Winner’s Share: $1,008,000
Course: Sea Island GC (7,005 yards par 70)
This week sees the penultimate event played in America for 2014 on the PGA Tour – the final event, the Sanderson Farms, plays second fiddle to the HSBC Champions next week.
On the back 9 Sunday, we had written off Ben Martin with him 1 over par and the likes of Streelman, a Sunday specialiast, and 2013 winner Webb Simpson closing in fast. But having played the last 4 holes 4 under par including a 46ft bomb on 16 for eagle, he was a deserved winner. With Simpson, Walker and Koepka grabbing place money, it was a tough week to find any value.
With this little spell we now have at the back end of the year, things are nearly done as we move to the Sea Island Golf Course in Georgia. And you don’t have to be a golf geek to work out what this course is playing alongside. At 7,000 yards and situated next to sea, it’s all about course management and plodding your way around. Plenty of water and marshland means it’s as close to links as you are getting stateside.
Tim Clark shot a 62 on the final day last year and barely touched over 270yards off the tee, so distance is not vital. Similar to last week, wedge and high iron yardages are going to be pivotal. If you average anything around the 290yard mark off the tee, it will be wedge play galore. Putting well is obviously key on the slick surfaces and most people who finished high did that last year. Although Chris Kirk interestingly ranked 33rd in putting average before he picked up the trophy in 2013. Emphasising even more so the importance of tee to green play.
There is also a remarkable similarity with the Harbour Town Golf Links course – home to the RBC Heritage. All the previous winners on Sea Island have played well at Harbour Town – in fact barring Chris Kirk, who still had a top 20 and the fact this is his home course – all the winners had a top 10 at the RBC before their victory. Food for thought.
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Russell Knox (40/1 Ladbrokes BEST BET)
Russell Knox was constantly on our radar last season, always fitting the stats for courses requiring a tee to green guru. We admittedly didn’t know much about him, but over time started realising that he has a lot of potential and he genuinely is that good with his irons.
Rarely does he find himself right at the top of leaderboards though and that has been his problem – fully pushing himself to challenge. We saw plenty of him at the Scottish Open, leading after day 1, but struggling through a patch of holes on the Friday dented his chances and that is often the case – obviously barring that playoff defeat at the Honda last season. However, last week we saw the Scot play some sublime golf all 4 days. He finished outright 3rd and looked the part.
He ended up 4 shots behind eventual winner Ben Martin, so we cannot see him being overly exerted following a close call Sunday finish. He will be coming onto a course in a fresh season off the back of a positive performance and somewhere he suits down to the ground. He’s finished T27 and T32 here before, but in line with the similarities to Harbour Town – he finished T9 at the RBC Heritage earlier this year.
His game has the Scottish links routes, no denying that and if he was ever going to record his first PGA Tour victory it would be on a course like this. He was T7 for GIR, T9 for driving accuracy and T17 for putting average last week, so he is in fine fettle.
Scott Brown (45/1 StanJames)
A very intriguing mid-range pick in Scott Brown this week. We have already gone there this season and frustrations naturally grow when your bet doesn’t quite get returns, but when you take a step back and look properly at his performances, you can’t help but be impressed.
T10 last week after a poor opening round – finishing with a 66 gives any golfer a massive boost of confidence. Then T12 the week before in a bizarre mixture of quality and average golf from Brown. He hasn’t been playing particularly well off the tee which may worry some, but his irons have been consistent and his putting is on another level at the moment. 10th overall last week and 13th the week before prove his eye is firmly in on the greens.
He interestingly played outstandingly at the RBC Heritage this year as well, finishing T5 and with a T4 here in 2013 and T20 in 2012, his confidence should be sky high before teeing it up on Thursday.
A lot of factors point in Brown’s direction, so for us, he gets one more chance.
Brian Harman (55/1 various)
Brian Harman has only been fully on the PGA Tour for 3 seasons now, but will tee up in the first of his 4th with a win under his belt. The John Deere Classic has his name engraved and you can’t help but think he could have a lot of say over the coming 10 months.
