PGA Tour best bets: RBC Heritage

April 13, 2022 09:19 AM
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Scottie Scheffler made his first career start as the No. 1 player in the world last week at the Masters. He leaves Augusta National Golf Club with a Green Jacket (at a price of 16-1) and his fourth PGA Tour victory in less than two months. Scheffler is the first player to win the Masters in his first start as the OWGR No. 1 since Ian Woosnam in 1991. Despite a four-putt on the 72nd hole, Scheffler won by three strokes and was the class of the field all week.

Rory McIlroy made a charge on Sunday to finish runner-up by shooting a 64 (tying the lowest final round at Augusta National), the only bogey-free round of any player in the entire tournament. McIlroy hasn’t won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship, with the main culprit being poor starts. Since the 2015 Masters, he is now 35-over par in Round 1 and 68-under par in Rounds 2-4.

Cameron Smith looked like he was going to be the man to challenge Scheffler, cutting his lead to just one stroke after two holes in the final round. However, his chances took a swim in Rae's Creek at No. 12. The Australian finished third along with Shane Lowry. McIlroy and Lowry were tipped in this column last week.

Here are the final results for last week's Masters: 

1. Scottie Scheffler, -10

2. Rory McIlroy, -7

3. Shane Lowry, -5

3. Cameron Smith, -5

5. Collin Morikawa, -4

6. Will Zalatoris, -3

6. Corey Conners, -3

8. Justin Thomas, -1

8. Sungjae Im, -1

10. Cameron Champ, E

10. Charl Schwartzel, E

12. Dustin Johnson, + 1

12. Danny Willett, + 1

Five of the top 10 players in the world and seven of the top 10 at Augusta will make the trip southeast to South Carolina for the RBC Heritage. Two of those top-10 finishers — Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas — are priced as tournament co-favorites at 14-1, and both had top-10 finishes in last year's Heritage. Smith (16-1), the first-round leader here last year (-9/62) and ranked in the OWGR top five for the first time in his career, will attempt to put last week’s disappointing finish behind him. Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay, who has two top-three finishes here (2017 and 2019), are both priced at 20-1. 

Matt Fitzpatrick (22-1) calls Harbour Town, this week’s venue, his favorite course on the PGA Tour. He spent many family holidays here in his youth. Corey Conners (28-1) finished fourth here last year along with Fitzpatrick. Lowry (25-1) was third last week at Augusta and third here in 2019. Daniel Berger (30-1) and Tyrrell Hatton (40-1) were third here in 2020. Other notables who made the cut last week: Russell Henley (33-1), Webb Simpson (35-1, set the scoring record in his 2020 victory here), Sungjae Im (35-1, third last week) and Joaquin Niemann (35-1, fifth here in 2020). 

Defending champion Stewart Cink (125-1) won this event last year a month shy of his 48th birthday. While he missed the cut last week, he did ace the par-3 16th in the second round with son Reagan on the bag. 

The event

The RBC Heritage was established in 1969 as the Heritage Classic and the inaugural event was won by Arnold Palmer at 1-under par (283), which is still the highest score to ever win this event. Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island has hosted the event since its inception. Except for 2020 (due to COVID-19), the Heritage has been played the week after the Masters since 1983.

Ten players have won this tournament more than once:

5 wins

Davis Love III (1987, 1991, 1992, 1998, 2003)

3 wins

Hale Irwin (1971, 1973, 1994)

Stewart Cink (2000, 2004, 2021)

2 wins

Johnny Miller (1972, 1974)

Hubert Green (1976, 1978)

Tom Watson (1979, 1982)

Fuzzy Zoeller (1983, 1986)

Payne Stewart (1989, 1990)

Boo Weekley (2007, 2008)

Jim Furyk (2010, 2015)

Other notable winners include Jack Nicklaus (1975), Nick Faldo (1984), Bernhard Langer (1985), Greg Norman (1988) and Nick Price (1997). 

