The tournament immediately after The Masters has traditionally been the RBC Heritage and it is Hilton Head where the PGA Tour heads after a wonderful week at Augusta National. Many will have taken inspiration from last week which usually makes for a good tournament here.
Stewart Cink certainly enjoyed himself here last year as he won the title for the third time. He will attempt to defend the title but there is a real strong field opposing him this week so whoever wins the title will have played well.
2021 – Stewart Cink
2020 – Webb Simpson
2019 – CT Pan
2018 – Satoshi Kodaira
2017 – Wesley Bryan
2016 – Branden Grace
2015 – Jim Furyk
2014 – Matt Kuchar
2013 – Graeme McDowell
2012 – Carl Pettersson
It is Harbour Town Golf Links which stages the tournament again this year. The course is a par 71 which only stretches 7,191 yards so it is certainly not a long track by modern standards. The tournament remains in its post-Masters home and will welcome some of the best players in the world to a course which can play very tough when the wind is up, which can be quite regular with this course not too far from the coast.
There is no secret that accuracy is the key here although not necessarily off the tee where the landing zones for those who don’t get greedy are wide and generous. It is into the small greens where the fun and games come along so pure ball strikers and excellent iron players should work their way to the top of the staking plan. We should also remember that this is quite an exposed layout so players who can handle a bit of wind should be kept to the forefront of our minds. Bombers aren’t necessarily needed here although there are one or two holes where length is no bad thing.
Usually after a major we get a bit of a comedown in the strength of the field but that isn’t the case here which is probably a sign of the regard Hilton Head is held in. The headliner in the field is Collin Morikawa, The Open champion who had a great finish to his week at Augusta. Notable other names include Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth not to mention the FedExCup winner Patrick Cantlay and the defending champion Stewart Cink.
The European charge this week is headed by Ryder Cup trio Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton while Alex Noren will be hoping for a big week. Cameron Smith was two back with seven to play in The Masters last week before dunking his tee shot into the drink but he is back for revenge this week. Other headliners include former winner Webb Simpson, Daniel Berger and the international pair of Corey Conners and Sungjae Im.
We have joint favourites this week in the star pair of Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. I mentioned when previewing The Masters last week that his putting is a major issue and nothing changed in that regard there. You can win this without putting well but I wouldn’t want to be on a 14/1 poke who isn’t putting well. The same issue is a concern about Morikawa as well although there is no doubt that his stunning iron play is a massive boost to his chances. He’s still only a fair price in this field though.
I was all over Cameron Smith last week and having won twice this year I’m incredibly tempted to be on him again here but I fear a Masters hangover given how close he was to getting really involved with Scheffler down the stretch last week and the way it eventually unravelled. If there isn’t a fallout from that then he has all the tools to go very well around here. Smith finally cracked the top 10 around here but at just 16/1 if he wins then so be it.
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Patrick Cantlay are both 20/1 to win this week. Cantlay pretty much no showed at Augusta but he went 3-7-3 in his first three starts around here before missing the cut here last year. There will certainly be takers at 20/1 but he looks like he has just come off the top of his form. Fitzpatrick has seven top 20s in his last eight starts and was fourth here last year. That was his third top 15 finish around here and that is no surprise because his iron play and in is top notch.
Dustin Johnson and Shane Lowry come next in the betting at 22/1. Lowry arrives here off the back of what he described as his best round of golf in his career in the second round of The Masters but that turned sour when he made a few elementary mistakes in the third round. He finished tied for third but I just wonder if that missed opportunity will linger this week. Johnson has shown signs of his form picking up in recent times and he has three top 20 finishes around here which would have been four successive ones had it not been for a terrible final round of 77 in 2019 when he was ready to pounce. Johnson is hitting the ball well but his strengths are negated slightly around this place.
Joaquin Niemann lit up the Genesis Invitational where there is a real emphasis on iron play and scrambling so it stands to reason that he is my first main bet this week, especially when you consider that he had a good Masters without really doing his brains in over the weekend contending. He faded around the halfway mark which is probably the best preparation for this tournament. Only Shane Lowry has a better strokes gained approach figure than the Chilean over the last couple of months and only Daniel Berger and Kevin Kisner have bettered him around the greens in that time as well. Niemann was fifth here on debut last year and is clearly in a better place now than he was then. He played alongside Tiger Woods for the opening 36 holes last week and that sort of thing inspires anyone. I think he’s a leading bet this week.
Matt Kuchar is quietly coming back to form with a runner up finish in the Texas Open last time out which followed up a fair top 20 at the Valspar Championship and as a former winner of this tournament who has four other top 10s around here he feels like a pretty obvious bet this week. The immediate positive with Kuchar is that he missed out on a place at The Masters last week and it has been a while since he hadn’t been there so that should fuel some fire within him to get back to the form he was in five years or so ago when he wasn’t just a regular winner and contender on the PGA Tour but also in majors. That run in Texas a couple of weeks ago will have done him no harm and with his iron and short game play so good in recent weeks a test like this should be right up his street.
I’ll go with three outsiders this week with the first of them being Mito Pereira. This isn’t a Chilean thing by any stretch of the imagination but I do think both of them have a great chance this week. Pereira won on the Korn Ferry Tour not far from here a year ago and he comes here in decent form. He was T15 at the Genesis Invitational and then T13 in Texas last time out. He is another who wasn’t at The Masters so he’ll come in here fresh and motivated which is no bad thing. Pereira is hitting plenty of greens at the minute but his putter has held him back. We’ve seen plenty of poor putters win around here in recent times though so it might be the week where his weakness isn’t such a detriment. His strengths certainly suit this place though and at the price I’ll pay to see where that takes him.
Nate Lashley is similar to Pereira in that he has been hitting the ball really well and comes in here in good form which would be a lot better if his putter hadn’t let him down a little. Lashley has gone 7-27-15-18 in his last four tournaments and his GIR ranking for those four events has been 3-10-29-9 which shows that his iron play is right on point. His short game isn’t exactly terrible either and although he isn’t pulling up any trees with the putter as I’ve mentioned above poor putters win around here. He missed the cut on his only previous visit to this tournament but he did shoot 67 in the second round so he can score around here. Given the form he’s in I’ll pay to see how well he goes this week.
Finally I’ll take a chance on Luke Donald at a huge price. He showed signs of life at the Valspar and as a player who has finished second here on no fewer than five occasions and third on two other outings this is a course he clearly has a liking for. He is actually hitting the ball fairly nicely and we know he is a good putter, not that it is essential to be that around here. I get the impression Donald is going to break out again soon and it might be that the inspiration of The Masters and things like that will allow him to do it. At the Valspar, Donald ranked fourth in strokes gained on approach and was 17 at the Texas Open the following week. He lost ground off the tee on both of those tracks but they are longer than this one and carry more of a test off the tee than this place does. Good iron players go very well here and when Donald is on song he is as good as anyone with those clubs. I’ll pay to see how he gets on here.
Back J.Niemann to win RBC Heritage (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back N.Lashley to win RBC Heritage (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back M.Kuchar to win RBC Heritage (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back M.Pereira to win RBC Heritage (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back L.Donald to win RBC Heritage (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 176.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)