If you weren’t already aware, John McNamara has returned to Rotoworld in a supporting role. He’ll be writing a recurring feature all season. It’s entitled “Long-Term 101.” Quite simply, it furnishes you with an updated fantasy ranking and commentary for 101 golfers. His first edition published on Friday, April 6. Read it here: Long-Term 101
Meanwhile, we’re unveiling yet another new feature this Friday, April 13. It will also serve as season-long analysis so start bookmarking people!
Inside the Ropes
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Par: 71 (36-36)
Average green size: 3,700 square feet
Stimpmeter: 10.5-11 ft.
Water Hazards: 12
Course Architect: Pete Dye (1969); Renovation by Pete Dye (2011)
Notes: TIFEagle Bermudagrass with Poa trivialis greens; Bermudagrass over-seeded with Paragon ryegrass fairways
Winner’s Share: $1,026,000 and 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Brandt Snedeker defeated Luke Donald in a three-hole playoff for his second-career victory on Tour
Date: April 12-15
Since the RBC Heritage moved to the week following the Masters in 1983 only six winners did NOT play the previous week at Augusta. Jim Furyk (2010), Brian Gay (2009), Boo Weekley (2007) Aaron Baddeley (2006), Bob Tway (1995) and Davis Love III (1987). The RBC Heritage was played last year two weeks after the Masters following the Valero Texas Open.
Since 1999 RBC Heritage has only had five first-time winners. Glen Day (1999), Jose Coceres (2001), Peter Lonard (2005), Aaron Baddeley (2006) and Boo Weekley (2007). Coceres and Lonard are not entered in this week’s field.
In the 44 years of the RBC Heritage only five players have won in their first start. Arnold Palmer (1969), Bob Goalby (1970), Stewart Cink (2000) Jose Coceres (2001) and Boo Weekley (2007).
Only Payne Stewart (1989-1990), Davis Love III (1991-1992) and Boo Weekley (2007-2008) have successfully defended their Tartan Jacket at RBC Heritage.
In 2012 11 of the 15 winners on Tour won when they were ranked in the top 50 OWGR.
There are 19 of the OWGR top 50 playing this week at Harbour Town.
Nine of the 14 different winners this year on Tour played in the 2011 Tour Championship. (Hunter Mahan has won twice.)
In 16 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-5-2 as Bubba Watson scores another point for the "middle".
For the “young”, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36) and now Bubba Watson (33) in the “middle”.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “old” folks on Tour.
After three weeks of international domination, Mahan, Woods and now Watson make it three straight for the Stars and Stripes.
Hunter Mahan is the only multiple winner on Tour in 2012.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
The golf course is a shot-makers course which requires precision off the tee to avoid live oaks, pine trees and strategically placed bunkers. –Courtesy of the GCSAA
Harbour Town was ranked 17th most difficult on Tour last year not counting the majors. You think your local “muni” has small greens? Harbour Town’s greens on average are only 3,700 square feet. If GIR isn’t in the repertoire this week, a premium short game will be. GIR will help from the tee ball placement as well. Plenty of trees that create chutes and dog-legs show that this course can still hold its own at 6,900 yards. Golfers must be able to work the golf ball off the tee and into the greens to be successful at Harbour Town. Once they’re on the greens, putting on Bermudagrass with Poa comes back into play. Bumps, humps and lumps will require total focus when holing out. Luke Donald really struggled here on Sunday last year as he missed relatively short putts coming down the stretch that wiggled and bobbled on him.
This is the 44th RBC Heritage and this year almost didn’t happen. After last year’s tournament, title sponsor Verizon ended their relationship with Harbour Town. Thankfully, to the delight of the players, spectators and charities of South Carolina, RBC stepped in to pick up the sponsorship to continue the tradition at one of Pete Dye’s most revered courses.
Each year the winner receives at Tartan Jacket. Here are my five best projections for the week.
Luke Donald: In his last three appearances at RBC Heritage he’s finished P2, T3 and T2. His other appearances in the early 2000’s are of no use to me as he was not ranked in the top two in the world at that time. The world No. 1 has been so close now three years in a row it would be a bit silly to think he wouldn’t contend this week. This is a course that suits Donald’s game perfectly. Accurate driving and iron play is rewarded and there is nobody in the business who has a better short game so I’m riding Donald this week. His 68 on Sunday at Augusta isn’t exactly scaring me off either!