The course

​Harbour Town Golf Links was designed in 1967 by Pete Dye and assisted by Jack Nicklaus, which was Nicklaus’ first foray into course design. A par-71 of 7,191 yards, Harbour Town is a coastal links that is tree-lined with doglegs and narrow sight lines off of tees. The trees can disguise the wind. Some of the doglegs force players to hit less than driver off the tee. Harbour Town annually ranks as the course with the fewest drives over 300 yards and the shortest average driving distance at 268 yards (compared to the PGA Tour average of 284 yards). The fairways and rough are overseeded Ryegrass and the greens are overseeded Poa Trivialis. The average fairway width is around 29 yards, which is less than the tour average, so ball-striking has greater importance. The tiny, dome-shaped greens (a Dye trademark) are the second-smallest on the PGA Tour at an average of around 3,700 square feet. 

Some Dye courses on the PGA Tour (if you’re looking for course correlation):

— Austin Country Club (WGC-Match Play since 2016)

— Crooked Stick (2012 and 2016 BMW Championships)

— Kiawah Island Ocean Course (2012 and 2021 PGA Championships)

— TPC River Highlands (Travelers)

— TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic of New Orleans)

— TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship)

— TPC PGA West Stadium (American Express since 2016)

— Whistling Straits (2010 and 2015 PGA Championships)

Aside from the Dye designs (TPC River Highlands and TPC Sawgrass are especially correlated), other courses with strong correlations include Waialae, Sedgefield and Sea Island. 

​Recent history/winners​

2021: Stewart Cink (-19/265); 125-1

2020: Webb Simpson (-22/262); 30-1

2019: C.T. Pan (-12/272); 160-1

2018: Satoshi Kodaira (-12/272); 250-1*

2017: Wesley Bryan (-13/271); 80-1

2016: Branden Grace (-9/275); 40-1

2015: Jim Furyk (-18/266); 25-1**

2014: Matt Kuchar (-11/273); 18-1

2013: Graeme McDowell (-9/275); 40-1***

2012: Carl Pettersson (-14/270); 55-1

2011: Brandt Snedeker (-12/272); 35-1****

2010: Jim Furyk (-13/271); 14-1*****

Playoff win over Si Woo Kim*

Playoff win over Kevin Kisner**

Playoff win over Webb Simpson***

Playoff win over Luke Donald****

Playoff win over Brian Davis*****

Tournament angles and trends

Masters hangover

— From 2010-2021, only two players finished in the top five at the Masters and then followed that up with a top-five finish at the Heritage (Luke Donald, 2011, 4-2; Matt Kuchar, 2014, 5-1. 

— From 2010-2021, only four others had top-10 finishes at the Masters and the Heritage (Ricky Barnes, 2010, 10-5; Patrick Cantlay, 2019, 9-3; Corey Conners, 2021, 8-4; Cameron Smith, 2021, 10-9).

Here’s a look at where Heritage winners finished at the Masters the previous week since 2010: 

2021: Stewart Cink, 12th

2020: Was not played after the Masters

2019: C.T. Pan, DNP

2018: Satoshi Kodaira, 28th

2017: Wesley Bryan, DNP

2016: Branden Grace, MC

2015: Jim Furyk, MC

2014: Matt Kuchar, MC

2013: Graeme McDowell, MC

2012: Carl Pettersson, DNP

2011: Brandt Snedeker, DNP

2010: Jim Furyk, MC

Some other trends:

— For in-play bettors, seven of the last nine winners were two or more strokes off the lead after 54 holes. Five of those seven were at least four strokes off the lead entering the final round.

— The average age of the last 10 winners is 32, with six winning at 35-plus and none under the age of 27.

​Statistical analysis​

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)

With the second-smallest greens on tour and lagoons and coastal waterways edging up toward numerous holes, Strokes Gained: Approach and Proximity will be vital.

