Branden Grace is flashing form at the right moment as he returns to Hilton Head Island to defend his RBC Heritage title.
He’ll need to be on your radar this week!
49th RBC Heritage
Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Harbour Town Golf Links
Yards: 7,099 per the official scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: TifEagle Bermuda; 3,700 square feet on average
Rough: Bermuda and Rye; 1.25″
Course Architect(s): Pete Dye (1969) with player-consultant Jack Nicklaus; Pete Dye (2011).
Purse: $6.5 million ($1.17 winner; 500 FedExCup points)
Defending Champion: Branden Grace won his first Tour event by two shots over Russell Knox and Luke Donald.
- 132 players; stroke play; top 70 and ties play the weekend
- Field is set as there is no open qualifier
Frys.com: Brendan Steele
CIMB: Justin Thomas
WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama
Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**
Shriners: Rod Pampling
OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez
RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**
SBS TOC: Justin Thomas
Sony Open: Justin Thomas
CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*
Farmers: Jon Rahm*
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama
AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth
Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson
Honda: Rickie Fowler
WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson
Valspar: Adam Hadwin*
Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman
WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson
Shell Houston Open: Russell Henley
Masters: Sergio Garcia
**First-time winner AND rookie winner
Short and sweet, Harbour Town Golf Links (HTGL) will be the host for the 49th time. Playing just under 7,100 yards at par-71, the field will have to worry about wind, small greens and Pete Dye if they’re going to win this week.
At only 7,100 yards, Dye will require players to keep their wits and their drivers mainly in the bag this week. With greens just averaging 3,700 square feet on average, you better hit ’em or have a fantastic short game. The new TifEagle Bermuda installed before last season’s event should be more receptive this year after taking a year to settle.
Last fall Hurricane Matthew blew through Calibogue Sound and trashed out plenty of trees on the course. They have replanted most but it’s impossible to replace some of the huge trees that they lost. The course otherwise is in perfect shape for golf.
Weather is always an issue on the water and last year wasn’t the exception. The breeze blew each day and gusts were topping out around 30 mph most days. Links players who are familiar with these conditions should be right at home. With a shorter track as well, the non-bomber will find his advantage navigating dog legs and finding fairways.
Taking a look a the past champs reinforces that precision and not always power seems to work here.
2016: Branden Grace; 275
2015: Jim Furyk; 266*
2014: Matt Kuchar; 273
2013: Graeme McDowell; 275*
2012: Carl Pettersson; 270
2011: Brandt Snedeker; 272*
2010: Jim Furyk; 271*
2009: Brian Gay; 264
2008: Boo Weekley; 269
2007: Boo Weekley; 270
2006: Aaron Baddeley; 269
# not playing this week
Persons of Interest:
The list above includes some of the best and worst putters on Tour over recent years. Grace finished second in SGTTG and was T-10 SGP.
I’m not telling the pro gamers anything here but your radar should also include guys who played last week at Augusta. Please note that ONLY six players since 1983 did NOT play at the Masters the previous week. Cream, whether it’s tired or not, finds a way to rise to the top, eh?
The wind blew last year and there were only nine, bogey-free rounds for the week.
2016: 8th most difficult; +1.285 over par
It’s one of the favorite stops on the season because guys have to use every club in the bag, the space between their ears and won’t get shoved out of the way by the bomb-and-gouge club.
Experience will also be a factor here as well. Knowing where to miss tiny greens will be a benefit as will knowing which risk-reward holes are which. Dye never makes your eyes comfortable and if he does, you should probably look again.
Absolutely gorgeous with sunshine every day this week minus Wednesday.
The wind will be the standard 10-15 MPH but there are no reports, as of now, of any gusts throughout the four days.
The course will enjoy prevailing winds on the weekend so that should help with scoring.
Facts and Figures:
- Tournament record: 264; (Gay, 2009).
- Course Record: 61; Troy Merritt, 2015.
- Defending champs: None since Weekley (2007-08).
- Multiple Winners in the field: Love (five times), Cink, Weekley and Furyk.