Jim Furyk: Speaking of horses for courses, Furyk’s record at RBC Heritage is BETTER than Luke Donald’s. Check out these numbers in the last 10 years (nine events played): T21 last year, WIN, CUT, fourth, CUT, second, T2, DNS, T10 and T15. Furyk is coming off an 11th place finish last week at Augusta so you know his game is in shape and he’s ready to carve up Harbour Town again. In his last three stroke-play events he’s finished 11th, T11 and P2. He’s still looking for his first win since the 2010 Tour Championship.
Bo Van Pelt: Another week playing and another week in my top picks for Bo Van Pelt. He’s first in total driving. He’s first in all-around. He’s second in strokes gained-putting. He’s 17th in ball striking. After his closing round of eight birdies and one bogey Sunday at Augusta I’m confident that he’ll continue his stellar play this week as well. His T17 last week was his worst finish in four starts on Tour. He’s made the cut in five of his six starts here and was T3 in 2010. He was CUT last year.
Matt Kuchar: Last week at Augusta I read on Twitter that he led the field in GIR and fairways hit. That’s excellent ball striking to say the least! And if he’s not up to those standards he ranks second on Tour in scrambling so he has that going for him, which is nice. Kuchar’s long putter is usually the tool that keeps him from the winners circle but the same could be said for Bubba Watson and you saw what he did last week. Kuchar’s record here isn’t stellar (T21 in 2011) but his last three stroke-play events have been T3, T10 and T8.
Ernie Els: Sadly for the golf fans Ernie didn’t qualify in time for Augusta this season. The way Els has played his last four stroke-play events shows he’s on the way to qualify for Augusta next year. He finished T12 at SHO, T4 at API, T5 at TC and T21 at Honda in the last month. His last three times out at RBC Heritage have been less-than-stellar with CUT, DNS, T48 and CUT. The good news is his life-long history here is excellent as he’s hit the top 10 in seven of 12 lifetime starts. Who’s not rooting for Ernie to get back to form?
Next Best 10 plus one
Brandt Snedeker: I couldn’t find a way in the top five for the defending champ but that doesn’t mean he can’t play well this week. His record at RBC Heritage is frankly awful besides his win last year as he was CUT, CUT, T53, T16, DNS and T48. His ball striking is currently 128th but his scrambling is 13th so that gives him a chance this week. He’s also made 14 straight cuts on Tour.
Brian Davis: A very-quiet start to 2012 has broken out in his last two events where he’s finished T4 at SHO and API. Davis’s history at Harbour Town is one of legend in the golf world. In 2010 he lost in a playoff to Jim Furyk after calling a penalty on himself on the first playoff hole. His guts to make the right (“only”, in my opinion) decision was excellent for golf and shows what kind of guy he is. What’s also excellent is Davis ranks 13th off the tee and 17th in strokes gained-putting in 2012 and that’s an excellent combination around Harbour Town. His GIR is wobbly but he’s also 30th in scrambling so expect another solid week from him. He’s finished in the top 25 in four of six starts here. I’d rank him higher but he’s never won in 230 starts on Tour.
Jeff Overton: The roller coaster continued his last time out at SHO where he erased the memory of a closing-round 84 at API to finish T4. Since his first event in March, Overton has finished T18 at Honda, T14, T5, T70 and T4 last week. There are too many quality finishes in that stretch to focus on other than the T70. Overton is currently ninth on Tour in scrambling and has played 16 of his last 20 rounds in par or better. This is his first appearance at RBC Heritage.
Boo Weekley: Last year Weekley led the Tour in GIR but was 186th in strokes gained-putting and failed to regain his Tour card. This season Weekley is healthy and his game is showing signs of coming back too (see what I did there?) life. He’s currently 18th GIR and fifth in total driving so those numbers will come in handy this week. His 2012 started off like his 2011 ended as he missed two cuts in four events and his other two finishes were T76 and T71. He found something in Puerto Rico as he was T3 for his best finish since he won here in 2008. He followed that with CUT at TC, T53 at API but yet was T14 at SHO his last time out. Weekley is one of three men who have defended their championship here and this could be the place where Boo breaks back into the top five. In five career starts he’s been T46, T12, T13, WIN and WIN. Horse for course in the purest sense which some of you will accuse me of not having with this projection.