1. Russell Henley, 26.1

2. Luke Donald, 23.7

3. Justin Thomas, 21.8

4. Shane Lowry, 18.6

5. Patton Kizzire, 18.5

6. Cameron Smith, 18.3

7. Adam Hadwin, 17.7

8. Erik van Rooyen, 17.1

9. Tom Hoge, 16.5

10. Luke List, 15.7

11. Alex Noren, 15.4

12. Daniel Berger, 15.4

13. Lucas Glover, 14.7

14. Collin Morikawa, 14.1

15. Joaquin Niemann, 13

Proximity Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Adam Hadwin, 74.7 (feet gained per shot)

2. Sebastian Munoz, 66.6

3. Cameron Young, 65.2

4. Justin Thomas, 63.7

5. Shane Lowry, 62

6. Tyler Duncan, 59.9

7. Erik van Rooyen, 59.7

8. Collin Morikawa, 51.7

9. Aaron Wise, 50.9

10. Russell Henley, 50

11. J.J. Spaun, 46.5

12. Corey Conners, 46

13. Tom Hoge, 44.7

14. Lucas Glover, 43

15. Joaquin Niemann, 41

Proximity Gained: 175-200 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

Thirty percent of approach shots at Harbour Town range from 175-200 yards. 

1. Tom Hoge, 19.1 (feet gained per shot)

2. Nate Lashley, 17.9

3. Henrik Stenson, 13.9

4. Sahith Theegala, 13.7

5. Sebastian Munoz, 13.6

6. Luke List, 12.9

7. Shane Lowry, 12.7

8. Adam Hadwin, 12.1

9. Rickie Fowler, 11.2

10. Justin Thomas, 10.4

11. Erik van Rooyen, 10.3

12. Satoshi Kodaira, 9.3

13. Lucas Glover, 8.9

14. Harold Varner III, 8.8

15. Nick Taylor, 8

Strokes Gained: Par-4s 400-450 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

Six of the 12 par-4s measure 400-450 yards.

1. Brian Harman, 17.6

2. Sepp Straka, 16.3

3. Patton Kizzire, 16.2

4. Cameron Young, 15.4

5. Justin Thomas, 15.1

6. Mito Pereira, 12.7

7. Matt Fitzpatrick, 12.3

8. Sungjae Im, 12.1

9. Kevin Kisner, 12.1

10. Daniel Berger, 12

11. Nate Lashley, 11.8

12. Adam Long, 11.7

13. Kevin Streelman, 10.9

14. Corey Conners, 10.4

15. Collin Morikawa, 10.4

Good Drives Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

Harbour Town does not have penal rough. The last 12 winners have an average rank of just 35th in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee during their victories, so Good Drives Gained and Fairways Gained are better stats to model. 

1. Brian Stuard, 29.1

2. J.J. Spaun, 27.4

3. Corey Conners, 27

4. Brian Harman, 26.8

5. Matthew NeSmith, 22

6. Alex Smalley, 21.2

7. Tom Hoge, 21.1

8. Russell Knox, 20.6

9. Adam Hadwin, 20.1

10. Joel Dahmen, 18.4

11. Nate Lashley, 18

12. Billy Horschel, 17.4

13. Shane Lowry, 17

14. Sungjae Im, 16.5

15. Justin Thomas, 16.3

Fairways Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Brian Stuard, 43.3

2. Brendon Todd, 42.9

3. Chez Reavie, 40.4

4. Kevin Streelman, 37.3

5. Jim Furyk, 34.5

6. Adam Long, 32.3

7. J.J. Spaun, 31.4

8. Jim Herman, 29.1

9. Joel Dahmen, 29

10. Russell Knox, 25.7

11. Adam Hadwin, 25.2

12. Henrik Stenson, 25.1

13. Matthew NeSmith, 25

14. Tyler Duncan, 24.6

15. Emiliano Grillo, 24.4

Strokes Gained: Around The Green (Last 24 Rounds)

Four of the last six winners at the Heritage ranked 10th or better for Strokes Gained: Around The Green during their winning weeks.

