Our golf expert brings you his preview and predictions for this week's PGA Tour event, the RBC Heritage.
RBC Heritage - Winner
There was a fair bit of drama towards the end of the back 9 at the Masters but ultimately it was another slightly subdued major finish with the event being all but over a couple of hours before it finished. Whether you've punted the winner or not the annual jaunt to Augusta can leave you feeling a little underwhelmed when there's an easy victor. Even though he only won by a stroke he had plenty in the tank. Like Dustin and Dechambeau it left a slightly dull end to the week from a viewing perspective and we can only hope for a shade more excitement when the other three majors come along in 2021. The Heritage takes centre stage this week and it is always welcome from a punting perspective. The average drive here measures between 260-270 yards so length isn't any advantage at all around Harbour Town. Instead with the small greens scrambling becomes the most important aspect. Four of the top 6 in Scrambling in the 2020 renewal finished inside the top 10 overall. The top 3 in scrambling in 2019 all finished inside the top 6 on Sunday. Wesley Bryan topped the Scrambling stat here in 2017 when winning the event and Grace was 3rd in 2016 having finished 1st in scrambling. It is without doubt the most important stat to look at the for the week ahead.
Tommy Fleetwood at 40/1 (8 places)
Top billing goes the way of Tommy Fleetwood. The Englishman has drifted to a backable mark around 40/1 given the credentials needed to play well here down the years. Fleetwood wouldn't exactly convince you with any part of his game right now but the 40/1 on offer here feels too big for someone who could bounce back at any moment. With winners like Furyk, Snedeker, McDowell, Kuchar, Grace and Simpson in recent years the name Tommy Fleetwood would fit right in there as a similar game to all these golfers. He shot 5 under in his only trip here in 2019 which was only 7 off the winning score but down in 25th place on a bunched leaderboard. He went well at the WGC going out in the quarter finals and had a respectable week last week at Augusta, a venue which doesn't exactly suit his game. Harbour Town is right up his alley and whilst many may tire after the four days in Georgia, I feel Tommy still has plenty to prove on US soil and should be well tuned in to give a big performance here.
2pts e/w Tommy Fleetwood 40/1 (1/5 8 places )
Sung-jae Im at 35/1 (8 places)
Cameron Smith and Abraham Ancer look two likely sorts to go well this week. Ancer is very tidy tee to green and Smith has a tremendous short game and has the win at Waialae, a similar course in terms of what's needed and wind control etc. Smith at 25s and Ancer at 30s is of little appeal though and instead I'd much prefer someone who should ed his career with much more in the locker than those two in Sungjae Im. Im missed the cut last week and having a few days off to take stock may prove advantageous as his last missed cut was at the RSM last year. Overall I feel the price is an overreaction to his performance last week and he could easily bounce back on a course that he could perform better on having got two looks at it so far. Experience counts for a lot here and I expect the two MCs will become a thing of the past for him at Harbour Town. He can cope with the wind and over his last 12 recorded rounds he has ranked 6th in both Fairways Gained and Scrambling Gained. I'm of the opinion Sungjae will become a frequent enough winner on the tour and 33/1 anywhere should prove profitable, but even more so at a venue that at which he should play well on given time.
2pts e/w Sung-jae Im 35/1 (1/5 8)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout at 60/1 (8 places)
In his last 12 recorded rounds (Sawgrass, API, WGC Concession) Christiaan Bezuidenhout has gained ground on the field in Sand Saves 10 of those 12 rounds, and gained on the field Scrambling 9 of the 12. The South African has been inside the top 40 in the world now for a fair while and is accumulating very respectable results having played more in the States than usual. What holds him back for the most part is distance off the tee. He loses ground on the field most rounds that he plays but that doesn't become an issue when we arrive at Harbour Town. Instead his accuracy is rewarded and you don't win around Valderrama without a tidy long game. His win late last year at Leopard Creek was another indication of what he is capable of on the tougher tracks. 7th at the Arnold Palmer, 41st at Sawgrass and 40th at Augusta is consistent for someone finding his feet on the PGA tour and for someone who sacrifices some distance. He shot four rounds in the 60s here on debut and can show once again how good his game is when it comes to these more strategic tracks.
1.5pts e/w Christian Bezuidenhout 60/1 (1/5 8)
Denny McCarthy at 150/1 (8 places)
Denny McCarthy looks worth a shot at triple figures given his upturn in fortune on the greens. McCarthy has made four cuts on the trot with his 3rd placed finish at the Honda being the standout effort of the year so far. Normally a very reliable putter his touch deserted him late in 2020 and he failed to make 6 out of 7 cuts around the start of the year. Things have changed though and he can take a fair bit of confidence from the performance at the Honda. Top 5s at the Corales and Bermuda events and a top 10 at the RSM show he is comfortable with tracks by the sea and the 3rd at the Honda is another example of how he can cope on layouts exposed to the wind. He finished 11th in putting last time out at Texas, 7th at the Honda, 12th at Sawgrass and 9th at Arnold Palmer. He is currently one of the most consistent sorts on tour on the greens and he could be rewarded at Harbour Town this week.
0.75pt e/w Dennis McCarthy 150/1 (1/5 8)
Lucas Glover at 125/1 (7 places)
Finally I'll take a flyer on Lucas Glover. Theoretically this should be a perfect course for Lucas but he rarely delivers. In fact he is a very frustrating character in general to bet on. He has been going well lately though and could capitalise upon a few of this field a bit weaker after their Masters efforts. Glover finished 3rd in SG Putting at the Honda when finishing just inside the top 20. He ranked 5th in approach next time out at Texas when finishing 4th. Overall this is the best form he has shown for some while and with a penchant for the more strategic layouts on tour I'm more than happy to play at triple figures.
0.75pt e/w Lucas Glover 125/1 (1/5 7)