Charles Howell III: Quietly moving in the right direction after missing his only cut of the season at NTO. In his next five events including the Masters, Charlie three sticks has finished no worse than 26th and no better than 16th. His record at Harbour Town in the last four years is similar where in six events he’s never been better than T12 or worse than T37 except in the two years he was CUT (2011, 2003).
Kevin Na: I’m trying to jump on this roller coaster before it runs off the tracks again. Na finished T12 at Augusta last week to secure his return visit in 2013. Since that pressure is gone, I would expect Na to just play and play well. His last two stroke-play events he’s finished T12 at Augusta and T4 at API. In eight career outings at RBC Heritage Na has hit the top 10 twice and the top 20 four times including T9 in 2011 and T4 in 2007.
Aaron Baddeley: He’s proof that you don’t have to be an excellent driver of the golf ball to be successful at Harbour Town. Baddeley’s putter is what saves his bacon around these parts and his career record shows it’s no fluke. In seven career starts Baddeley has finished T14, T22, T21, T2, T10 and WIN. That’s strong. He would be higher up the list but he finished T40 last week and was CUT at SHO but I can’t ignore his numbers at Harbour Town.
Bud Cauley: He’s been on fire since his 75 in the opening round at Honda where he ended up being cut after his second round 67 couldn’t make up the difference. In his last three starts Cauley has finished T8, T4 and T16. He’s been on the list the season more than he hasn’t been on it. He’s a super, young player who just keeps hitting the upper half of most leader boards so I’m not leaving him out.
Jason Dufner: If the Tour was just played on Thursday and Friday, Dufner would be the leading money winner this season. Despite his below-average weekend play, he’s still made eight of nine cuts (obviously) and has hit the top 25 five times. He’s 14th in ball striking, seventh in the all-around and his history here is decent as well finishing T14, T41 and T26 in his last three outings.
Webb Simpson: Usually an automatic choice on this list but Simpson in the last two weeks looks like he might have hit a lull in 2012. In his last four tournaments, he’s finished T44 Masters, T36 SHO, T10 TC and T35 WGC-CC. The Masters and WGC-CC were limited field events as well so those finishes don’t look as good up close as they do from far away. I worry about Simpson spraying the driver here but he’s finished T14 the last two seasons at Harbour Town.
Fredrik Jacobson: After coming off finishes of 68 and T53 I didn’t think Jacobson would factor at Augusta. Wrong was I as he finished T19. He’s finished in the money in five of seven starts here including T21, T22, T37 and T12 in his last four. Let’s hope the “Junkman” keeps up his steady play this week.
Nick O’Hern: Every week I include a stretch pick on top of the regulars and this week it’s Nick O’Hern. How much of a stretch? Somebody call Gumby. In seven events O’Hern has made three cuts. In those three cuts he’s finished T66, T27 and T67. The good news is his record at Harbour Town where he’s finished T6 and T8 the last two years. In seven career starts O’Hern has three finishes in the top 10. Plus, he’s left-handed. All left-handed people are awesome.
Stewart Cink: Cink got off to a decent start in 2012 with T29 at Sony and T13 at FIO but since then it’s been a rocky ride. In the seven events since FIO, Cink has a WD, two MC and his best finish is T36. Oh, and he shot in the 80’s TWICE including one of those rounds last week in round three at the Masters. What’s not to like! He followed Saturday’s 81 with a 69 on Sunday and has made the cut in 11 of 12 starts at Harbour Town. He’s also won twice (2000, 2004) and been in the top 10 three other times.
Henrik Stenson: The “mayor” of this column for the last three weeks takes up residence again even after his closing 81 last Sunday at Augusta. I was thoroughly exhausted watching him play last week. Five cuts made in five and his worst finish was T40 with an 81. He stays in office again this week!
