The PGA Tour rolls into South Carolina for the RBC Heritage following a historic Masters victory by Hideki Matsuyama. Considering this is only one week after the Masters, the strength of the field is better than expected. There are just above 130 golfers in the field this week and they are facing another Pete Dye challenge. Harbour Town Golf Links is the third Pete Dye course that has been on the PGA Tour schedule since the start of March. The one takeaway from the recent Pete Dye tournaments is that shot-making and strategy around the course is crucial. Pete Dye forces golfers to play his courses a particular way which places an emphasis on precision.
Harbour Town Golf Links measures just under 7,100 yards and is a Par 71. As a Par 71 there are four Par 3s, eleven Par 4s, and three Par 5s. The golf course is subject to the wind which determines the scoring conditions for the week. Harbour Town is one of the shortest courses on Tour, but is also one of the hardest courses to land on the greens-in-regulation. The reason why the greens are so hard to hit is because they are the second smallest green complexes on Tour. The small, dome-shaped greens punish poor approach shots and forces golfers to flaunt a proficient short game in order to succeed. The tight, tree-lined fairways forces golfers to strategically control their distances off-the-tee and emphasizes accuracy.
My handicapping process for the week began by reviewing the scorecards of former winners to search for key stats to value for this course. Recent winners of this event are: Webb Simpson, C.T. Pan, Satoshi Kodaira, Wesley Bryan, and Brendan Grace. Webb Simpson fired off an impressive -22 last June, but none of the other four recent winners shot below -13. The winning score tends to be in the -10 to -13 range. The majority of the scoring comes from the Par 5s. Golfers will only face 12 total Par 5s throughout the four days, but over the last five years the winners have scored on 50% of the 60 Par 5s that they faced. With eleven Par 4s on the course, it is important for golfers to create scoring opportunities on these holes. Three of the last five winners ranked inside the Top 10 of Approach in the week that they won. With the greens being small, golfers will need to be able to scramble when they inevitably miss the green.
Correlated courses I looked at this week were Wai;alae (Sony Open), El Cameleon (Mayakoba), Sea Island (RSM), and Sedgefield (Wyndham). Sony, RSM, and Mayakoba are all short, coastal courses that allow shorter hitters to compete. These courses are subject to windy conditions and requires golfers to be precise. Precision is key this week, whether it’s off-the-tee, on approach, or when scrambling. Wyndham is a Carolina course that has seen cross-over leaderboards. Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, and Davis Love III are all players who have won both events.
Pete Dye Courses: The American Express (PGA West), PLAYERS Championship (TPC Sawgrass), WGC Match Play (Austin Country Club), Travelers Championship (TPC River Highlands)
Key Stats: Approach, Greens-in-Regulation, Short Game (Putting, Around, Scrambling), and Good Drives
Scoring Upside: SG Par 4 / Par 4 BoB SG Par 5 / Par 5 BoB, Bogey Avoidance, Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, Par 5 Efficiency 500-550 yards, and Par 3 Efficiency 175-200 yards
RBC Heritage Betting Tips
Brian Harman 34-1 (Fanduel)
Harman has slowly shown himself to be a Pete Dye specialist. Over his last 36 rounds on Pete Dye courses, in this field he ranks: seventh in Total Strokes Gained, eighth in Putting, 13th in Short Game, 17th in Tee-to-Green, and 19th Ball-Striking. Harman has converted those strong numbers into high finishes. At the American Express, Harman finished 8th . His last two appearances at the PLAYERS Championship have resulted in an 8th place and 3rd place finish, and Harman has had two Top 10 finishes at the Travelers Championship in the last three years.
Harman’s recent form has been amazing and that could be the result of multiple Pete Dye courses being on the schedule recently. However, over his last 36 rounds in this field Harman ranks fourth in Strokes Gained Par 5s which will be crucial for making birdies this week. Additionally, using 2021 ShotLink data, in this field Harman ranks: ninth in Par 5 BoB, 14th in Putting Average, 15th in Putting, 19th in Par 3 Efficiency 175-200 yards, 22nd in Bogey Avoidance, and 25th in Par 4 Performance. Harman lives in Sea Island, Georgia which is only three hours from Harbour Town, and he is a former Georgia Bulldog. Harman’s familiarity with the course and what it demands, along with his propensity to play well on Pete Dye designs is enough for me to be onboard this week.
