Now that the Masters is over for another year, the PGA Tour moves into one of my favorite parts of the schedule. I love the old, established golf courses in the Eastern part of the United States where the shorter hitting shot-makers have an equal chance to pick up a win. The big hitters will pay a price for missing fairways, and can’t just grip-it-and-rip-in on every hole, but will be rewarded for a well placed tee shot in the fairway.
The RBC Heritage has been following the Masters on the schedule since 1982, and is a welcomed refuge from the demands of Augusta National. Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head is one of the shortest venues on the tour, but by no means one of its easiest golf courses.
Players that win here are average, but accurate drivers, have an excellent iron game, and can chip and putt. Graeme McDowell beat 2012 US Open Champ, Webb Simpson in a one-hole playoff last year to win his first tournament of the 2013 season. The popular Northern Irishman fits the mold of players who have enjoyed success at picturesque Harbour Town with its iconic light house in view at the 18th green.
Luke Donald had a horrible Thursday at Augusta last week and the -2 under par 70 he shot on Friday couldn’t overcome the nasty 79 he carded in round one. The former number one player in the world missed the cut by one shot. Harbour Town however, is right in Donalds wheel-house. He has finished in the top five, four times in the last five years, and is a player looking for a place to notch a 2014 win, and I think the RBC Heritage is the place it can happen.
The Masters was Donald’s first missed cuts of the year, and he managed two top 10 finishes in 2014 with a T 4 in Tampa, and a T 8 at TPC National.
It’s getting to the point that anytime Jordan Spieth is in the field, you have to put him somewhere in your power rankings. The 20 year-old got a huge playing lesson on Sunday at Augusta, and we have to look at two options for his entry at Harbour Town. He will either come to Hilton Head with fire in his eyes, and wanting to avenge the loss to Bubba Watson last week, or he will arrive exhausted and mail-in an effort. Hard to tell before the action starts on Thursday, which Jordan Spieth will show up. Spieth finished T 9 in his first look at this golf course in 2013.
Anytime Zach Johnson is entered in a tournament at a shot-makers golf course, you have include him in your picks somewhere. He’s perfect for this layout, and after missing the cut at Augusta last week, should come in here with some rest, and ready to play. Zach’s little draw, and impeccable wedge game make him a favorite at Harbour Town if he can coax some putts in the hole. He hasn’t been particularly sharp since his break during the West Coast Swing, and could well be a threat this week.
Brendon de Jonge
I have to agree with Pro Golf Now staff writer, Danny Norris and his Sleeper Picks article. This is also a place where the 33 year-old Zimbabwean can flourish.
In the last five years, de Jonge has been consistent. Last year, de Jonge finished T-9, 2012: T-29, 2011: T-21, 2010: T-35, and 2009: T-68. The last three tournaments de Jonge has played this year he has finished T-36 at the Texas Open, T-37 at the Houston Open, and a T-37 at The Masters last week.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the defending champion in my picks. Like a host of world-class players, McDowell was treated badly at Augusta last week, and went home early. McDowell has logged top tens in four of five starts since the 2014 season started. The 14th ranked player in the world has a 69.823 scoring average in 2014, and is 39th in FedEx Cup points. Harbour Town is the start of a run that he could make to get in position for a run down the stretch.