Ricky Barnes/Rickie Fowler: This coupled-entry saves column space and is easy to keep track of, even though they spell their first names differently. Barnes’ last six rounds have 82-77-66-74-74-76 so this pick makes sense. Barnes has finished T4 and T5 in his last two starts at Harbour Town. Fowler is in this category because he has a whopping two finishes in the top 25 this season in nine events. He finished strong at Augusta firing two-under on the weekend so this will carry-over this week, right? Right. He’s been CUT in two of three starts at Harbour Town but was T8 in 2010.
Danger ahead! Based on their recent play here and on Tour, I’m going to pass on these players this week.
Spencer Levin: Nobody enjoyed watching his implosion on Sunday at the WMPO. He’s in the field this week after 81-75 at API and WD at SHO. I’ll give Levin a couple rounds to get back on his feet even though he’s finished T14, T14 and T13 in his only (and last) three starts at Harbour Town.
Camilo Villegas: He opened 2012 T19 at Sony and T22 at FIO but has backed that with four MC, T73 and T46. He finished 2011 on a high note but he hasn’t found that form yet in 2012. I wouldn’t let his recent record at Harbour Town sway you this week.
Mark Wilson: On paper his game fits this course to a T. Narrow fairways require accurate tee shots. Small greens require accurate iron shots. Short course for a short hitter, right? (Wilson is 165th in driving distance, 16th in driving accuracy and 62nd in GIR). Wilson’s history at Harbour Town and his recent play will suggest otherwise. In five starts his best finish is T21in the four times he’s made the cut. In his five starts since his third-place finish at WGC-Match Play Wilson has trended T30, T45, T55, T59 and CUT at last week’s Masters.
Brian Gay: The 2009 champion looks tempting this week but I’m staying away. In 12 events at Harbour Town Gay has missed the cut half of the time. Since his sixth-place finish at Sony to open his 2012 season, Gay has made the cut in five of seven events he’s played. His best finish in those events is T20. After his win in 2009 here, Gay has finished T36 last year and T32 in 2010.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: RBC Heritage
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Nick O’Hern
Group 3: Bud Cauley
Group 4: Vaughn Taylor
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Luke Donald-- A disappointing Masters, but he should bounce back at the Heritage, where he had a second place finish in '09, a T3 in '10 and a T2 last year.
Jim Furyk-- Furyk has been on a roll recently, with a P2 at the Transitions, a T11 at the API and an 11th place at the Masters. He has five top-10s in 13 starts at the Heritage, including a championship just two years ago.
Matt Kuchar, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson
Ernie Els-- It's too bad that Els didn't qualify for the Masters because he has been playing well, with a T5 at the Transitions, a T4 at the API and a T12 at the SHO. He has a very good record in the Heritage, with seven top-10s in 12 career starts.
Bo Van Pelt-- He was on a roll going into the Masters, with four top-10s in his last four stroke-play events, but he struggled the first three days at Augusta until an 8-under-par 64 on the final day moved hm up into a tie for 17th. His history at Harbour Town is good, with two top-10s in six starts.
Brandt Snedeker-- He is the defending champion at the Heritage and looked good last week at the Masters, where he tied for 17th place.
Brian Davis-- Like Els, Davis was playing some very good golf before the Masters, with a T4s at the API and the SHO, but he wasn't ranked high enough to make it into last week's field. He has six career starts at Harbour Town and his best finish was two years ago when he came in solo second place.
Bryce Molder, Rickie Fowler, Geoff Ogilvy, Bill Haas, Ken Duke, Stewart Cink
Aaron Baddeley-- He has been flat over the last month after playing well on the West Coast Swing. I'm picking him because he a good record at the Heritage, with three top-10s in seven starts, including a championship in '06.
Padraig Harrington-- The RBC Heritage is rarely a stop for Harrington, but he looked great last week at the Masters, where he tied for eighth place.
Bud Cauley, Jason Dufner, Ricky Barnes, Boo Weekly
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: RBC Heritage (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Brian Davis
Group 3: Bud Cauley
Group 4: Boo Weekley
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at noon ET. They will be breaking down the field at RBC Heritage and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.