After yet another splendid week down at Augusta National, the PGA Tour returns to its non-major slate on Thursday with the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. Perhaps no event has benefitted more from the COVID-19 hiatus than the RBC Heritage, with the tournament seeing a massive uptick in field strength since 2020.
Justin Thomas (+900), Collin Morikawa (+1200), Patrick Cantlay (+1400), Cameron Smith (+1600), and Dustin Johnson (+1800) enter the RBC Heritage as the betting favorites. All five players are currently ranked inside the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings.
Aside from the PGA Tour elites, other notables like Daniel Berger (+1800), Matt Fitzpatrick (+1800), Shane Lowry (+1800), Russell Henley (+2200), and Corey Conners (+2500) are participating this week as well. Joaquin Neimann (+3500), Tyrrell Hatton (+3500), 2020-winner Webb Simpson (+3500), Billy Horschel (+3500), and Jordan Spieth (+3500) round out the group currently listed below 40/1 odds.
Course & Field Breakdown
Harbour Town is another vintage Pete Dye design, with the course ranging as one of the shortest on Tour at 7,121 yards. While serving as a par-71 due to the yardage, the RBC Heritage is known for being a tricky track due to coastal winds always playing a factor. Remember, this event is held on Hilton Head ISLAND, South Carolina. Islands tend to get gusty.
In addition to the severe winds, Harbour Town also has some of the toughest greens to hit in regulation. As usual from Dye's tracks, the greens are smaller in size than most weeks on Tour. Alas, strong wedge and iron players tend to end up near the top of the leaderboard at the RBC Heritage.
According to FantasyNational.com, Strokes Gained: Approach has been nearly three times more impactful than Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Strokes Gained: Around The Green among top-five finishers in the past six years.
Another intriguing course tidbit is that Strokes Gained: Off The Tee doesn't tend to matter much at Harbour Town. While players certainly can use the driver to their advantage, gaining strokes in this department doesn't hold much weight among top finishers. Dye courses have a tendency of favoring second-shot players that can plot their way through a testing round. Unlike the bombers with the driver.
132 players will be in the field this week, with the top-65 and ties making the cut after two rounds. Other than the players already mentioned, Sungjae Im (+4000), Kevin Na (+4500), Kevin Kisner (+4500), Alex Noren (+5000), Jason Kokrak (+5500), Tommy Fleetwood (+5500), and Maverick McNealy (+5500) are also part of the field. Si Woo Kim (+6000), Adam Hadwin (+6000), Brian Harman (+6000), Troy Merritt (+6500), Chris Kirk (+6500), and Harold Varner III (+6500) are the final players listed below 70/1 odds.
2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
2019: CT Pan (-12)
2018: Satoshi Kodaira (-12)
2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
2016: Branden Grace (-9)
Matt Fitzpatrick (+1800)
Fitzpatrick has been playing terrific golf as of late, with four top-14 finishes in his last five PGA Tour events. Other than at the Valspar, Fitzpatrick hasn't necessarily had a crack at winning during that stretch. But, his recent form suggests he could be on the cusp of that elusive first victory in North America.
Coming into the RBC Heritage, Fitzpatrick ranks first on Tour this season in Strokes Gained: Total, fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, and 13th in Strokes Gained: Approach. Not to mention 20th in Strokes Gained: Putting. That type of well-rounded game is precisely what's required to compete at Harbour Town.
Fitzpatrick has also finished inside the top-14 at this event in three of the past four years. The 27-year-old Englishman added a T4 finish in 2020 when the tournament played later in the season due to COVID-19.
Both recent form and course history are in Fitzpatrick's favor this week on Hilton Head Island. The outright odds aren't the best for a player that has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but this short, second-shot venue suits his game far too well.
Corey Conners (+2500)
Conners is off to a strong start in 2022 and just wrapped up an impressive T6 finish at The Masters last week. Now, Conners comes to Harbour Town in solid form, looking for his second career PGA Tour win.
As mentioned earlier, Strokes Gained: Approach tends to correlate with the top of the leaderboard at the RBC Heritage more so than any other statistic. Well, good thing ball-striking is the 30-year-old Canadian's bread and butter! Conners enters this week ranked first in Greens in Regulation: Gained over the past 24 rounds. Additionally, he also ranks 15th on Tour this season in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and is known for being remarkably accurate with his irons. Considering the small green sizes, Conners' precision should play to his advantage this week.
After missing the cut in each of his first three cracks at this event, Conners appears to have finally figured out the course. After a T21 finish in 2020, Conners came back again last year and finished inside the top-five. Most importantly, he gained 2.0 strokes with the putter here in 2021. The flatstick is always the concern for Conners, but he's proven to be able to putt well enough at Harbour Town to compete.
Long Shot Picks:
Kevin Kisner (+4500)
Most of the Dye courses on Tour test the mental ability of the golfers more than it does physically. In order to have a chance to win, a player needs to be strategic with their shots and the ability to get up-and-down from anywhere. Let me introduce you all to the man they call "Kiz".
Kisner has continued to play well at Dye's tracks in 2022, with a fourth place finish at THE PLAYERS and coming runner-up to Scottie Scheffler at the WGC-Dell Match Play. The 38-year-old Georgia Bulldog also finished T3 at the Sony Open back in January, which is a similar course design to the RBC Heritage.
Kisner struggles to contend at some of the longer venues throughout the season, but he's capable of competing with anyone at places like Harbour Town. Even Kisner himself has admitted there are only certain courses where he can actually win. But, his awareness of that serves as a reminder of just how dialed in he should be this week.
Kisner comes into the event with good form and has three top-11 finishes here since 2015. Even with plenty of top-end players in the field, Kisner has the ability to hang with the best of 'em on shorter courses.
Matt Kuchar (+7000)
KUUUUUUUUCH! Or should I say, Mr. RBC Heritage?!
Kuchar absolutely LOVES coming to Hilton Head Island every year. Since 2013, Kuchar has made the cut in all nine appearances at the RBC Heritage, along with FIVE top-11 finishes and a victory in 2014. In fact, Kuchar has only finished outside the top-40 just once during that span. That came in 2020 -- against a mammoth field -- where he finished T41. Not too shabby.
Kuchar has also been on a remarkable run recently, thanks to incredible play from his irons and putter. The 6-foot-4, 43-year-old Florida native is coming off back-to-back top-20 finishes, including a T2 result at the Valero Texas Open.
If the irons remain hot, there is no reason why Kuchar can't compete once again at Harbour Town. As for the putter, well, that's Kuchar's greatest asset. He comes into the event ranked 12th on the season in Strokes Gained: Putting. With driving distance not expected to play much of a factor, this feels like Kuchar's jam.