Prize Fund – $5,900,000
Winner’s Share – $1,062,000
Course – Harbour Town Golf Links (7,101 par 71)
Our 2014 Picks – Zach Johnson T6, Luke Donald 2nd, Billy Horschel T68, Stewart Cink T61, Justin Hicks T38.
There’s few better ways to cure our post-Masters emotions than being treated to another outstanding tournament on the PGA Tour. Absolutely incredible performance from Jordan Spieth last week, who officially came of age. You could not deny the young American’s intense display, as he went on to hole pretty much everything.
But we can now move on to one of our favourite tournaments in the year, which is some feat considering it usually takes place straight after the first major of the season. The RBC Heritage has often attracted some of the best names and this week it’ll be no different – At the time of writing, last weeks champion Spieth will be teeing it up alongside Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen to name but a few. Played at the Harbour Town Golf Links, it’s one of Pete Dye’s best and has that classic mix between a links and parkland style. At 7,101 yards, it’s undeniably short and will require a superb all-round game to post good scores. Accuracy off the tee is evidently vital because if you miss the fairway, there’s little chance of you attacking pins and finding the dancefloor. The greens are remarkably small, so difficult to hit and as we saw last year when Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald went toe-to-toe, scrambling and bunker play is so important.
To be honest, just look at the winners, they’re all iron/short game gurus; Graeme McDowell, Kuchar, Boo Weekley, Jimbo Furyk. It’s a shot makers paradise out there! Usually you’ll never find players that found themselves at the top of leaderboard at Augusta challenging here, but Kuch changed that last year which shows you should just look at the type of golfer and what their abilities are on this sort of track. Time for us to find a winner and continue the momentum from Hideki Matsuyama’s 5th place finish last week!
Russell Knox 80/1
Russell Knox has been in and out of form this season, but has shown enough glimpses to suggest he could do well on a track that should suit. His T3 at the Honda Classic proves he is more than adept on difficult courses and interestingly it was also a place he did well at last year, much like Harbour Town this week. He finished T9 in 2014 when it could have been a lot better barring a poor 72 on the Friday.
He has the qualities to be a really consistent tee to green player because he hits it far enough and is regularly finds the right position in the fairway to utilise his incredible iron skills – 52nd driving accuracy, 38th ball striking, 22nd GIR and T10 proximity to the hole. With his background on the shores of Scottish links tracks, his scrambling and bunker play is incredibly accustomed to the finer details around the greens on these sort of seaside courses – they’re just so much different to traditional American bunkers/fringes. If he’s able to get all his game going, then there is no reason the Scot won’t be up there and at 80s, he’s definitely worth a punt.
Webb Simpson 40/1
Tee to green there are few better than Webb Simpson. His uncanny abilities to put the ball in the right place is there for all to see, so we definitely think he could have some say in the outcome this week. He showed some class during periods at Augusta in his T28 finish, but he wasn’t able to consistently keep it going. The main part of his problem surprisingly lies with the short stick. Now, that may be risky in this sort of tournament, but we saw him hole a few last week to give us confidence. Admittedly, he also missed a few…
We just have a feeling that if he could get his putter moving, there could be something really special in motion this week. He has a great record here with a couple of T14 finishes before a playoff defeat to McDowell in 2013. That week he played some sublime golf and it makes us think even more that he should do finally well because it hasn’t been plain sailing in 2015 for the American. Couple of top 10s at the WGC and Humana Challenge are the only high finishes, but we are adamant that will change this week. 9th ball striking, 15th GIR, T14 proximity to the hole, 45th sand save and 12th scrambling all add to his ridiculous appeal. Luke Donald – Up to you man, prefer Simpson, but do like the look of Donald.
Kevin Streelman 70/1
Winner of the par 3 contest at Augusta and cracking value for this week. Kevin Streelman has plenty to offer after an impressive showing at The Masters and his all round game suits the demands of Harbour Town. He has played a lot of golf this season for not a lot of return, but to go out and win at the par 3 contest then finish T12 in the main event, shows he is starting to find a bit of form. He finished 10th for GIR and 3rd in driving accuracy across the week, which is a simple and clear indication his game is back to its best. The fact he was also 4th for sand saves tells us he has every chance going onto a track where he’s played well before.
A T3 finish in 2013 here when it should have probably been more, were it not for a +1 round on Sunday. Another very intriguing outsider that has every chance.
Rory Sabbatini (100/1 Paddy Power)
Certainly not in the best of form but a horses for courses pick if there ever has been one. Has never finished outside the top 17 in all of his 5 appearances at the course but equally has never kicked on. Like so many on the Tour, you’re never going to get consistent top 5’s out of Rory but he’s always got one or two in the locker.
Statistically speaking he ticks all the boxes – 17th ball striking, 12th approaches 50-125yards and 17th sand saves.
Ernie Els (100/1 Various)
An impressive T22 for the South African last week at the Masters and an even more impressive first day 5-under-par total. A few cheap errors cost Ernie a big finish around Augusta but he openly admitted after Spieth’s ominous lead meant the guys out there had to keep attacking and shooting at pins.
Not a lot has happened for Els in 2015 but even as the years tick by, he’s always a guaranteed to contend in one or two. Tee to green this year is where he’s been nowhere near as consistent but around the greens his touch remains – 6th approaches 50-125 yards and 17th sand saves. Was runner up in 2007 and had 3 top 10’s around this track before that. 100/1 for an Ernie Els who showed real signs of his best around Augusta seems like good value to us!
Every week we’re running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly. It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters! We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so keep an eye out.
It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets. Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.
Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –
£1.75 e/w on Webb Simpson at 40/1
£1.50 e/w on Kevin Streelman at 40/1
£0.75 e/w on Russell Knox at 66/1
£0.50 e/w on Rory Sabbatini at 100/1
£0.50 e/w on Ernie Els at 80/1
Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power
Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/tour-news)
Current Standings after 13 weeks (and it makes for horrible reading…)
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £-28.70 European Tour: £-43.75
PGA Tour: £-59.38 PGA Tour: £68.50
Total: £-88.08 Total: £24.75
Golf Monthly leads by: £112.83