Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's RBC Heritage Tips 2021

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Congratulations to you if you were on board Hideki Matsuyama at pre-event prices up to 45/1 (bet365). Within the all-important top 10 after Thursday, Hideki’s Saturday blitz put him in control of the tournament and with a lack of true pressure exerted on him by the likes of Leishman, Rose and Schauffele, he took Japan’s first ever golf Major Championship.

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. Berger, Cantlay, Fleetwood, Hatton, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and defending champion Webb Simpson headline.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the RBC Heritage, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System, with the PGA Championship now only a few weeks away.  Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,800+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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: 7,121 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 18; Fairways: Celebration Bermudagrass overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass; Rough: Celebration Bermudagrass overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass 0.75″; Greens: 3,700 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis; 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. 2019: 71.17 (+0.17), Rank 11 of 49 courses. 2020: 69.14 (-1.86), Rank 37 of 41 courses.

Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Harbour Town Golf Links, and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Pete Dye designs include:

  • Austin Country Club – WGC Dell Matchplay since 2016
  • Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship
  • Harbour Town – RBC Heritage
  • Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 PGA Championship
  • Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship
  • TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
  • TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
  • TPC Stadium, PGA West – The American Express since 2016
  • Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA 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 around 18 to 20 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 -20/264 to -22/262. If it’s firm and windy, sub -10/274 can suffice.

With fresh TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces laid for 2016, in April they feature Poa Trivialis overseed. Primarily though the same skills-sets are key year-to-year: 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/Poa Trivialis greens are also tricky for putts from 10-15 feet and 20-25 feet 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 scoreable conditions across both the par-4s and the par-5s. Players have plenty of opportunities around Harbour Town with wedge in hand.

rbc heritage tips

Winners: 2020: Webb Simpson (-22); 2019: C.T. Pan (-12); 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -22.
  • 2019: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -10; Round 4 -12.
  • 2018: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -13; Round 4 -12.

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 | 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 Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Abraham Ancer, Brian Harman, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na, Daniel Berger, Si Woo Kim and Jim Furyk.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to Genesis Invitational, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brice Garnett / Chez Reavie; 3) Abraham Ancer; 4) Collin Morikawa / Brendon Todd; 6) Sungjae Im; 7) K.J. Choi; 8) Billy Horschel; 9) Brian Stuard; 10) Mark Hubbard; 11) Corey Conners / Matthew Fitzpatrick / Denny McCarthy; 14) Kevin Kisner; 15) Ryan Armour / Doug Ghim / Kevin Streelman; 18) Harris English; 19) Ryan Moore; 20) Kevin Na / Matthew NeSmith; 22) Brian Harman; 23) Adam Hadwin / Ben Martin / Webb Simpson.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Bill Haas; 2) Will Zalatoris; 3) Emiliano Grillo / Chase Seiffert; 5) Corey Conners; 6) John Augenstein; 7) Tommy Fleetwood / Collin Morikawa; 9) Shane Lowry; 10) Webb Simpson; 11) Sergio Garcia / Patton Kizzire / Aaron Wise; 14) Ben Martin; 15) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Will Gordon; 17) Paul Casey; 18) Matthew NeSmith; 19) Abraham Ancer / Tyler Duncan; 21) Chris Kirk; 22) Patrick Cantlay / Stewart Cink / Nick Taylor / Harold Varner III.
  • Scrambling: 1) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 2) Abraham Ancer; 3) Harris English / Brian Harman / Cameron Smith; 6) Brice Garnett; 7) Paul Casey / K.J. Choi /  Webb Simpson; 10) Andrew Putnam; 11) Russell Henley / Ryan Moore; 13) Sungjae Im; 14) Carlos Ortiz; 15) Charley Hoffman; 16) Corey Conners / Robert MacIntyre / Brendon Todd; 19) Jim Furyk / Sergio Garcia / Rafael Campos / Michael Thompson; 23) William McGirt; 24) Daniel Berger / Tyrrell Hatton.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Danny Willett; 3) Kevin Streelman; 4) Collin Morikawa; 5) Wyndham Clark / Brendan Grace / Harry Higgs; 8) Wesley Bryan; 9) Daniel Berger; 10) Alex Noren; 11) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Mackenzie Hughes; 13) Camilo Villegas; 14) Lee Westwood; 15) Brendon Todd; 16) Brian Harman / J.T. Poston; 18) Paul Casey; 19) Dustin Johnson; 20) Corey Conners / Matt Kuchar; 22) Adam Hadwin / Sebastian Munoz / Webb Simpson / Richy Werenski / Will Zalatoris.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Genesis Invitational, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Sungjae Im; 2) Brandon Hagy; 3) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Brian Harman; 5) Daniel Berger; 6) Collin Morikawa; 7) Tyrrell Hatton; 8) Will Gordon; 9) Corey Conners / Charles Howell III / Kevin Streelman; 12) Aaron Wise; 13) Will Zalatoris; 14) Lucas Glover; 15) Billy Horschel; 16) Abraham Ancer / Chris Kirk; 18) Shane Lowry / Ryan Moore; 20) Emiliano Grillo; 21) Ben Martin; 22) Patrick Cantlay / Luke List / Patrick Rodgers; 25) Joel Dahmen / Bo Hoag / Ian Poulter / Carlos Ortiz / Harold Varner III.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Charley Hoffman; 2) Collin Morikawa; 3) Paul Casey / Will Zalatoris; 5) Sergio Garcia; 6) Corey Conners; 7) Tommy Fleetwood / Ben Martin; 9) Davis Love III; 10) K.J. Choi; 11) Abraham Ancer / Daniel Berger; 13) Cameron Smith; 14) Stewart Cink; 15) Doug Ghim; 16) Tom Hoge; 17) Harris English / Harry Higgs; 19) Patton Kizzire; 20) Tyler Duncan / Tyrrell Hatton; 22) Emiliano Grillo / Chris Kirk; 24) Lee Westwood; 25) Sam Burns.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Brandon Hagy; 2) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 3) Paul Casey; 4) Cameron Smith; 5) Brian Harman; 6) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Webb Simpson / Matt Wallace; 9) Scott Harrington; 10) Kevin Na; 11) Adam Hadwin / Robert Streb; 13) Shane Lowry; 14) Chris Kirk; 15) Harris English / Branden Grace / Dustin Johnson / William McGirt / Nick Watney; 20) Danny Willett; 21) Chase Seiffert; 22) Daniel Berger / Richy Werenski; 24) K.J. Choi / Ryan Moore.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Brandon Hagy; 2) Collin Morikawa; 3) Paul Casey / Sergio Garcia; 5) Corey Conners / Charley Hoffman; 7) Will Zalatoris; 8) Chris Kirk / Chase Seiffert; 10) Daniel Berger; 11) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Ben Martin; 13) Cameron Smith; 14) Shane Lowry; 15) Danny Willett; 16) Tommy Fleetwood / Matt Wallace; 18) Abraham Ancer; 19) Brian Harman; 20) K.J. Choi; 21) Aaron Wise; 22) Doug Ghim; 23) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Stewart Cink / Harris English / Lucas Glover.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Sungjae Im; 2) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Mackenzie Hughes; 4) Zach Johnson; 5) Cameron Smith; 6) Denny McCarthy; 7) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 8) Brian Harman; 9) Brendon Todd; 10) Ryan Armour; 11) Patrick Rodgers; 12) Russell Henley; 13) Alex Noren; 14) Paul Casey / Chesson Hadley; 16) Wyndham Clark / Kevin Kisner; 18) Corey Conners; 19) Andrew Putnam / J.T. Poston / Webb Simpson; 22) Sebastian Munoz; 23) Scott Brown / Branden Grace / Adam Hadwin.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Paul Casey; 2) Mathew Fitzpatrick; 3) Cameron Smith; 4) Brandon Hagy; 5) Will Zalatoris; 6) Sungjae Im; 7) Corey Conners / Charley Hoffman; 9) Daniel Berger / Chris Kirk; 11) Brian Harman; 12) Chase Seiffert; 13) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 14) Collin Morikawa; 15) Matt Wallace; 16) Sergio Garcia; 17) Tyrrell Hatton / Ben Martin; 19) Abraham Ancer; 20) Sebastian Munoz; 21) Adam Hadwin / Dustin Johnson; 23) Webb Simpson; 24) Branden Grace; 25) Tommy Fleetwood / Denny McCarthy.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Simpson 30/1; 2019: Pan 160/1; 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 7 Renewals Average: 86/1. Overall Average: 68/1.

For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind SE 10-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind ESE 10-15 mph. Play was suspended due to a dangerous weather situation at 5:42 p.m. and resumed at 7:42 p.m. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 85. Wind SE 6-12 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87. Wind S 5-10 mph. Due to a dangerous weather situation, play was suspended from 2:35 p.m. until 5:21 p.m. (2 hours, 46 minutes).
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 77. Wind SSE 10-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy and windy. High of 76. Wind S 15-35 mph, with gusts to 40 mph. Play was suspended at 12:48 p.m. due to thunderstorms and resumed at 4:31 p.m. Play was suspended due to darkness at 7:47 p.m., with 56 players yet to complete their second rounds. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 69. Wind WSW 15-20 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. The second round resumed at 7:45 a.m., with the third round beginning with threesomes off split tees beginning at 11:10 a.m. Sunday: Sunny. High of 73. Wind W 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 92. Wind SSE 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 94. Wind SSE 7-13 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 97. Wind SSE 7-14 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 99. Wind ESE 5-10 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 93. Wind S 20-25 mph, with gusts of 30 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 98. Wind SW 15-20 mph, with gusts of 25 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 96. Wind SSW 15-20 mph, with gusts of 25 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind N 10-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind S at 15-20 mph, gusting to 30 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy early turning to partly sunny skies in the afternoon. Warm and humid, with a high of 86. Wind SSE at 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy early turning to partly sunny skies in the afternoon. Warm and humid, with a high of 86. Wind SSE at 10-15 mph. Sunday: Due to early morning thunderstorms, the original tee times featuring twosomes off of one tee beginning at 7:30 a.m. were changed to a two-tee start with threesomes at 10:19 a.m. Mostly cloudy. High of 85. Wind SSE at 10-15 mph
  • 2015: Weather: Thursday: Cloudy, but drier in the afternoon, with highs reaching only into the lower 60s. North wind at 10-20 mph. A total of 1.3 inches of rain fell overnight and into the morning. Friday: Overcast, with intermittent rain throughout the day. High of 76, with N wind at 7-12 mph. Saturday: Overcast, with a high of 76. Wind SE at 15-25 mph. Sunday: Due to the likeliness of inclement weather, final-round tee times were between 7-9 a.m. Cloudy with rain most of the day and a high of 79. Wind SSW at 10-20 mph.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Hilton Head, South Carolina, is here.

The course has seen very little rain over the past 2 weeks and there is little chance of it during tournament week either. So I would not be surprised to see fast fairways and potentially releasing greens (if the PGA Tour want that). That points towards a high-teens winning total rather than the 100% pure scoring contest we saw here back in June, when the course was soft and gettable. Wind won’t be a factor apart from Thursday with gusts up to 20mph from the west. Temperatures will also be very northern European, with nothing warmer than 18 degrees Celsius across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 11 winners of the RBC Heritage since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

  • 2020, Webb Simpson (-22). 283 yards (33rd), 67.9% fairways (33rd), 73.6% greens in regulation (12th), 30’5″ proximity to hole (33rd), 73.7% scrambling (27th), 1.55 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2019, C.T. Pan (-13). 277 yards (55th), 51.8% fairways (59th), 58.3% greens in regulation (37th), 32’5″ proximity to hole (5th), 73.3 % scrambling (16th), 1.52 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2018, Satoshi Kodaira (-12). 272 yards (65th), 75.0% fairways (4th), 68.1% 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 Averages:

Driving Distance: 50th, Driving Accuracy: 25th, Greens in Regulation: 18th, Proximity to Hole: 12th, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 17th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Webb Simpson (-22). SG Off the Tee: 34th, SG Approach: 8th, SG Around the Green: 33rd, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2019, C.T. Pan (-12). SG Off the Tee: 50th, SG Approach: 18th, SG Around the Green: 7th, SG Tee to Green: 11th, SG Putting: 5th.
  • 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: 35th, SG Approach: 13th, SG Around the Green: 24th, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 9th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Harbour Town sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Webb Simpson (2020): “I think you have to really shape it off the tee. You’ve got to think, you know, any hole could be two or three clubs off the tee that makes sense. So I love that. I love small greens. I love small targets. Paul said that I’m the worst driver of the ball with a really open fairway and one of the best with a really tight fairway. So I think, when it’s really wide, I’m not thinking or focusing. And also just being, I think, at the beach. I’ve always seemed to play well here and RSM, just being near the ocean. I grew up playing golf at the beach in Wilmington. So it just feels nice to be close to the beach. Yeah, I’ve had some of my best finishes these weeks.

I came in here Tuesday not knowing what to expect, and I realized they were softer than April. Honestly, with no overseed, the grain’s more exposed, so we can read them better, I think, and be more confident. The grain’s pretty strong here. So far, the grain really hasn’t failed us. It’s done what the grain said each time. So having a guy like Paul who grew up in Florida and knows Bermuda greens well, it gives me confidence as a player.

It’s very satisfying knowing like I’m not near as long as some of these guys and I’m able to kind of use my skills of distance control and shot shape to kind of pick me back up when I’m 40 yards or 30 yards behind these guys. A good example is you look at WGC Mexico, where I’ve played very poorly there, is that at that altitude, you take away my distance control strength because it’s more of a guess there. My distance control there has been terrible for three years. You put me anywhere else besides a place with altitude, and that my distance control and shot shape allows me to play well and stay up with these guys.”

C.T. Pan (2019): “Those four holes just, first hole is always tough, the first tee shots. You know you’re in contention. And it’s always hard to having good start is very important to win this tournaments. Last night I look at the hole locations and they were kind of tough. No. 1 is front right, downwind. It’s hard to stop the ball. No. 2 is all the way back right and that’s hard to make a birdie. If you hit a good driver there’s a chance. No. 3 is a long hole. And No. 4 is greens, island green, secured by water. I made a double there yesterday so I did not have a good memory there. And that’s why I told myself just play your best, shoot even par or under and then of course it will get eventually easier and No. 5 is a par 5, which I did well, made birdie there. And No. 9, No. 10 and No. 12.

This course, obviously I’m not a long hitter, so it’s all about decision. Decision with the ball is very important out here. And I hit a lot of fairways, which works well. And I work on the low driver, as well. I did a lot of preparation for this week to get myself ready.”

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 winners of the RBC Heritage since 2010:

  • 2020 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – C.T. Pan: Round 1: 53rd, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 5th.
  • 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 Off the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the RBC Heritage winners since 2010:

  • 2020 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: level.
  • 2019 – C.T. Pan: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 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:

  • Webb Simpson: MC Colonial/61st Players/1st TPC Scottsdale /3rd Waialae.
  • C.T. Pan: MC San Antonio/42nd Copperhead/72nd TPC Sawgrass/MC Bay Hill.
  • 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.

  • 2020 – Hubbard / Poulter – Both AM -7/64 150/1 & 70/1.
  • 2019 – Lowry – AM -6/65 100/1.
  • 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:

  • 7 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 4 – Jim Furyk, Brian Gay, Bill Haas, Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson.
  • 3 – Sergio Garcia, Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Camilo Villegas.
  • 2 – Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, K.J. Choi, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Harris English, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Davis Love III, Scott Piercy, Webb Simpson, Cameron Smith, Robert Streb, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Wesley Bryan, Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Brendan Grace, Adam Hadwin, Tyrrell Hatton, Jim Herman, Charles Howell III, Mackenzie Hughes, Sungjae Im, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Graeme McDowell, Collin Morikawa, Sebastian Munoz, Kevin Na, Carlos Ortiz, C.T. Pan, Pat Perez, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd, Nick Watney, Lee Westwood, Aaron Wise.

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 and Post Covid-19 Resumption in 2020), 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.

Four exceptions to that trend come in the form of Brian Gay (2009), Carl Pettersson (2012), Wesley Bryan (2016) and C.T. Pan (2019). 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! And 2019 saw C.T. Pan win after landing nothing better than a 42nd place in his 9 prior appearances that year.

Harbour Town shares TifEagle Bermudagrass (they are overseeded with Poa Trivialis in April) grass green complexes with Copperhead, home of the Valspar Championship, and mentioned before, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook shares Carolina course overtures in its setup. 8 of the 12 winners here 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 Championship 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.

Again extrapolating the TifEagle Bermudagrass angle and looking at the Plantation Course at Kapalua specifically, across the winners here from 2010 through 2015, plus Webb Simpson from last year, all had top-5 finishes on the TifEagle greens on Maui. That link to TifEagle Bermudagrass performances shouldn’t be overlooked be that on the PGA Tour or the European Tour.

The last post Augusta edition here in 2019 saw the very out of sorts C.T. Pan take his maiden PGA Tour victory here. He did not follow this TifEagle pattern, but had PGA Tour Bermudagrass links. 6th on the Seaside Course at the 2016 RSM Classic highlights a player comfortable by the coast and he had also gone very close at the 2018 Wyndham Championship played on the Champions Bermudagrass greens at Sedgefield Country Club, finishing runner-up to 2011 Harbour Town victor Brandt Snedeker.

My Final RBC Heritage Tips Are As Follows

Brian Harman 1.5pts EW 33/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

First up is Brian Harman who must be gunning for his 3rd PGA Tour victory this week. His last was in May 2017 when he won the Wells Fargo Championship up the coast at Eagle Point GC, Wilmington, North Carolina, beating Jon Rahm in a real head-to-head and holding off a charging Dustin Johnson into the bargain. And that’s what I like about Harman, who is gritty, determined and pretty much perfect for the Harbour Town assignment.

Now into the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 for the first time since 2018, Brian is the sort who thrives on coastal tracks. 3rd at Kapalua in 2018, Brian went on to finish 4th at Waialae the week after. He’s also finished 10th (2014), 4th (2017) and 14th (2019) at Sea Island. A St Simons Island resident in Georgia, Brian also has correlating course form at Sedgefield Country Club, with 3rd in 2013 and 6th in 2019. Sedgefield and Harbour Town are both short Carolina golf courses featuring Bermudagrass greens and form across both tracks is always an excellent pointer. Just look at recent RBC Heritage champions Webb Simpson, C.T. Pan, Graeme McDowell, Carl Pettersson and Brandt Snedeker, all of whom have excelled at Greensboro.

And in Harman we also have a golfer who really thrives on Pete Dye designs. 11th (2016), 3rd (2017) 20th (2018) and 8th (2021) at the Stadium Course, PGA West; 8th (2015) 8th (2019) and 3rd (2021) at TPC Sawgrass; 3rd (2015), 6th (2018) and 8th (2019) at TPC River Highlands; a look at his 2 visits to the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club is enlightening. He got to the last 16 in 2018, beating Rory McIlroy and eventually losing to winner Bubba Watson and last month he won his Group which featured one Hideki Matsuyama, then beating Patrick Cantlay in a Group Play-Off. Brian then beat Bubba Watson, before losing to 2014 RBC Heritage champion Matt Kuchar in the Quarter Finals.

