By Lewis Pacelli
One week on from another formidable Masters tournament, where one of our selections Adam Scott came out victorious after a tense playoff with Angel Cabrera. There could not be a more deserved major winner, so as the girls went crazy and the Aussies skipped work we can now move on to what we hope will not be an anti-climax at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina.
After the joys of watching one of the most beautiful courses in world golf last week, we are going to be spoiled once more as The Harbour Town Links is another stunning layout for purists and spectators. Designed by the magician Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, it measures at around 6,970 yards, which is certainly short for the modern game, but the test will lie in accuracy with over 140 bunkers and water hazards that come into play on 9 of the holes. The winner here will have to be an accurate and clean ball striker who can work their way round the tricky lay out, needing precision from tee to green. Especially as the greens are guarded by shrubbery and trees and are infamous for being some of the smallest and tightest on tour. Averaging at just over 3,700 square feet, each green will test every skill-set and with players like Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald and Jim Furyk, we could be in for a post-Masters treat.
Last year Carl Petterson came out victorious and he will attempt to regain his trophy, but with a rich history in winners, it is likely a new champion will emerge.
Matt Kuchar 18/1 (Coral)
“Kooch” was in with a shout for the big one last week going into the final day after a 69 on the Saturday, but he never looked like really troubling the leaders. His four days were certainly a solid effort and his T8 finish showed how consistent his season is proving to be. In fact his worst finish of the year is T38 at The Northern Trust Open…
We will admit how difficult it was to split Kuchar and a certain Brandt Snedeker, however we just felt more confident in the guaranteed performer that Kooch is and there were worries in how the latter will recover after a poor final day at Augusta.
Looking at the overall picture, the WGC Matchplay winner has a game that could really attack this course. He has recorded two top 10’s here in previous years, when his form was nothing like it currently is and he is an accurate performer from tee to green, but it is on the green where he could excel. 24th in strokes gained putting and 20th for putts per round, whilst in proximity to the hole he lies 33rd – all key stats for this tricky challenge. Scrambling will certainly come into play with such difficult greens to hit consistently and due to the fact his GIR have been under par at times this season, he is currently 10th in this department. All in all we feel this could be a strong performance from Kooch and we all want to hear the fans screaming his name, don’t we?
Boo Weekley (40/1 Coral)
How can we ever forget that final round 63 at Tampa Bay? Boo once again showed how incredible he can be with his irons. His recent improvement in form has coincided with what he states as “Being at the right and comfortable weight”. He seems relaxed once again and when he is playing as well as he can, Boo is one of the best ball strikers in the game. There is no doubting he can translate this new found freedom on a course that has brought triumph in the past. Back in 2007 the Texan won his first PGA event after remarkably chipping in on both the 17th and 18th to beat Ernie Els by a single shot. He then returned in 2008 to dominate from round 1 and win by 3 shots. He hit a 63 and a 64 in that win and when you consider how well he is playing now, he could definitely do it again. 42nd for driving accuracy, 8th for GIR and 45th in proximity to the hole show how his tee to green abilities will aid him this week. If he can get his putting going, there is no reason a 3rd victory here could be on the horizon…Lets just hope he spent the past 2 weeks off, all relaxed on a fishing boat!
Charles Howell III (50/1 PaddyPower)
Much like Weekley, it is great to see another player starting to find their feet once again. Once gracing the Worlds top 15, his return to form last year has transferred into 2013. 5 top 10s and 7 top 20s is not a mean feat and watching him fight for his life at The Shell Houston Open final round was a delight. Shooting 66 in a last ditch attempt to make The Masters showed courage and determination and even though he fell just short, mainly thanks to Henrik Stenson finishing 2nd, he will carry confidence and a sense of injustice as he tees up on Thursday. His accurate game will come into play as he attacks the small greens, 42nd for GIR on tour and at The Farmers Insurance Open he was 1st in this department for the week. (He eventually finished T9) He has always been considered as a solid player in and around the greens, 12th for strokes gained putting, 19th for putts per round and 2nd in scrambling could really help his challenge. As we have stated before, every single player WILL miss greens along the way, so a solid scrambler will be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. At the challenging WGC Cadillac he was actually top of scrambling for the four days.
If there was a week where Howell can win his first title since 2007, this could really be the one..
Tim Clark (66/1 Coral)
The small South African will go into this week with every bit of confidence, after a wonderful performance at Augusta, where he was still in contention going into the final round on Sunday following a superb 67 the previous day. As we have come to expect from Clark, his tee to green performance was superb and this is why we feel his odds are far too big going into a week where he could suit the course perfectly. His overall season has been up and down, with 3 missed cuts, but a 2nd in Hawaii and only 4 rounds over par in 2013 show he has actually been unlucky. 5th for driving accuracy and 27th in proximity to the hole only add to his appeal, whilst being 27th in putts per round and 47th for scrambling have made sure money has already left the account… His history here has brought about a 7th place in 2006, whilst he has never missed a cut. We can only re-iterate that odds as high as 66s, it seems silly not to take a punt on a very capable golfer.
Brian Davis (66/1 Various)
The 38-year old Englishman has come on a wonderful renaissance in recent weeks after a T6 at The Shell Houston Open followed by a T29 at The Valero Texas Open. He may not have won since 2004, but this is the tournament he came so close to breaking that duck back in 2010. He went into a playoff with DownThe18th stalwart Jim Furyk, however came up short on the first hole. Following that 2nd he recorded a T21 and a T13, which shows how well he can play here and with the glimpses of form he has given us recently, there could be a big surprise on the cards. 27th for driving accuracy, 47th for strokes gained putting and 42nd for putts per round prove how his key attributes will help him round this challenging test. Plus, it would be great for the British Isles to continue the winning streak and follow on from Martin Lairds wonderful win a couple of weeks ago….