In the shadow of Tiger Wood’s historic victory last week at The Masters, sits the RBC Heritage, taking place at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina, less than 150 miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia. Nearly 40 players who competed at Augusta National last week, will make the short trip and tee it up again this week in the 51st edition of the RBC Heritage, but they will find a very different test of golf.
Harbour Town is a Pete Dye design and oddly enough, it is almost a polar opposite of Augusta National Golf Club. Players will take on a windswept, seaside, Par 71 golf course this week that is less than 7,100 yards in length as opposed to Augusta’s massive 7,500-yard Par 72 that sits inland, roughly a three-hour drive from the coast. Driving Distance is very important at The Masters while at The Heritage, seven of the last 10 winners have ranked inside the Top 10 for the week in Driving Accuracy. Augusta National features large, undulated, Bent grass greens while Harbour Town owns Bermuda grass putting surfaces and some of the smallest greens on Tour. A key factor to success is dismantling the Par 5’s at Augusta National, where Tiger went 8-under par on his way to a 13-under par victory. At Harbour Town, going low on the Par 4’s is a big indicator of success.
There are two areas, however, where the two courses find similarities, and that is course form and Scrambling. We spoke last week on “Long Shots” (airing Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on VSiN) and wrote about in this column, how The Masters has the highest repeatability rate of any tournament all year. The RBC Heritage is no different. Players that do well here, typically continue to do so year after year. Davis Love III won at Hilton Head five times. Luke Donald has finished runner-up five times. Jim Furyk has won here twice and finished runner-up twice. Stewart Cink and Boo Weekley are also recent two time champions while Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, and Payne Stewart are all multi-time winners at Harbour Town from the past.
As far as golf course correlation, we can look to another Pete Dye design in TPC Sawgrass, home to The Players Championship. One will see a great deal of crossover success between the two courses, most notably, Davis Love, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, and Webb Simpson. Finally, it looks as if weather will be a very important factor this week and needs to be weighed heavily into the handicap. Thursday looks fine but Friday morning is expected to be very windy with wind continuing and thundershowers developing on Friday afternoon. Which side of the Thursday-Friday draw a player is on, could be a big swing.
FULL TOURNAMENT HEAD TO HEAD MATCH UP
Kevin Kisner (-105) over Jordan Spieth
For players that finished high up on the leaderboard at The Masters, I would not necessarily recommend playing on them this week. The grind and the stress of being in contention at Augusta will likely take something out of those players this week. Kisner proved, however, that his excellent form remains intact by finishing 21st on a course that is too long for his game. He just won the WGC Match Play on another Pete Dye course in Austin Country Club. He has an excellent track record here at Hilton Head and at The Players, unlike Spieth. Even at a course where Spieth has experienced monumental success, he struggled to find any consistency last week at Augusta. Finally, Kisner has the Late-Early draw this week and Spieth gets the Early-Late start. Keep an eye on the weather but as of now, I feel like a late start on Thursday and an early start on Friday has the advantage.
FOUR GOOD SHOTS TO WIN THE RBC HERITAGE
Kevin Kisner (25-1)
Not only do I expect Kisner to prevail over Spieth but let’s go ahead and take him against the entire field as well. I mentioned his prowess for Pete Dye designs, his course history here, and also his current form. In addition, he ranks 22nd on Tour in Driving Accuracy, 69th in Scrambling, and 31st in Par 4 Scoring. Late-Early draw.
Jim Furyk (30-1)
Furyk did not play The Masters last week and for this week, I believe that is a good thing. Like Kisner, Furyk too is another player who has great history here, at TPC Sawgrass, and is also in excellent form. He is No. 1 on Tour in Driving Accuracy, 6th in Scrambling, 12th in Greens in Regulation, and 7th in Par 4 Scoring. Early-Late draw.
Jason Kokrak (40-1)
After three straight Top 20 finishes, including a Top 10, Kokrak has missed the cut here at Harbour Town the last two years but he may currently be playing the best golf of his career. He finished 2nd at The Valspar four weeks ago, 7th in Texas two weeks ago, and has made the cut at The Players now in two straight trips. He’s 4th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, 29th in Greens in Regulation, and 7th in Par 4 Scoring. Late-Early draw.
Ryan Moore (50-1)
Moore has also been playing very well as of late with a 20th at The Players Championship and a 3rd two weeks ago at the Valero Texas Open. He is 7th on Tour in Driving Accuracy and 22nd in Strokes Gained: Approach. He put together three rounds in the 60’s here last year before shooting 72 on Sunday and falling back into a tie for 16th. Early-Late draw.