Congratulations to Tiger Woods backers from last week, I know there were quite a few of you judging by our Social Media channels. A win of that magnitude is always a “I was watching that” moment and the overspill of both emotion and congratulations since his win says everything. Whilst many wilted on the back nine, Tiger was in total control and yet again another Green Jacket winner dominated in terms of Greens in Regulation. A Monday best price of 16/1 put many off, but eventually Tiger delivered his first Major title since the 2008 U.S. Open. With Bethpage Black, Pebble Beach and Royal Portrush the other Major venues of 2019, can we really count against him adding to his 15 Major victories over the course of the next few months?
Plenty of the Masters field have taken the relatively short journey down to the South Carolina coast for this week’s RBC Heritage at the stunning Harbour Town Golf Links. Royal Bank of Canada’s sponsorship (RBC) attracts a decent field in the week after The Masters and we should be in for another interesting renewal on a tight course where strategic thinking is key. Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Francesco Molinari, Matt Kuchar and Marc Leishman headline.
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Course Guide: Harbour Town Golf Links is no typical coastal course, instead I categorise it as a Carolina track – i.e. sharing features with Quail Hollow, Sedgefield and Pinehurst No.2. It also has extremely close form associations with Copperhead at Innisbrook Resort in Florida, which plays far more as a Carolina-type course than a typical Florida track. Carolina courses are traditionally tree-lined, feature doglegs and narrow sight lines from the tee. Harbour Town itself is a Pete Dye design that also features tiny dome-shaped Bermuda TifEagle greens (putting surfaces were re-laid for the 2016 renewal) that are incredibly difficult to hit in regulation. Hitting fairways is an advantage to minimise approach shots being blocked by trees, and it’s very much a golf course where ball-striking and creative shot-shaping are required to get close to tricky pin positions.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina: Designer: Pete Dye with 2000 re-design; Course Type: Carolina, Technical; Par: 71; Length: 7,099 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 10; Fairways: Celebration Bermudagrass; Rough: Celebration Bermudagrass 1.25″; Greens: 3,700 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 11-11.5 ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 72.29 (+1.29), Difficulty Rank 9 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.04 (+1.04), Difficulty Rank 11 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.04 (+1.04), Rank 9 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.49 (-0.51), Rank 26 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.29 (+1.29), Rank 8 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.68 (-0.32), Rank of 29 of 50 courses. 2018: 70.85 (-0.15), Rank 19 of 51 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Harbour Town Golf Links and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
- Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 31 yards wide; 275:25; 300:20; 325:26; 350:22.
- Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
- Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
- TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29 350:20.
- Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:39 350:29.
- PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:26 350:25.
- Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:29; 300:25; 325:27 350:27.
- Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 41 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:34 350:30.
- TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:30; 300:29; 325:29 350:29.
- Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:25 350:23.
- TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:30; 300:29; 325:29; 350:27.
- Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:32; 300:33; 325:37; 350:34.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Pete Dye designs include:
- Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship
- Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 PGA Championship
- TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
- TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship
- TPC Stadium, PGA West – CareerBuilder Challenge since 2016
- Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship.
Course Overview: Harbour Town Golf Links is a specialised test that appeals to players who thrive on gnarly TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces and who have a short game to cope with the inevitable missed greens. Undoubtedly a shot-makers course, precision from the tee rather than brute power is the key this week to avoid live oaks, pine trees and strategically placed bunkers. Greens which average only 3,700 sq.ft. are typically dome-shaped (a Dye design trait) and that’s a critical point this week because even the very best ball strikers will miss at least 18 greens over the week, so sound scrambling is essential. Harbour Town Golf Links pretty much plays as tough as the wind conditions dictate – benign and soft course conditions in the past have seen plotters reach scores of -18/266 to -20/264. If it’s firm and windy, sub -10/274 can suffice.
With fresh TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces laid for 2016, which have been particularly firm since their introduction, it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve settled a further 12 months down the line. Primarily though the same skills-sets are key: power hitters who have little regard for strategy are at a distinct disadvantage and Greens in Regulation numbers here are always in the top 10 toughest on the PGA Tour, even when the wind doesn’t blow as per 2015. That’s hardly surprising as the Dye design features green complexes which are the smallest on Tour.