1. Matt Kuchar, 14.4

2. Scott Stallings, 13.4

3. Chris Kirk, 13.3

4. Luke List, 13.2

5. Joaquin Niemann, 12.3

6. Daniel Berger, 11.8

7. William McGirt, 11.2

8. Danny Willett, 10.5

9. Kevin Streelman, 10.1

10. Charles Howell III, 9.6

11. Kevin Kisner, 9.5

12. Russell Henley, 9.4

13. C.T. Pan, 9.2

14. Harold Varner III, 9.1

15. Patrick Cantlay/Cameron Smith/Webb Simpson, 8.8

Strokes Gained: Short Game (Last 24 Rounds)

The last six winners ranked 25th or better for Strokes Gained: Putting during their winning weeks. One-putt percentage at Harbour Town is higher than the tour average (43.9% vs. 38.8%) and three-putt percentage is lower. Strokes Gained: Short Game measures SG: Putting and SG: Around The Green.

1. Cameron Smith, 35.3

2. Kevin Kisner, 32.2

3. Brian Gay, 32.2

4. Matt Kuchar, 30.3

5. Scott Stallings, 28.4

6. Tyrrell Hatton, 26.5

7. Billy Horschel, 23.4

8. Patrick Cantlay, 21.6

9. Beau Hossler, 21.5

10. Mackenzie Hughes, 20.6

11. Brendon Todd, 20.6

12. Sepp Straka, 20.2

13. Sungjae Im, 18.8

14. Russell Henley, 18.5

15. Martin Trainer, 17.8

Strokes Gained: Total on Courses <7,200 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

As one of the shorter courses on tour, Harbour Town brings all types of players into the fold.

1. Patrick Cantlay, 60.9

2. Daniel Berger, 50.9

3. Tom Hoge, 46.9

4. Justin Thomas, 46.9

5. Dustin Johnson, 46.1

6. Corey Conners, 39.2

7. Denny McCarthy, 38.8

8. Mackenzie Hughes, 37.7

9. Russell Henley, 36.2

10. Webb Simpson, 35.1

11. Cameron Smith, 34.6

12. Sungjae Im, 34.5

13. Cameron Davis, 32.5

14. Shane Lowry, 30.3

15. Kevin Na, 30.2

Strokes Gained: Pete Dye Courses (Last 24 Rounds)

Finally, while not all Pete Dye designs are the same, there are enough correlations, particularly with Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass and TPC River Highlands.

1. Shane Lowry, 40.3

2. Brian Harman, 39.8

3. Webb Simpson, 39.7

4. Corey Conners, 38.7

5. Dustin Johnson, 37.2

6. Tommy Fleetwood, 36.3

7. Matt Fitzpatrick, 33.9

8. Sungjae Im, 33.4

9. Cameron Smith, 33.3

10. Daniel Berger, 33

11. Si Woo Kim, 32.2

12. Patrick Cantlay, 31.7

13. Justin Thomas, 29.5

14. Joaquin Niemann, 27.8

15. Charley Hoffman, 27.1

Selections​

Shane Lowry (22-1 BetMGM)

Ordinarily, I would swerve away from contenders at the Masters, but Lowry's form has been the most consistent of those contenders playing this week. Lowry made a couple of big mistakes last week, including a shocking triple bogey at the par-3 fourth on Sunday. He bounced back with six birdies over his final 14 holes to post an under-par round. He finished third at the Masters and runner-up at the Honda Classic just six weeks earlier. Mix in four other finishes of 14th or better in 2022 and you have a player who is playing his best golf in three years. The Irishman was third here in 2019 and ninth in 2021. He missed the cut in 2020 in the first tournament out of the COVID-19 showdown. 

