's Harbour Town Golf Links is a perfect follow-up to the season's first major. With its proximity and resort-style comfort, the tournament always attracts a solid field. This year is no different with Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith topping the odds board.

Augusta National and Harbour Town are distinctly different, though. Augusta is a behemoth located inland and Harbour Town is a coastal, short par-71. Driving accuracy is minimized at the Masters and paramount at the Heritage. Augusta’s greens are big, fast, undulating bent-grass surfaces, while Harbour Town’s Bermuda surfaces are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour.

One thing the two tournaments do have in common is the importance of course form. Players that have played well at the Masters tend to do so on a regular basis, and the same can be said about the Heritage. 

Stewart Cink won at Harbour Town for the third time last year at age 47. Davis Love won at Hilton Head five times. Patrick Cantlay finished 3-7-3 in his first three visits. Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson are former winners and often find themselves near the top of the leaderboard.

As for correlated courses, I looked at Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Honolulu. Waialae is a shorter, narrow, coastal layout like Harbour Town. Same goes for Sea Island, which hosts the RSM Classic. I also looked at Colonial Country Club. Finally, I looked at TPC Sawgrass, another Pete Dye design, where Cameron Smith won The Players Championship last month.

Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups I considered and those that I played for the RBC Heritage:

Considered (12-15 YTD)

— Brian Harman (-125) over Ian Poulter

— Russell Knox (-135) over Cameron Tringale

Played (10-13 YTD)

— Patrick Cantlay (-135) over Dustin Johnson. Johnson is rounding into form and coming off of a solid week at the Masters, where Cantlay was somewhat of a disappointment. DJ has never finished higher than 13th at Harbour Town, and with his sights so firmly set on Augusta, I think he’ll relax a bit this week. Cantlay, with strong course form, will be motivated to bounce back and return to the form we saw on the West Coast swing.

— Billy Horschel (-135) over Jordan Spieth. Spieth has been in poor form since finishing second at Pebble Beach in February. Meanwhile, Horschel has three top-10 finishes in his last six starts. Horschel finished 25th at Harbour Town last year and was fifth a few years back. Spieth’s last two trips to Hilton Head saw him finish 54th and and 68th.

— Kevin Na (-110) over Kevin Kisner. Both players have good history at Hilton Head, but Kisner has missed his last two cuts here and Na has two top-10 finishes in his last five appearances. Both play well at correlated courses, but I like Na’s excellent showing at the Masters, finishing 14th on a course that’s not well-suited for his game while Kisner finished 44th. There’s a reason this matchup is a pick’em, but I think Na should be a -120 favorite, so I’ll take what I see as value.

For every play from Matt Youmans, Wes Reynolds and myself — and this week’s special guest, Stephen Hennessey of Golf Digest — check out “LongShots” at VSiN.com/podcasts

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