At a test where hitting 70% greens in regulation is a tough task, the ability to scramble across the greens missed is absolutely essential – those who struggle to get up and down simply haemorrhage too many bogeys. The TifEagle Bermudagrass greens are also tricky for putts from 10-15 feet (7th toughest on Tour last term), making another key requirement the ability to hit the ball close on approaches. The course though rewards all-round ability. Look for those who can take advantage of scorable conditions across both the par-4s and the par-5s. Players have plenty of opportunities around Harbour Town with wedge in hand.
Winners: 2018: Satoshi Kodaira (-12); 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13); 2016: Branden Grace (-9); 2015: Jim Furyk (-18); 2014: Matt Kuchar (-11); 2013: Graeme McDowell (-9); 2012: Carl Pettersson (-14); 2011: Brandt Snedeker (-12); 2010: Jim Furyk (-13); 2009: Brian Gay (-20); 2008: Boo Weekley (-15); 2007: Boo Weekley (-14).
Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Marc Leishman, Kevin Kisner, Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay and Ian Poulter.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Mexico Championship and Puerto Rico Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Jim Furyk; 2) Brian Gay; 3) Chez Reavie; 4) Ryan Armour; 5) Kevin Kisner / Matt Kuchar; 7) Justin Harding; 8) Whee Kim / Andrew Landry; 10) Emiliano Grillo / Rory Sabbatini / Vaughn Taylor; 13) Jim Herman; 14) Ryan Moore; 15) Michael Thompson; 16) Abraham Ancer / Ian Poulter; 18) K.J. Choi; 19) Tyler Duncan / Sam Ryder / Brian Stuard.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Dustin Johnson / Xander Schauffele; 3) Matt Kuchar; 4) Charles Howell III; 5) Ryan Palmer; 6) Russell Knox / Jason Kokrak; 8) Kevin Kisner; 9) Jim Furyk; 10) Martin Laird; 11) Patrick Cantlay; 12) Wyndham Clark / Tommy Fleetwood; 14) Charley Hoffman; 15) Lucas Glover; 16) Byeong Hun An; 17) Ian Poulter; 18) Francesco Molinari; 19) Patton Kizzire / Adam Schenk.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Bryson DeChambeau; 3) Eddie Pepperell; 4) Dustin Johnson; 5) Francesco Molinari; 6) Cameron Smith; 7) Aaron Baddeley; 8) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Xander Schauffele / Vaughn Taylor; 11) Ollie Schniederjans; 12) Patrick Cantlay; 13) Nick Taylor; 14) Keith Mitchell; 15) Wyndham Clark / Charley Hoffman; 17) Si Woo Kim / Shane Lowry; 19) Adam Hadwin / Justin Harding / Charles Howell.
Winners & Prices: 2018: Kodaira 250/1; 2017: Bryan 80/1; 2016: Grace 40/1; 2015: Furyk 25/1; 2014: Kuchar 18/1; 2013: McDowell 40/1; 2012: Pettersson 55/1; 2011: Snedeker 35/1; 2010: Furyk 14/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 83/1; Overall Average: 62/1.
- 2018: Thursday: Sunny. High of 69. Wind SE 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 70. Wind SSE 10-15 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 77. Wind SSE 10-15 mph. Sunday: Due to the threat of inclement weather in the afternoon, final-round tee times were between 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. in threesomes off Nos. 1 and 10. Mostly cloudy and windy. High of 77. Wind SSW 15-25, with gusts to 35 mph.
- 2017: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 75. Light and variable wind. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 77. Light and variable wind. Saturday: Sunny with a high of 73. Wind ESE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny with a high of 78. Wind SSE 4-8 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Mostly cloudy and windy. High of 64. Wind NE at 15-20 mph, gusting to 30. Friday: Mostly cloudy and windy with occasional showers. Temperatures in the low 60s. NE wind at 15-20 mph, gusts to 35. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 68. Wind ENE at 10-15 mph, gusting to 20. Sunday: Sunny and warm with high of 70. NE wind at 10-15 mph, gusting to 25.
- 2015: Thursday: Cloudy, breezy and cool. High of 69. Wind NE at 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 mph. Friday: Cloudy. High of 69. Wind NE at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 78. Wind SSE at 5-10 mph. Sunday: Morning showers turned to some periods of sunshine. High of 78. Wind SSE at 7-12 mph.
Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Hilton Head, South Carolina, is here. April to date has been a wet month on the Atlantic coast. 105mm has fallen here, with 80mm of that falling in the week prior to the tournament. But it’s the forecast which really grabs the attention this week. Thursday will be the day to post a score with a receptive course, warm temperatures and moderate breeze in-play. But a passing front on Friday containing thunderstorms looks like it will impact the tournament hugely and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lengthy suspension. Saturday looks cold and features 30mph westerly winds with Sunday warming up to 24 degrees Celsius, but winds will still be gusting 25 mph.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 9 winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:
- 2018, Satoshi Kodaira (-12). 272 yards (65th), 75.0% fairways (4th), 68.16% greens in regulation (7th), 29’6″ proximity to hole (1st), 73.9 % scrambling (13th), 1.74 putts per GIR (47th).
- 2017, Wesley Bryan (-13). 274 yards (50th), 55.4% fairways (55th), 55.6% greens in regulation (66th), 29’11” proximity to hole (7th), 84.4 % scrambling (1st), 1.68 putts per GIR (16th).
- 2016, Branden Grace (-9). 280 yards (39th), 53.6% fairways (50th), 61.1% greens in regulation (14th), 37’8″ proximity to hole (39th), 78.6 % scrambling (3rd), 1.73 putts per GIR (21st).
- 2015, Jim Furyk (-18). 260 yards (75th), 76.8% fairways (7th), 69.4% greens in regulation (11th), proximity to hole 26’4″ (2nd), 95.5 % scrambling (1st), 1.70 putts per GIR (28th).
- 2014, Matt Kuchar (-11). 268 yards (56th), 73.2% fairways (7th), 73.6% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 31’8″ (6th), 73.7 % scrambling (11th), 1.72 putts per GIR (20th).
- 2013, Graeme McDowell (-9). 274 yards (51st), 75.0% fairways (5th), 66.7% greens in regulation (7th), proximity to hole 34’11” (31st), 79.2% scrambling (1st), 1.75 putts per GIR (25th).
- 2012, Carl Pettersson (-14). 279 yards (31st), 66.1% fairways (39th), 69.4% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 33’3″ (10th), 68.2% scrambling (15th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2011, Brandt Snedeker (-12). 271 yards (59th), 80.4% fairways (3rd), 61.1% greens in regulation (30th), proximity to hole 30’6″ (8th), 67.9% scrambling (17th), 1.59 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2010, Jim Furyk (-13). 271 yards (41st), 76.8% fairways (9th), 61.1% greens in regulation (17th), proximity to hole 29’0″ (1st), 82.1% scrambling (2nd), 1.66 putts per GIR (20th).
Tournament Skill Average:
- Driving Distance: 52nd, Driving Accuracy: 20th, Greens in Regulation: 17th, Proximity to Hole: 12th, Scrambling: 7th, Putting Average 20th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:
- 2018, Satoshi Kodaira (-12). SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 65th, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 16th.
- 2017, Wesley Bryan (-13). SG Off the Tee: 67th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 10th, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 11th.
- 2016, Branden Grace (-9). SG Off the Tee: 19th, SG Approach: 28th, SG Around the Green: 3rd, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 10th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:
- SG Off the Tee: 31st, SG Approach: 12th, SG Around the Green: 26th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 12th.
Let’s take a view from players as to how Harbour Town sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Satoshi Kodaira (2018): “Yes, this course is very similar to courses in Japan. And during the practice round I felt very comfortable playing this course. So, yes, it fit me very well. This course is very similar to the courses in Japan, a little bit shorter and a shaped course. I felt very comfortable in the practice rounds.“
Wesley Bryan (2017): “I mean this is one of the best golf courses that we’re going to play all year. A lot of the guys rave about it because you have to work the ball both ways off the tee. You have to work the ball both ways going into the green. You have to miss it in the right spots around the green to have a chance. And it just one of the only courses on Tour where you’ll see that you have to play every single shot in your bag. And I love it. I’m not a super technical guy, so the guy that kind of imagines shots going both ways. I work the ball probably a little more than the average guy out here. This is a course when I looked at the schedule starting off that this is one of the places I thought that I had the best chance to contend at. And I guess after all the dust settled my intuition was correct.”
Branden Grace (2016): “I like this place. It’s completely different. It’s short and fiddly. Obviously the winds do defend here. And there’s a couple of shots that I’ve got up my sleeve, that I like hitting, that I grew up hitting and I think it goes well with this place. It’s one of those golf courses that suits my eye. I grew up playing in the wind and I grew up playing fiddly courses like this. I would think this is a bit more of a ball-striker’s golf course. It doesn’t matter if you miss a couple of fairways, a couple of greens, you can get your way around it. I just like coming back to this place. I have spoken to Ernie in the past about this event. And he thought it’s one that’s really going to suit my eye. It reminds me a little bit of Fancourt Links back home, because it’s linksy. You really have to see your thoughts. You have to hit a couple of different shots, not shots that you hit often.”
