RBC Heritage Round 1 3-Balls Picks and Predictions: Trust Justin Thomas at Harbour Town

RBC Heritage Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks, and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. Andy Lack is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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RBC Heritage Round 1 3-Balls Picks and Predictions: Trust Justin Thomas at Harbour Town

The RBC Heritage is in an unenviable position this week following up the greatest tournament in the world, but allow me to make the case for why this event should have your attention. Firstly, the field packs a surprisingly heavy punch. Five of the Top-10 players in the official world golf rankings will be making the short drive from Augusta to Harbour Town. This year's RBC Heritage is headlined by the likes of Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith, Patrick Cantlay, Daniel Berger, and Webb Simpson, amongst others. Secondly, the venue is top-notch. Harbour Town Golf Links is one of the most iconic and unique courses on the entire PGA Tour schedule.

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The Pete Dye design is a Par 71, measuring only 7,121 yards on the scorecard, making it one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour. With that being said, the Carolina track also features extremely narrow landing areas off the tee and microscopic greens. Harbour Town tends to take driver out of players' hands, as over-hanging tree limbs prevent bombers from being able to cut the corner on the various doglegs. For this reason, all sorts of players have the ability to compete this week, and in four of the last five years, the winner has been over 80/1 in the pre-tournament odds market.

This week, I will primarily be focusing on players who thrive on short, strategic, less than driver courses, such as Waialae, Sea Island, Sedgefield, TPC Sawgrass, Austin Country Club, and Colonial. The same types of players always seem to pop up on these positional tracks, and it's no coincidence that those players are often accurate drivers of the ball with an above-average wedge game who can get hot with their putters. Let's dive into my matchup picks for the week.

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RBC Heritage Round 1 3-Ball: Justin Thomas (+120) vs. Shane Lowry (+170) vs. Jordan Spieth (+250)

Selection: Justin Thomas (+120) (Bet $100 to Win $120)

The entire world was on Justin Thomas last week, and I was a little surprised to see that sentiment fade at Harbour Town, arguably an even better golf for him than Augusta. Thomas' biggest weakness, even more-so than the putter currently, is the occasional big miss with the driver. The 14-time PGA Tour winner gained 5.4 strokes on approach and 2.8 strokes putting at the Masters. The only reason why he wasn't able to put up a bigger fight was because he was -2.6 off the tee. My suggestion to Justin Thomas would be to leave the driver in the car at the Heritage. It's just not necessary to utilize at this golf course. Harbour Town should allow the World No. 8 to club down off the tee and let his elite middle iron play shine. It should not come as a surprise that Thomas has already experienced so much success on other less than driver courses such as Waialae, TPC Sawgrass, and Colonial.

As far as his competitors go, Shane Lowry is playing some excellent golf right now, but I have my concerns about the way he's accumulated those results. In the inverse sense of Thomas, Lowry's biggest weapon at the Masters was his driver. He gained a whopping 4.9 strokes off the tee, to go along with another 11.4 strokes short game and putting. If you are curious as to why he was not in real contention for the green jacket, it's because his irons were absolutely abysmal. The 2019 Open Champion lost 3.8 strokes on approach over the weekend alone. Lowry has certainly proven over time he's a capable iron player, but he and Thomas are trending in opposite directions, so I'll gladly ride the hot hand.

Finally, as it relates to Jordan Spieth, I don't find this to be the market to utilize him in. He will be extremely low-owned in DraftKings, so I do not mind if fantasy players want to take a chance there. However, losing 3.6 strokes on approach at his favorite golf course on the planet is hard to ignore. The stats don't look great, and the eye test is even worse. +120 for the number two iron player in this field, pitted against two players struggling in that category, is more than a fair price.

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RBC Heritage Round 1 3-Ball: Collin Morikawa (-105) vs. Webb Simpson (+180) vs. Stewart Cink (+330)

Selection: Webb Simpson (+180) (Bet $100 to Win $180)

In full disclosure, it's still difficult to gauge where Webb Simpson's game is actually at. Since coming back from injury, he's missed the cut at the Players, finished 48th at the Valspar, lost in the group stage of the WGC Match Play, and finished 35th at the Masters. Across that stretch, he's shown flashes, and he largely remained in the Top-20 of the leaderboard at Augusta before fading over the weekend. This week will certainly be a good litmus test, as the seven-time PGA Tour winner has eight Top-25s, four Top-10s, three Top-fives, a runner-up, and a win in 12 appearances at his beloved Harbour Town. I have the utmost respect for his competitors in this 3-Ball, but I couldn't pass up the +180 price tag on Simpson.

Collin Morikawa is an extremely difficult man to fade in any market, but I always struggle to back a player at minus odds in 3-Ball across only 18 holes. There's a very good chance that Morikawa figures it out across the course of this week, but of the best players in the world, he's one of the most volatile putters, making him a sensible target in single round matchups. If Morikawa gains with the putter, this will be a losing bet, probably by a healthy margin. Yet over his last 50 rounds, he's only doing that roughly 43% of the time. When factoring in price, Simpson still makes far more sense to me.

As far as our defending champion goes, Stewart Cink has been a difficult player to figure out. He had one solid performance at the Valspar a few weeks ago, but other than that, it's largely been disappointing stretch. The 48-year-old had a dream 2021 season with multiple victories, yet his recent 7th at the Valspar was his only Top-10 in the last year. Cink came into last year's Heritage in much stronger form, and I can't say I fear him at all this week.

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RBC Heritage Round 1 3-Ball: Tyrrell Hatton (-110) vs. Cameron Davis (+225) vs. Luke Donald (+275)

Selection: Luke Donald (+275) (Bet $100 to Win $275)

This one is certainly the most squeamish of the bunch, but there is still a lot to like about Luke Donald this week. Most are already aware of his course history. The former World No. 1 is still searching for that elusive first victory at Harbour Town, yet he has finished runner-up a whopping five times. While Donald is certainly on the back end of his career, his iron play remains top-notch, and he's gained over three strokes on approach in back-to-back starts. We are hoping for a spike iron day on a comfortable course for the Englishman, but this is still more about a fade of his competitors.

I have a hard time going back to Tyrrell Hatton this week after his weekend performance at Augusta. The World No. 17 lost a robust 10.9 strokes ball-striking on Saturday and Sunday alone, and then proceeded to blame his poor play on the greatest golf architect of all time, citing Augusta National as "unfair." It's obvious that he checked out at some point, so I'm not reading too deeply into the numbers, but they have to count for something. At the very least, I don't believe he should have minus odds this week in a three-ball. There's far too much volatility involved in his game right now.

Cam Davis has a sneaky solid resume on shorter golf courses, and he did make the cut at the Masters, but this season has been a roller-coaster ride for the young Australian. In 13 starts, he's missed 6 cuts, and his lone Top-25 came in a limited-field event with only 39 players. The ball-striking just hasn't ever been able to get going this year, and the story was the same over the weekend at Augusta. I'll gladly take my chances with the underdog here.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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