Kevin Kisner (50-1 BetMGM)

In his last two starts on Pete Dye tracks, Kisner finished fourth at The Players and runner-up to Scottie Scheffler at the WGC-Match Play. Kisner also won at correlating Sedgefield in August. He has gone well here before, finishing second in 2015, 11th in 2017 and seventh in 2018. Despite only one career win on a Dye design, Kisner is somewhat of a Dye specialist with finishes of second (2015) at TPC Sawgrass; second (2018) and first (2019) at Austin Country Club; second (2017), 15th (2018), and fifth (2019) at TPC Louisiana; and fifth (2015) at TPC River Highlands.

Tyrrell Hatton (52-1 Circa Sports)

Hatton made the cut at the Masters but finished last out of the 52 who played the weekend. The sometimes hot-tempered Englishman was relatively demonstrative in his frustration at Augusta.  “I’m glad it’s over,” Hatton said. “I think that’s a pretty good way to sum it up. Obviously, disappointed, but I just never do well here. This course doesn’t really suit my eye, to be honest.” The OWGR No. 17 has seen his price drift up based on his poor play at Augusta, but he isn’t all that far from good form. He was ninth at the Match Play, 21st at the Valspar, 13th at The Players and second at the Arnold Palmer, plus top-six finishes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to begin the year. Hatton leads the PGA Tour for Strokes Gained: Putting but putted miserably last week at Augusta. There should be some positive regression this week on a course where he finished third two years ago. 

Si Woo Kim (55-1 DraftKings)

Like Kisner, Kim is also a Pete Dye specialist. Two of his three PGA Tour wins are on Dye courses (TPC Sawgrass and PGA West Stadium Course), and his other win came at correlated Sedgefield (Carl Pettersson, Webb Simpson, Davis Love III and Brandt Snedeker all won on both courses). Kim is 10-for-10 making cuts in 2022 (with a WD at The Players). He has excelled off the tee (22nd on tour), but every area is in good shape (gaining strokes on approach in six of his last eight starts, around the greens in seven of 10 and with the putter in five of eight). He was the runner-up here in 2018, losing in a playoff to Satoshi Kodaira. 

Adam Hadwin (65-1 Boyd Sports)

Hadwin has terrific lead-in form this week. He finished ninth at The Players, followed that up with a seventh at the Valspar and then followed that with a fourth at the Texas Open in his last start. The Canadian was eighth for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green at the Valspar and fourth at the Texas Open. Hadwin ranks first in this field for Proximity Gained and seventh for Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 24 rounds. 

Matt Kuchar (70-1 Circa Sports)

In his last chance to make the Masters field, Kuchar finished second at the Texas Open two weeks ago. However, he needed to win to earn an invitation to Augusta and missed the Masters for the first time in 13 years. That’s motivation enough for Kuchar to go well at a place where he has had previous success. Kuchar won the 2014 Heritage and was runner-up in 2019, plus he has five top 10s and 11 top 25s. He is 17-for-17 making cuts. Plus, his correlating form is as good as anyone’s.

Brian Harman (100-1 DraftKings)

Harman missed the cut on the number at the Masters on a course that has never really suited him. A shorter hitter off the tee, he has a couple of top 10s here on a course that suits his game much better. While it is difficult to refer to him as a Pete Dye specialist, considering neither of his PGA Tour wins are on Dye designs, Harman has some terrific form over the last couple of years on Dye layouts. He was third earlier this year at the American Express. He also had three top fives on Dye courses last year (Travelers Championship, WGC-Match Play, The Players). Add a 13th here last year and you have a player that should go well at a big number. 

Matthew NeSmith (130-1 Circa Sports)

In what is now an annual rite of passage, Matthew NeSmith must be tipped at Harbour Town. A South Carolina graduate and resident of Aiken (a couple of hours from Hilton Head), NeSmith made some headlines by proposing to his wife Abigail on the 18th green here three years ago. He has made two cuts here but hasn’t contended. Nevertheless, he is a terrific ball-striker and profiles comparatively well to the recent long shots that have hit the board in three of the last four years.

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