Matt Kuchar: “It’s so unique, uniquely different, with the tree lined fairways, with the ability to basically recall and remember every hole. Every hole stands out. Even though you have a lot of holes that have similar characteristics of just tight on the left side, tight on the right side with trees, they have slight doglegs that make it exciting to play, make it exciting to try to truly play chess around this golf course, and positioning your tee shot in the right spot in the fairway. If it’s not, you get to play all sorts of fun recovery shots. If you’re off line, it’s not that your ball is necessarily in a hazard and you’re playing a drop. You find it and have a recovery shot, and you have a play. All the greens are made so that you do have a play. They’re basically on the same level as the fairway. They’re not perched up with bunkers everywhere, where you’re just trying to leave yourself a bunker shot. You can actually run them all up on the greens. They’re small greens. If you’re on the green, you have a shot at birdie. It’s a great layout, a great design, a memorable golf course. And I don’t think it necessarily rewards a typical type of player. It’s not a short hitter that always wins. You take Davis Love, who’s won here more than anybody, and he, in his prime, would have been longer than the longest guy we’ve got today. He could hit it further than anybody. So you have guys like Davis, that can overpower courses, that play well here. And then you’ve got guys like myself, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, as kind of not your power players, that can also play well here.”
Graeme McDowell: “You just have to stay really patient. You have to position the ball well at times. You have to be really aware of the wind on this golf course. It’s tough to pick them out on the back nine today. There’s some really tough shots on this golf course. And you’ve just got to pick your targets and flight the ball as well as you can. Some good memories and some good visuals for me on this golf course, and it was nice to plug back into some of those and make a few birdies.”
Jason Day: “It’s an amazing golf course. It really is. It’s one of the pretty much old school golf courses we get to play on the PGA Tour. Most courses become more modern, where they’re getting really long. And they’re getting difficult by length. This course shows that you don’t really need length to make a golf course difficult. For me, personally, there’s a lot of irons, long irons off the tees and a lot of 4 woods. I don’t believe, obviously with weather, how the weather goes this week will depend on if I’m going to pull the driver out a lot. But just thinking about it, there’s only maybe four or five drivers out there. Most of them are pretty much 4 woods and long irons. So it’s difficult. You’ve got to shape your shots both ways. And the greens are so small, you have to be really sharp with your irons to hit the greens.”
Jim Furyk: “I think it’s all about working the golf ball. There’s a lot of strategy involved. But you have to be able to control the golf ball. You have to hit high shots, low shots, curve it right to left, left to right. If you don’t have control of the golf ball you’re going to struggle at this golf course. You’re not going to skank it around for very long, and eventually you’re going to be in trouble. It’s about hitting fairways, but a lot of times it’s about hitting the proper side of the fairway, and that may depend on day to day, with the pin placements. Nine is a good example and 11 is a good example. If you don’t hit the right side of the fairway, you have to carve a shot around trees and hit it low or hit it high or hit it around branches. It’s actually a very fun golf course to play.”
Path to Victory: Below are the end-of-round positions for the last 9 RBC Heritage winners:
- 2018 – Satoshi Kodaira: Round 1: 82nd, Round 2: 13th, Round 3: 12th.
- 2017 – Wesley Bryan: Round 1: 35th, Round 2: 10th, Round 3: 6th.
- 2016 – Branden Grace: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 21st, Round 3: 5th.
- 2015 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 36th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 5th.
- 2014 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 7th.
- 2013 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 58th, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 4th.
- 2012 – Carl Pettersson: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
- 2011 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 28th, Round 2: 9th, Round 3: 17th.
- 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 9 Heritage winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:
- 2018 – Satoshi Kodaira: Round 1: 9 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 6 back.
- 2017 – Wesley Bryan: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 4 back.
- 2016 – Branden Grace: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 3 back.
- 2015 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 4 back.
- 2014 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 4 back.
- 2013 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 4 back.
- 2012 – Carl Pettersson: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
- 2011 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 6 back.
- 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Satoshi Kodaira: 28th Augusta/MC Bay Hill/54th Mexico/17th Perth.
- Wesley Bryan: 62nd Puerto Rico/69th Bay Hill/7th Copperhead/4th PGA National/4th Riviera.