- Maiden PGA Tour Win: Weekley (2007).
- First Time at Event: Weekley (2007).
- Bogey-free rounds: Only nine last year including four on Sunday.
- Low round of 2016: 65; Russell Knox (Friday) and John Senden (Sunday).
- Americans Winners: 11 since 2000.
- International Winners: Grace, McDowell, Pettersson and Baddeley since 2006.
- Rookie Studs 2016: Bryson Dechambeau (T-4) and Patton Kizzire (T-14). That’s it.
in order of preference for this week and this tournament
Matt Kuchar: An excellent week at Augusta was capped off in classic Koooooooooch fashion with a back-door top 10 that included an inward 31 on Sunday with a hole-in-one. He has no problem working it off the tee and his short game is in fine form. He only made one bogey on the back nine last week. Uno. He’s 28-under-par the last three years at HTGL with a win, fifth and T-9.
Russell Henley: The winner two weeks ago at SHO backed up that effort with a tasty T-11 at Augusta. When this man gets hot, he can get REAL HAWT. Living up the coast on Kiawah Island should have him used to plenty of breeze but that should just fan the flames coming out of his bag. He sits ninth SGT because of his solid ball-striking and fantastic putting. His T-6 in his first visit is his best of four trips and he was T-23 last year.
Branden Grace: The defending champ has been a quick learner on this Dye track. He’s 21-under-par in eight loops with seven of those checking in at 70 or lower. Hell, six of those seven rounds are in the 60’s so he’s figured it out. He made the cut on the number last week and finished T-27 after just three weekend bogeys (nothing worse).
Charley Hoffman: He went close in 2013 as he opened 66-70-66 before being blown away in the breeze with 77 on Sunday. He sat one back here last year after 54 before 75 on Sunday knocked him back to T-14. He’s posted just three rounds above par before Sunday in five years of not missing the cut. He knocked a few times in San Antonio before kicking in the door last year. He fought for 63 holes at Augusta last week at or near the top of the leader board. Hmmmmmmmmm….
Martin Kaymer: The first-timer at HTGL shouldn’t be bothered much if a fade is a preferred shot around here. If Grace could stick four rounds at 70 or better in his first trip, I’ll lean on the two-time major champ to produce similar results. I don’t hate the fact that his last MC anywhere in the world was March 2016 at Valspar. I’m also not bothered that seven of his last eight weekends worldwide have gone for T-23 or better. The German has good Pete Dye history as he won the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits and the 2014 PLAYERS.
Kevin Kisner: Nobody that hails from South Carolina has won this event in the 48 previous tries. Kisner came close in 2015 when he was beaten in a playoff by Furyk and he should come close again this week. He loves Bermuda, that’s no secret, but it’s his full bag that has my attention this week. He hits tons of fairways and is excellent around and on the greens. He won’t mind the shorter track and was T-10 earlier this year at Pebble Beach. He sits seventh in SGT, 10th TTG and 25th ATG. #Balance.
Bill Haas: Since his T-14 best here last year he’s MC three times in his last 23 events worldwide. His solo third at WGC-Match Play also came on a Dye design at Austin Country Club. He used to be an AUTOMATIC fade here his best finish in eight starts was T-24. Strangely he also MC three times in that stretch. His last eight rounds here include five in red numbers and nothing worse than 72.
Pat Perez: He’s healthy, full of confidence and playing great. There have been zero after effects of his surgery and his play has reflected that decision was a great one. Of his 10 starts in 2017, seven have been T-28 or better and that includes a pair of top 10’s. His last four trips to HTGL he’s 20-under with 13 of 16 rounds par or better. Don’t take off the saddle! #GiddyUp.
William McGirt: The Boiling Springs resident looks to be thawing after winning his group at WGC-Match Play and giving it a right go at his first Masters. His double Sunday at ANGC on No. 16 and bogey on the final hole moved him from T-11 to T-22 so don’t get distracted by the final place on the leader board. He’s going to paint most fairways (6th in fairways) and find GIR (31st). He’s bagged T-9 twice in his last three trips with T-31 sandwiched in the middle.
Marc Leishman: The winner at API also advanced out of his group at WGC-Match Play on his way to making the cut at ANGC. He sat T-19 entering the weekend before 78 on Saturday snuffed out his third excellent start in a row. He closed with 71 that included five birdies and an eagle so it’s not like he’s lost his swing! He sits 10th SGT, 14th in scoring and third SGP. #Solid.
Matthew Fitzpatrick: He’ll dig the crooked-ness off the tee as he’s an excellent driver. He will also rely on his extra stout short game and putting. Not having to chase the bomb-and-gouge crowd should free him up a bit. He remarked on Twitter that this was his favorite week of the year. This set up suggests it might be.
Adam Hadwin: I read all weekend that he was struggling with his swing at Augusta. A bit of major pressure and uneven lies can and will do that. On Sunday he found 70 so it’s not all bad! Neither is his form that carries into this week as he’s won, finished sixth and T-36 in his last three Tour stops. There’s probably a reason he’s in the top 30 in too many categories to list based on those finishes. He closed here with 67 last year to finish T-30.
Russell Knox: I’d rather have Jeff Knox’s current form but there’s no questioning that what this Knox does well translates at HTGL. He’s 12-under in his six weekend rounds here and that has translated into T-9, T-18 and T-2 finishes. He’s also thrown up a 64 and 65 in his only three attempts. There’s no mystery to his game: every fairway and every green and hope a few putts go in. Based on his current form he can’t be in this part of the column but his course strength is off the charts.
Jim Furyk: Just copy and paste Knox and Bob’s yer uncle except he has four top 10’s in his last six trips including two victories. Now, about that current form or lack thereof…
Luke Donald: He was brewing with signs of life (T-23, T-17 and T-27) before MC at Valspar and T-69 at SHO. If there is one place that he’s going to fire this year, this might be the place. He’s 33-under the last four years with finishes of T-3, second, T-15 and T-2. Pro gamers will remind me his numbers are similar to that at Honda (T-27) and Valspar (MC) and those results didn’t follow. I’ll lean on the guy with the numbers on a Dye course over the up-and-comer without the experience or pedigree.
no particular order
Tyrell Hatton: I know the old mantra after the Masters is forget it if it stunk and embrace it if it was bad. I’ve read too many quotes from Hatton and his disdain for Bermuda to think he can just block that out again this week. I do like that he usually flushes it tee-to-green and will be happy to be back on the links where he’s had plenty of success in Europe.
Jason Dufner: He’s played every year save one since 2009 and has taken home a check annually. He’s able to work it both ways off the tee and from the fairway and that’s what plays here. He was lingering at Augusta last week before a final round 76 faded him out. His T-33 last week was his worst stroke play finish of 2017 so something is stewing there.
Francesco Molinari: Tee it up. Smash it down the middle. Hit the middle of the green. Repeat. I like that formula and I like it more on a navigator’s crack that’s not 7,500 yards.
Lucas Glover: He racked up big finishes on the Florida Swing (T-21, T-18 and T-7) and then laid a massive egg in Houston just when those who were late to the party tried to get down. Don’t game angry my friends! His ball-striking numbers are off the charts.
Kevin Na: He’s posted three top 10’s in his last four starts stretching back to 2011. In true Na fashion, the other was MC. There’s enough here to warrant hope as he’s had success on other Dye courses including T-9 at WGC-Match Play.
Kyle Stanley: Went to Clemson, plays out of Berkeley Hall and is trending in the right direction. Of his 12 events in the new season he’s posted seven at T-27 or better and his last three are T-27, T-18 and T-8. I’d point out that he’s never posted a round in the 60’s here in five events but that would kill the buzz.
Jason Kokrak: He sat one shot off the lead here last year heading into Sunday before he drifted to T-6, his best finish in five starts. He added this to T-18 in 2015 and T-12 in 2014. He’s worked it around a winding Riviera for T-2 in the past and has had success at Valspar, another ball-strikers circuit. He should be higher up the list.