After that maiden victory, he inevitably struggled, but he’s had an extensive break now and should be fresh to hit the ground running. So why should we be at all interested in backing him? Well, firstly this is his home course. He trains at the esteemed school here, therefore you can only assume he’s indulged in a few cheeky rounds here over the past few weeks. Secondly, he played very well for a T7 finish at the RBC Heritage earlier this year and thirdly he recorded an impressive T10 here in 2013. All that certainly adds up to someone who could challenge in this sort of field at the beginning of a new season.
You would class Harman as one of this all-round talents, he doesn’t have a particular facet to his game that is exceptional, but he rarely puts a foot wrong and tee to green is solid, whist on the greens he won’t shy away from making a few putts.
There is the unknown entity surrounding a player who hasn’t made an appearance on Tour yet, no denying that, but you can’t help feeling intrigued by him.
Adam Hadwin (66/1 various)
Like Brown, we have already plumped for Adam Hadwin this season. However, we went for the new PGA star in the first week when he did, well, bugger all. However last week he played some consistent golf to finish T10 and that should now be the catalyst for a potentially big season from the Canadian.
As we wrote before, he has a decent history in the game without little luck going his way, so the 26-year old has finally proved himself consistently to reach the Tour and now should have massive confidence over that top 10.
It keeps that ‘winning’ (hypothetically, considering he has only won once out of the top performances recently, but I’m sure you get our drift!) mentally and it should push him to achieve more. You can’t read into it too much yet, but 10th for driving distance, 10th driving accuracy and 17th GIR are outstanding stats whatever the time of year.
We are confident you will see his name regularly at the top of the leaderboard, so this could be a week to look out for him, even more so due to the fact he actually played here a few years ago, all be it finishing T70 – still made the cut as a youngster though!
William McGirt (100/1 various)
William McGirt is another player who has performed very well at the RBC Heritage this year, where he finished T9 and that instantly made us take a look at him.
He is yet to win on the PGA Tour, but had a relatively decent year in 2014 with 4 top 10s, including that one at Harbour Town and a T5 at the Barclays a few weeks back. He did withdraw from back problems at the season opener, which would understandably concern a few, however a solid T33 last week proves all is well again. As accurate a player you will ever get – T19 for GIR and T6 for driving accuracy last week shows his game is on and he could be an interesting outsider here.
John Huh (125/1 various)
Another cheeky outsider for us all to consider is John Huh. A young, enigmatic golfer who still has the world at his feet, is yet to fully push on and fulfil his outstanding potential his early days promised. He, like all our main picks found a top 10 at the Heritage – finishing T3 and this is the sort of course you can really see suiting the American youngster.
Always very accurate off the tee and usually consistent with his irons, he has been known to struggle with length, but this track shouldn’t get in the way of that whatsoever. T28 last week where he was T18 for driving accuracy and T19 for GIR, but his putting admittedly let him down.
If he can put more together and follow up from a couple of cracking 67’s he shot at the Shriners, 125s will be great value.
Robert Allenby (150/1 various) and Rory Sabbatini (200/1 Coral)
We know this would bring our total to 8 picks, but we just couldn’t get rid of any outsiders. Robert Allenby finished T23 at the RBC this year and impressively T8 the season opener a couple of weeks back. He played well consistently, as he always does and his tee to green accuracy could prove valuable on this sort of track. Plus, he is on a few to have played here every year since its beginning, finding a T3 finish back in 2010.
As for Rory Sabbatini, we all know what a fine player he is on his day. Like Allenby, he is a multiple time PGA Tour champion but injuries have constantly got in the way. We always fancy a cheeky tickle on him when it’s a course like this, so it’s no different now. T9 at the RBC earlier this year and a fine tee to green stalwart that may have missed the cut last week, but we are confident he could turn it around here.