Brian’s Harbour Town form is also decent enough. 7th in 2014, 9th in 2017, he’s also finished in the top 30 across 2 of his last 3 visits. 12th last week at Augusta National, which with its tricks and undulations is about 500 yards too long for the Georgia man, it was great to see Harman in the heat of the battle Saturday and Sunday. And Brian has always been the sort to carry form over – indeed his win at Eagle Point came directly after 9th here in 2017. 3rd at TPC Sawgrass and a Quarter Finalist at Austin Country Club in March, I would not be surprised in the slightest to see Harman complete a Pete Dye hat-trick this week. RESULT: T13

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Harris English 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

I like the look of Harris English this week who must arrive on Hilton Head Island buoyed by his best-ever finish at Augusta National last week. 21st was a strong finish on a course which doesn’t really suit his attributes and it’s worth referencing that English has finished 19th/4th/21st across the last 3 Major Championships and now sits at 22nd in the Official Golf World Rankings.

Next step could be Team America in the Ryder Cup and in that regard he’s undoubtedly a longshot but a second win in 2021, following on from his Sentry Tournament of Champions win, would undoubtedly help in terms of grabbing Steve Stricker’s attention.

Now, I’ve always categorised English as a positive coastal course player and that makes masses of sense for the University of Georgia graduate who lives just a couple of hours down IS95 on Sea Island, Georgia. 1st (2021) at Kapalua; 9th (2013), 4th (2014) and 3rd (2015) at Waialae; 2nd (2015) and 8th (2018) at Torrey Pines; 5th (2018) at Corales; 6th (2021) at Sea Island; plus 1st (2014), 5th (2020) and 5th (2021) at El Camaleon; Harris undoubtedly likes playing golf by the coast.

His form on Carolina-type golf courses is decent too. 7th (2013) and 10th (2015) on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook (I know it’s in Florida, but the course is a perfect Carolina layout); 10th (2012) and 11th (2018) at Sedgefield; Harris here at Harbour Town has 8th (2012), 25th (2019) and 17th (2021) finishes to his name, and he finished with a -7/64 on Sunday here back in June, which was T3 best score of the day, behind Justin Thomas and tied with Webb Simpson.

2 of English’s 3 PGA Tour wins have come on Bermudagrass greens – TPC Southwind in 2013 and the aforementioned Kapalua win this year on TifEagle Bermudagrass. And with 26th at Bay Hill and 21st last week, I think Harris is building momentum for another contending performance by the seaside. RESULT: MC

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Kevin Na 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

From a betting perspective, Kevin Na is often overpriced and this week is no different.

The 5 time PGA Tour winner knows how to get the job done in weaker fields. Indeed after his win at the 2018 Greenbrier Classic, he went on a streak of 4 wins in 56 worldwide outings additionally winning the 2019 Charles Schwab Challenge, 2019 Shriners Hospital Open and this year’s Sony Open. Pricewise we are looking at 45/1 (Greenbrier), 70/1 (Charles Schwab), 70/1 (Shriners) and 80/1 (Sony). Marry that up with the historical average winning price here being 68/1 since 2010 and we could be very much in business.

He’s done little wrong of late as well. Since his win in January he’s finished 21st at the Saudi International which should have been far better as he was 4th after 36 holes. 11th at the WGC Workday Championship, he also took the headlines at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play where he beat Dustin Johnson on the Friday – a match which hit the headlines after an altercation between the two. I would be amazed if they are grouped together across Thursday and Friday!

12th last week at The Masters equalled Na’s best ever finish at Augusta National – a feat he has managed twice both in 2012 and 2015. Looking back it’s fascinating to see how he took the result forward both times. In 2012 he went on to finish 8th here at Harbour Town and in 2015 in his next stroke play tournament he finished 6th at The Players Championship.

11th here on debut in 2004, Kevin has gone on to finish 4th (2007), 17th (2008), 9th (2011), 8th (2012) 4th (2016) and 10th (2019) on his last visit here. 8th (2009), 2nd (2014) and 10th (2014) on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, Kevin’s record on Carolina golf courses is also excellent. 14th (2010) and 5th (2011) at Quail Hollow is amazing given his obvious lack of length off the tee (as per last week). 12th at the 2014 Pinehurst Number 2 hosted U.S. Open is notable, as is 10th (2016) and 4th (2017) at Sedgefield Country Club. RESULT: MC

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Kevin Kisner 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Kevin Kisner is always close to the top of any shortlist on short courses featuring Bermudagrass greens, especially if Pete Dye is involved.