Wes Bryan: South Carolina native cooled off after three top 10’s in a row but he still found the weekend at API and PRO. He’s a fantastic putter and should have played here once or twice over the years so this won’t be as “new” as some of the other places he’s seeing this year.
Stewart Cink: I’m not sure where he finds his strength but it’s a weekly occurrence. He’ll have wonderful memories around this joint, although not recently, and I hope he’s hidden well enough down here.
Graeme McDowell: The 2013 champ has been on excellent form in 2017 minus a MC last time at PRO. His links record is beyond strong and he should be licking his chops again this week with a layout that is barely 7,100 yards.
Shane Lowry: His last top finish was T-14 at Pebble Beach. He was also T-18 at the Alfred Dunhill Links last fall.
Luke List: Sure he can pummel it off the tee but he knocked it around to finish T-13 at RSM and Sony as well. He’s rattled off five in a row on Tour and his last time out saw him claim T-3 at SHO. He posted a pair of 68’s last year but a Saturday 78 saw them only result in T-39.
Scott Brown: Club mates with Kisner at Palmetto Dunes, this is his part of the world and on his preferred surface as well. He’s never MC in his four trips the last four seasons and finished T-5 in 2014.
Off the Beaten Path
Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings, general mish-mash.
Rafael Campos: Proved the doubters wrong with another top 10 in Houston. He’ll get another chance to keep his streak going (he has no status) on Tour. He shouldn’t be a surprise any more.
Bryson Dechambeau: T-27, T-2 and T-44 in his last three plus T-4 in his Tour debut last year. What could possibly go wrong?
Jim Herman: I like the Valspar comparison even though it’s a bit longer and he was T-3 there. His strength is tee-to-green and he isn’t the longest off the tee anyhow.
Patrick Cantlay: He’ll be in here until he plays his way out. He’s played three times for T-48, second and T-39 this season.
Michael Kim: The second year player is probably confused for Si Woo or Whee but his results have been better. Pro’s know that he has seven top 30 finishes this season.
D.A. Points: He’s won at Pebble and most recently at PRO so he’ll have no problem with the breeze. He also won’t have any problem with his confidence after backing his win with T-23 at SHO, another place he’s won.
Brian Stuard: T-5 in 2014 is his best in four tries but five of his last eight here are in red figures. He’s quietly played nine of 11 weekends since the calendar rolled over. I don’t think his confidence took a hit making the cut last week at Augusta!
Zac Blair: He’s played both weekends he’s entered and both were the last two years. Of his eight rounds played six are par or better and he’s not the longest of hitters.
Robert Garrigus: He broke his streak of seven in a row with a MC last year. He’ll jump back on the horse after his T-20 last time out at SHO as he’s a GIR machine.
Billy Horschel: He’s never missed in four tries but his best of the bunch was four years ago. He’s wonderfully up-and-down but I’d hate to miss when he puts all four rounds together. I didn’t want him to be my “Sergio” this week!
Aaron Baddeley: He’s won here before and threw up his best result in 2017 last time out at SHO (T-15).
Geoff Ogilvy: The Aussies quite like it here as he’s played nine consecutive weekends when entered. His two best finishes in 2017 are T-14 at Pebble Beach and T-23 last time out at SHO. #UrWelcome.
Bryce Molder: Super short game plus a short course equals money. He’s finished T-15 and T-6 the last two years.
John Huh: T-9 here in 2014 and has played nine of his last 10 weekends on Tour.
Brandt Snedeker: Only one top 25 since his win here in 2011 and only five rounds in the 60’s during that time.
Charles Howell, III: T-23 last season was his best finish here since 2010. Time for a nap.
David Hearn: The Canadian has found form here recently but he’s played Sunday once here in six tries. It’s also time for the hockey playoffs. #Distracted.
Brian Harman: He has 16 top 10’s on Tour. They are on 16 different courses. He has a top 10 here already with T-7 in 2014. #Trend.
Boo Weekley: He’s 10-10 here but he’s MC in nine events in 2017 and nothing better than T-37.
Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled @MikeGlasscott for more information.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.