RBC Heritage Preview

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Looking to reset after a big event, a relatively strong field heads to Hilton Head Island for the RBC Heritage.

The host course is Harbor Town Golf Links which you may know by its signature lighthouse.

As an invitational event, the field is limited to just 132 golfers this week. The cutline will return to PGA TOUR standards which is Low 65 and Ties after two rounds of action.

The course

Harbor Town Golf Links is the host venue this week.

This Pete Dye design is known a bit as a plodder’s paradise but 70 yards were added to the card since last year. It is a par 71 that now plays to 7,191 yards.

The bulk of the yardage change comes at the par-5 second which now sits at 550 yards instead of 502 yards and the par-5 fifth which now plays at 569 yards instead of 549 yards.

Since the par 3s and par 4s are largely unchanged, it should be safe to assume this is still a plodder’s paradise.

Off the tee, golfers will see heavily tree-lined fairways. That leads to a lot of irons and woods off the tee. Even if you do find the fairway, you may find yourself needing to use some creativity on your approach shots to work the ball around some tree trouble.

Because of the less-than-driver nature, golfers are able to find around 63% of fairways which is pretty standard. The test gets tougher as you try to land the greens though. The field average GIR Rate sits around 65 percent at Harbor Town which is more than 10 percentage points lower than the TOUR average. This is largely a combination of the overhanging tree issues and tiny, tiny greens.

The rough and native area is very manageable as long as you avoid tree trouble. Overall, this course features one of the smaller penalties for a missed fairway across the entire circuit. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to score when missing fairways. It just means that it’s so tough to score from the fairways that you aren’t losing much ground if you are missing a fairway here and there along the way.

With the field finding fewer than 60 percent of greens, scrambling will become a necessity if you want to find your name on page one of the leaderboard.

For grass talk, golfers will see ryegrass from tee-to-green with Bermuda shorts overseeded with poa triv on the greens. Those greens are generally prepped to run around 11.5 feet on the stimp which is around TOUR average speeds.

Looking at the expected winning score, we see a big fluctuation of scores here over the years. Three of the last 10 winners had reached 18-under or better while two failed to reach double digits under-par. The other five all landed between 11- and 14-under which gives us a good target.

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Quotes on the Course

Dustin Johnson: “You use every club in your bag. You’ve got to hit all different types of shots. You’ve got to shape it around here. It’s tree-lined. It’s kind of style of golf course I grew up playing. You just really have to golf your ball. Small greens. You hit a lot of greens, you’re going to play good.”

luke donald: “The guys that can scramble well and have good course management, it’s not a course you need to be a long hitter. Certain holes it helps, obviously, but the long hitters, it’s taking driver out of their hands a lot. So I feel like the playing field’s leveled out.”

Jim Furyk: “Long or short, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about do you like to shape the ball, and can you imagine some different shots, and do you find that style of golf fun?”

Wesley Bryan: “It’s not overly long. You have a fair amount of short and mid-irons in out here. The par-3s are really tough. So you’ve got to be really precise with your irons. And traditionally the guy that putts the best out here usually has a lot of success.”

Sam Saunders: “I’ve always enjoyed golf courses where if you hit a shot into the trees you have an opportunity to curve the ball. And I love that there’s not long rough here. Even if you’re stuck behind some trees you have a chance to peel one through the trees or hit a big high cut or low hook. It makes it fun, because I feel like there’s always an opportunity to recover from an errant shot here.”

Shot-shaping is the talk of the town when heading to Hilton Head.

Correlated Courses

Using historical data from this week’s venue, we can look for other courses across the PGA TOUR schedule with crossover success (or failure). Here are the courses that pop up frequently:

Waialae Country Club
Colonial Country Club

Less-than-driver layouts where distance is definitely not required.

The Weather

Thursday: Mostly Cloudy with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 10 to 20 MPH.

Friday: Scattered Showers/Storms possible with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH with tastes up to 25 MPH.

Winds look just tricky enough this week before the cut but relatively calm over the weekend.

Golfers to Watch

Justin Thomas
He’s the pre-tournament favorite and rightfully so. JT is 3-for-3 at the RBC Heritage with a T11 in 2015 and T8 in 2020. He’s playing too well in 2022 to still be winless.

Collin Morikawa
When a course heavily rewards approach play and shot-shaping, Morikawa should be strongly considered. He struggled with a T64 in his 2020 debut but enjoyed the return to overseed conditions last year when he managed a T7 finish.

webb simpson
The Wake Forest product has finishes of T16 or better in eight of his last 11 tries at the RBC Heritage. That includes a win at the 2020 edition and a runner-up finish in 2013. Simpson has nothing better than a T35 in four 2022 events played, but this would be the perfect venue to snap out of that mini-slump.

Jordan Spieth
Speaking of slumps, Spieth just missed the cut at Augusta National which is when you know things are really down for him. He’s trying to overcome the battle with a balky putter but has gained strokes putting in three of his five previous trips to Harbor Town which has resulted in a trio of top-15 finishes on his tournament resume.

If Woo Kim
He has the reputation of being a Pete Dye specialist and his work at Harbor Town has produced a T14, a runner-up finish, and a T33 with two missed cuts as well. He arrives in solid form with at least 2.8 strokes gained tee-to-green in four of his last five measured events.

Kevin Kisner
The Georgia Bulldog has won at Colonial, Sedgefield, and Sea Island. Adding a victory at Harbor Town Golf Links at some point in his career would certainly make sense. He grabbed a runner-up finish here in 2015, added a T11 in 2017, and a T7 in 2018 but more recently has settled for T41-MC-MC in his last three tries at the Heritage.

Ranking the Field

1. Justin Thomas
2. Cameron Smith
3. Shane Lowry
4. Collin Morikawa
5. Patrick Cantlay
6. Dustin Johnson
7. Matt Fitzpatrick
8. Daniel Berger
9. Russell Henley
10. Tyrrell Hatton
11. Corey Conners
12. Joaquin Niemann
13. Billy Horschel
14. Sungjae Im
15. webb simpson
16. Tommy Fleetwood
17. Alex Noren
18. Jordan Spieth
19. Maverick McNealy
20. Harold Varner III

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