Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Harbour Town Golf Links
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Tifeagle Bermudagrass with Poa annua; 3,700 square feet on average.
Rough: Bermudagrass with perennial ryegrass playing at 1.38”
Water Hazards: 12
Course Architect: Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus (1969)
Winner’s Share: $1,044,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Graeme McDowell defeated Webb Simpson in a playoff for his first win on TOUR since the 2010 U.S. Open
Dates: April 17-20
Notes: 132 players this week with the top 70 and ties making the cut.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the 18 of 22 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year flying the US flag. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have accounted for the other four victories.
Matt Jones joined Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had six in 22 events so far in 2014. The streak of three in a row, not surprisingly, was broken last week at Augusta.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, won over the last three weeks before Watson chalked up win No. 2 at Augusta and win No. 2 of the season.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board.
The Old Guys fired last week with a solo fourth from 50-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and top 10s from Lee Westwood and John Senden but they were never a threat to win on Sunday. John Senden is the only Old Guy in the winner’s circle this year.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
This is the 46th edition of the RBC Heritage. The first one took place in 1969. #math. All tournaments have been played on this course so “horses for courses” is in play again this week.
Payne Stewart (1989-1990), Davis Love III (1991-92) and Boo Weekley (2007-2008) are the only three players to defend their championship.
Since 1999, five players have made the RBC Heritage their first victory on TOUR. Glen Day (1999), Jose Coceres (2001), Peter Lonard (2005), Aaron Baddeley (2006) and Boo Weekley (2007) broke their maidens here.
Since 1969, the first year, there have only been five players who have won on their first trip around Harbour Town. Arnold Palmer (1969), Bob Goalby (1970), Stewart Cink (2000), Jose Coceres and Boo Weekley comprise this very small club. Just like last week at Augusta, experience will be the key this week.
The highest-winning score is 283 (-1) by Arnold Palmer in 1969. Brian Gay holds the tournament record 264 (-20). He set that in 2009 when he won by a record TEN SHOTS.
David Frost holds the course record with 61 in 1994.
In the last four editions, three have been decided in a playoff. Jim Furyk defeated Brian Davis in the “Penalty Playoff” in 2010. Brandt Snedeker defeated Luke Donald in 2011. Last year saw GMAC hold off Webb Simpson. #freeextragolf
Only six players since 1982, when the RBC Heritage moved to the week after the Masters, have gone on to win WITHOUT playing the week before at Augusta.
Last week Bubba Watson joined Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed are the only multiple winners on TOUR in 2013-14.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Did you know that Harbour Town hosted the 1989 Nabisco TOUR Championship? Of course you didn’t. Now, go out and hustle your friends with this information!
Past 10 Champions
2013: Graeme McDowell 275
2012: Carl Pettersson 270
2011: Brandt Sndedker 272
2010: Jim Furyk 271
2009: Brian Gay 264
2008: Boo Weekley 269
2007: Boo Weekley 270
2006: Aaron Baddeley 269
2005: Peter Lonard 277
2004: Stewart Cink 274
Inside the Ropes
As one of the most popular player destinations during the season, the TOUR returns to Harbour Town for the 46th time. After a week of shortened breath, huge expectations and major championship golf pressure, the lads exhale this week as they loop around one of Pete Dye’s first creations.
Built in 1969 with help from novice course designer Jack Nicklaus, Harbour Town sets up as a ball-strikers track through the doglegs of the Low Country on Hilton Head Island. Known as a target golf course, touring pros will be forced to execute tee shots that avoid tree-lined fairways and doglegs. Their second shots will have to find some of the smallest greens on TOUR that are also protected by new bunkering systems that were added in 2012. If that’s not enough, once on the postage stamps, they will have to navigate undulating Bermudagrass greens that have Poa annua interspersed throughout. And since this is a seaside course, as always, the wind could play a part. Just ask the leaders on Sunday last year as they played the final round with gusts approaching 40 miles per hour.
Tight driving holes would indicated that accuracy of the tee would be the key this week but, as we find many weeks, a full repertoire will be required to don the tartan jacket on Sunday evening. Shot making is the key this week as the players, if not on the proper side of the fairway will have to play all nine shots to find the tiny greens. Short game specialists can also thrive as getting up-and-down never is a bad formula.
Unlike last week when the largest chips are on the table, Harbour Town brings a more relaxed, “let’s just go play golf” feel to the proceedings. Families hang around, the media surge is not as great and the pros decompress. It also helps that it’s one of the shortest tracks around so it brings even more players into contention. First-timers, veterans and premium players have all stood up and been counted over the years so it makes for an interesting test for gamers.
As usual, I lean towards guys who have been cashing and playing well and will give a nod to those who have solid course form as this design has been in the rotation long enough that course form will matter. I’ll throw in some long shots as well plus a few to avoid!
2013: Third-hardest par 71 (non-major) playing +1.038 shots over par; 11th-hardest overall
2012: Third-hardest par 71 playing 1.288 shots over par; ninth-hardest
2011: Played the 21st-most difficult
2010: Played 22nd-most difficult
2009: Played 17-most difficult
The 18th hole, with Calibogue Sound on the left on both the tee shot and approach, will test the nerves of those chasing and holding the lead on Sunday afternoon but there will be places to score as well. The par-five holes can be attacked and scored upon but there are only three of them this week.