Previewing the RBC Heritage

April 17, 2019
Justin Ray

Short hole lengths punctuated by tiny green surfaces are the trademark of Pete Dye’s Harbour Town Golf Links. In turn, distance doesn’t benefit players as much as it does on a typical PGA Tour layout. A run through the recent winners of this event – Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, and Wesley Bryan among them – proves this point quickly.

Last year, Harbour Town Golf Links ranked as having the sixth-toughest greens to hit in regulation on the PGA Tour. Players are tested in a different manner, but still sternly: Harbour Town was the 2nd-toughest course on the PGA Tour under 7,100 yards in the 2017-18 season. Only Pebble Beach Golf Links was more difficult among the shorter set.

A testament to the design of the golf course  – and how frequently players miss greens in regulation – can be found in the PGA Tour record books. Missed greens in regulation inherently mean more chip shots hit by players, and fewer putts per round. There are six instances in PGA Tour history where a player hit 94 putts or fewer over the course of the entire tournament. Four of them came at Harbour Town.

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NOTES ON PLAYERS HEADLINING THE FIELD

– Justifiably lost in the excitement of Tiger Woods’ Masters win was Dustin Johnson reclaiming the number one spot in the World Ranking for the fifth different time in his career. Johnson has been number one for a total of 87 weeks, second-most to Woods among American players since the inception of the OWGR in 1986. The American with the third-most time at number one is Jordan Spieth, at 26 weeks.

– Johnson will be in the field here for the second consecutive year, having finished tied for 16th in 2018. DJ will need to be sharper on and around the greens this week in order to find success: last year, he led the field last year in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained tee to green but was 43rd in strokes gained putting and 50th in scrambling among players to make the cut.

– Spieth is also in the field, looking to reclaim the form that brought him to the top of the sport. Spieth has only one top-ten finish worldwide in the last calendar year – a tie for ninth at last year’s Open Championship. Jordan is now 34th in the World Ranking, his lowest position since August of 2013 – just a few weeks removed from his 20th birthday.

– Fresh off his best career finish in a major (tied for ninth), Patrick Cantlay heads back to a place he has found great success in his young career. Cantlay has finished tied for third and tied for seventh in two starts at Harbour Town, registering a combined score to par of 20-under in eight rounds played.

– Xander Schauffele will try to build off the momentum of his runner-up finish at The Masters. Schauffele is currently fourth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained total, trailing only Rory McIlroy, Johnson and Justin Thomas.

 

TRENDS AT THE RBC HERITAGE

– Harbour Town has yielded some exciting Sundays in recent years. Each of the last six winners were at least three shots off the lead through 54 holes, including Satoshi Kodaira last year, who was six back. The final round scoring average of the last ten winners of this tournament is 66.1.

– Matt Kuchar is a combined 42 strokes under par in this tournament over the last five years, best of any player in that span. Next on that list are Luke Donald (-37), Russell Knox (-32), Branden Grace (-29), Kevin Kisner (-23) and William McGirt (-23).

– Grace has bogeyed less than nine percent of the holes he has played on this course in his career (8.8%). Since 2010, he is the only player with twelve or more rounds and a bogey-or-worse percentage below eleven percent.

– Cameron Smith has birdied or eagled 4.33 holes per round at the RBC Heritage since 2010, best of any player in that span with a minimum of 12 rounds played. Grace is second on that list (4.25), followed by Donald (4.15).

– Since 2010, only four players have a scoring average of 69.5 or lower at Harbour Town among players with a dozen or more rounds: Grace (68.6), Donald (69.1) Knox (69.4) and Smith (69.4).