The 37 year-old from Aiken, South Carolina has had a pretty quiet season by his standards, but he’s been showing improvement of late. Wins over Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Thomas at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play were impressive before losing 2 & 1 to Matt Kuchar in the Group 2 ‘Group of Death’ decider. Kuchar of course went on to the Semi-Finals and eventually finished 3rd overall. We know that Kisner has finished 2nd (2018) and 1st (2019) at Austin Country Club – a Pete Dye designed 7,127 yard, Par 71, which also features TifEagle Bermudagrass greens overseeded with Poa Trivialis.

That positive Pete Dye design form line can also be extrapolated across TPC Sawgrass (2nd – 2015), TPC Louisiana (2nd – 2017, 5th – 2019) and here at Harbour Town Golf Links where he has finished 2nd (2015), 11th (2017) and 7th (2018). Asked in 2019 about his feelings for Harbour Town, he said, “This is probably my favorite event to come to of the year. It’s so relaxing after last week. I grew up as a kid playing this golf course in tournaments. You know, it’s just a golf course that fits my game well. I feel like I’m going to play well here when I show up. And that’s always a great feeling coming to a Tour event thinking you’re going to play well.”

You can tell his game is right to challenge for the RBC Heritage this week when you look at other results on courses that correlate very well through past winners. 5th (2016), 4th (2017) and 4th (2020) at Waialae; 6th (2014) and 7th (2017) at Quail Hollow; 8th (2014), 10th (2016) and 3rd (2020) at Sedgefield; 3rd (2017) and 9th (2019) at East Lake; 4th (2014), 1st (2015) 4th (2017), 7th (2018) and 2nd (2020) at Sea Island. A natural Bermudagrass putter, he’s ranked 30th, 12th, 20th and 15th for Strokes Gained Putting across the last 4 seasons and ranks 28th in the same category this season.

3rd for Greens in Regulation at Augusta National last week, a Thursday 72 again showed positive signs of life before a Friday collapse. But Augusta National and Kevin Kisner will never go together and I prefer him rested and ready to go this week on one of his favourite and well-suited courses. RESULT: MC

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Michael Thompson 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

We scored with Michael Thompson with a 125/1 full each-way payout at The American Express back in January, and I can see him going very well this week.

The Alabama-based 35 year-old has undoubtedly raised his game over the past 10 months. 272nd in the OWGR as the PGA Tour resumed post-Covid lockdown, you may well remember that Michael was a winner in 2020 at the 3M Open in late July, where he saw off the likes of Tony Finau, Matthew Wolff and Richy Werenski, picking up his 2nd PGA Tour title over 7 years after the first. And he’s undoubtedly built on that this season with 15th at Houston, 21st at Kapalua, 25th at Waialae, 5th at PGA West and 34th at Pebble Beach. Across his past 3 appearances he’s gone onto finish 48th at The Players, 19th at the Honda Classic and 34th at The Masters. Now in no way shape or form does Thompson’s game translate to Augusta National, but with Michael now up to 98th in the OWGR, at courses that suit, I think he’s a good bet.

And Pete Dye designs seem to fit. 9th (2019) and 5th at the Stadium Course at PGA West; 4th (2011) at TPC River Highlands; his results here deserve respect. 20th in 2012, Thompson across the past 2 renewals has finished 10th (2019) and 8th (2020). 3rd (2011), 10th (2012) and 13th (2016) just down the coast at Sea Island again highlights that Thompson is undoubtedly a round peg in a round hole this week on the Atlantic coast. Comfortable on Harbour Town’s greens, the University of Alabama man was 10th here for Strokes Gained on Approach back in June. RESULT: T42

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:45BST 12.4.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.