Sergio Garcia 45-1 (DraftKings)
Garica has already won this PGA Tour season, and he finished fifth place at this event last year. During his fifth-place finish last year, Garcia was first in the field in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and second in the field in Strokes Gained Approach. Since the start of the calendar year, Garcia has played in seven events and he has recorded three Top 11 finishes. Garcia was the first-round leader at the PLAYERS Championship, which is a Pete Dye design. Garcia has a victory at the Wyndham Championship, which was one of the correlated courses I looked at.
Using 2021 ShotLink data, in this feld Garcia ranks: second in Par 5 Efficiency 500-550 yards, third in Par 5 Birdies-or-Better, 11th in Greens-in-Regulation, 14th in Good Drives, and 19th in Bogey Avoidance. Additionally, since the start of 2021, Garcia has gained 1.21 Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green per round, and .93 strokes gained Ball-Striking per round. Garcia has been playing great recently, and I love this number for a proven PGA Tour winner.
Kevin Kisner 75-1 (Fanduel)
Kevin Kisner’s recent form has not been great recently. However, he looked rejuvenated during the WGC Match Play. During that the week, people began mentioning Kisner for Ryder Cup Team consideration. Kisner is a great Match Play player, but if he wants to make the Ryder Cup Team, he will need to do more than just a few good rounds at a WGC event. A win can go a long way for Kisner and he has spoken openly about his love for this course. In 2019, he was quoted saying that this is one of his favorite events of the year because he grew up as a kid competing on this course. This course allows shorter hitters to compete, and Kisner said he feels he can win whenever he plays here. Earlier in the season, Kisner made headlines by saying he doesn’t think he can win on longer courses so this should be a perfect fit for him.
In fact, Kisner has three Top 11 eleven finishes here in his last six tries which includes a runner-up finish in 2015. Using 2021 ShotLink data, in this field Kisner ranks: fifth in Par 4 BoB, eighth in Putting Average, 12th in Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, 15th in Good Drives, and 19th in Putting. This is the type of tournament Kisner can go out and win and at 75-1 this is a bet I will make every time.
Chris Kirk 75-1 (Fanduel)
Kirk is having a great 2021 which started with him regaining his Tour card at the Sony Open with a runner-up finish. Sony was one of the correlated courses I looked at because of a similar coastal design that requires golfers to be good with both approach and their short game. Kirk has three Top 25 finishes in his last four events which includes two Top 10s. His recent form has been stellar and the longer he hovers near the top, the closer I think he is to winning again.
Using 2021 ShotLink data, in this field Kirk ranks: third in Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, fifth in Bogey Avoidance, 11th Around the Green, 19th in Par 5 Efficiency 500-550 yards, 21st in Approach, and 23rd in Par 4 BoB. My focus is on his combination of Approach and Short Game ability. With smaller greens, a bad approach shot will require scrambling to save par. Kirk has excelled in the two most important factors for this week which is why he was one of the first bets I placed this week.
Emiliano Grillo 80-1 (DraftKings)
Grillo is a name that pops up on short, coastal courses. Since November, Grillo has four Top 20 finishes. Those finishes came at the RSM, Mayakoba, Puerto Rico, and Corales. All of the courses play similarly to Harbour Town. They are all courses where shorter hitters can excel if they have a good iron game. I was on Grillo at Mayakoba where he was the 54-Hole leader but was unable to convert that into a victory.
Using 2021 ShotLink data, Grillo ranks third in Greens-in-Regulation, sixth in Good Drives, sixth in Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, seventh in Bogey Avoidance, and 22nd in Approach. Grillo is a great iron player and should be able to live in the fairways by clubbing down off-the-tee. Grillo’s ability to land on the green is very attractive this week, as is his performance at coastal tracks recently.