- Branden Grace: MC Augusta/37th Copperhead/23rd Doral/MC PGA National/1st Qatar.
- Jim Furyk: MC Augusta/58th San Antonio/40th Copperhead/12th Doral/14th Riviera.
- Matt Kuchar: 5th Augusta/2nd Houston/4th San Antonio/38th Copperhead.
- Graeme McDowell: MC Augusta/45th Bay Hill/3rd Doral/9th PGA National.
- Carl Pettersson: 2nd Houston/MC Bay Hill/MC Copperhead/36th PGA National.
- Brandt Snedeker: 4th TPC San Antonio/15th Augusta/MC Bay Hill/4th Copperhead.
- Jim Furyk: MC Augusta/11th Bay Hill/1st Copperhead/37th Doral.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
- 2018 – Sabbatini – AM -7/64 125/1.
- 2017 – Cauley – PM -8/63 200/1.
- 2016 – Donald / Grace – AM/PM Split -5/66.
- 2015 – Every / McDowell – Both PM -5/66.
- 2014 – Kuchar/ Langley / McGirt – 1AM / 2PM Split -5/66.
- 2013 – Davis – AM -6/65.
- 2012 – Campbell / Knost / V Taylor – All PM -4/67.
- 2011 – Willis – AM -7/64.
- 2010 – Choi – AM -7/64.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 6 – Dustin Johnson
- 4 – Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson.
- 3 – Ernie Els, Brian Gay, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth.
- 2 – Daniel Berger, K.J. Choi, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Russell Henley, Si Woo Kim, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Marc Leishman, Davis Love III, Ryan Palmer, Scott Piercy, Xander Schauffele.
- 1 – Ryan Armour, Aaron Baddeley, Jonas Blixt, Jonathan Byrd, Cameron Champ, Austin Cook, Harris English, Branden Grace, Cody Gribble, Adam Hadwin, Charles Howell III, Mackenzie Hughes, Martin Kaymer, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Martin Laird, Adam Long, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Francesco Molinari, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, John Senden, Webb Simpson, Cameron Smith, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, D.J. Trahan, Nick Watney, Boo Weekley.
Harbour Town is undoubtedly a course where patience, experience and guile is rewarded. Played traditionally the week after Augusta (apart from 2011 when TPC San Antonio was played the week in between), it won’t surprise you that the majority of recent champions played down the road in Georgia at The Masters prior to triumphing here, namely Satoshi Kodaira, Branden Grace, Jim Furyk (twice), Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker (he’d also finished 4th the week before at TPC San Antonio) and Boo Weekley who successfully defended. Three exceptions to that trend come in the form of Brian Gay (2009), Carl Pettersson (2012) and Wesley Bryan (2016). Gay and Pettersson were experienced professionals who both have a good record on tight Par 70s. Wesley Bryan was both a Tour and tournament rookie who many, despite a great start on the PGA Tour, discarded due to his lack of course experience. Unfortunately few had read this article prior to his victory!
Winner’s Association – Finish at Previous Masters: 2018: Satoshi Kodaira – 28th; 2017: Wesley Bryan – DNP; 2016: Branden Grace – MC; 2015: Jim Furyk – MC; 2014: Matt Kuchar – 5th; 2013: Graeme McDowell – MC; 2012: Carl Pettersson – DNP; 2011: Brandt Snedeker – 15th; 2010: Jim Furyk – MC; 2009: Brian Gay – DNP; 2008: Boo Weekley – 19th.
Another strong trend is the fact that all winners here going back to 2006 (Aaron Baddeley) had at least a single top 12 on Bermudagrass greens in the season prior to placing the Harbour Town Plaid Jacket on their shoulders. Course form-wise, top-5 finishes on the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens at coastal Kapalua seem to be a huge indicator and that link to TifEagle Bermudagrass performances shouldn’t be overlooked be that on the PGA Tour or the European Tour.
Harbour Town shares TifEagle Bermudagrass grass greens with Copperhead, home of the Valspar Championship, and, as mentioned before, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook shares Carolina course overtures in its setup. 7 of the 10 winners from 2009 onwards had all finished in the top 10 around Copperhead prior to winning here and Branden Grace has gone onto finishing in the top 10 at the Valspar post his victory here in 2017. Broadening the TifEagle link out slightly, excellent performances on the pure TifEagle greens featured at Kapalua, PGA National, Doral, Bay Hill (from 2016 onwards) and TPC Sawgrass (from 2017 onwards), link in perfectly as well.
My selections are as follows: