So a frustrating week for us in the end at the Masters. All of our main team played solidly but none of our e/w picks could find the frame and obviously Rory was right in the hunt until his disappointing last round.
Congratulations must go to Patrick Reed though on winning the Green Jacket. Having struggled to close tournaments out of late he was imperious when it mattered over the weekend and his two putt for par on 18 showed incredible mettle.
Those of you who are regular readers of my blogs will know that I had Reed as one of my ‘6 players to follow’ for 2018 so despite not having any money on him last week I can at least feel vindicated on that front!
Anyway that’s enough of Augusta for this year. It’s time to move on to one of the best loved events of the regular week in week out tour, The RBC Heritage at Hilton Head.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head has been the host course for the Heritage since 1969 and the event has pretty much owned its traditional slot of the week following the Masters since 1983.
The current sponsors RBC [Royal Bank of Canada] have been in place since 2012.
The event has an interesting favourite this year in the form of Dustin Johnson who returns to Hilton Head after a 9 year absence. At first glance you’d think HH wouldn’t be DJ’s type of track but I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss him, after all he has owned Pebble Beach in the past and there are certainly similarities between the two venues.
The other market leaders this week are Kuch, who loves the place and is sure to figure at some stage, an Paul Casey.
Harbour Town is a par 71 measuring just on 7100 yards.
The course is a Pete Dye Design so do look at form on other Pete Dye courses currently played on tour, particularly TPC Sawgrass.
The greens are TiffEagle Bermuda.
Harbour Town is known as one of the most unique tests played on the PGA tour all year. It is seen as a Marmite type of course, the players either love it or hate it. Some players go there once and say “never again”, to others it’s their favourite stop on the tour all year.
What makes Harbour Town so different is the precision required of the tee. length is not important but positioning of your tee ball is.
Finding the fairway isn’t enough at Harbour Town. On most holes finding the correct portion of the fairway is key as otherwise you will be blocked out on your second shot by the trees.
It’s for this reason that shorter hitting, precision players such as Kuchar, Furyk, Gay and Donald have peppered the leader boards over the years.
Harbour Town is also a true links test with winds normally blowing to 20mph + at some stage of the week.
Having said at the start of the preview that “that’s enough of Augusta for this year” we do have to come back to it for one last time in relation to the history of this event.
It’s a recognised fact that winning back to back on the PGA Tour is an incredibly tough thing to do at it is for that reason that Bernhard Langer is the only player to notch ‘back to back’ wins at Augusta and Hilton Head [in 1985].
Throw in the mental reserves required to compete and contend right in the thick of a Major over the weekend and it is again not unsurprising that winners at Harbour Town tend not to have been in the hunt at Augusta the week before. To back this up let’s look at the last ten winners at HH and see how they fared at the Masters.
W Bryan DNP
B Grace MC
J Furyk MC
M Kuchar 5th
G McDowell MC
C Pettersson DNP
B Snedeker 15th [2011 not played week after the Masters, played 2 weeks after].
J Furyk MC
B Gay DNP
B Weekley 20th
So, as we can see if we put 2011 to one side when the event did not directly follow the Masters in the other nine outings only one player, Matt Kuchar has won at Harbour Town after featuring near the top end of the leaderboard at Augusta the week before.
Of the other 8 winners one of them, Boo Weekley, played all four rounds at Augusta, four of them missed the cut and the other three had not been in the Masters field at all.
So the message is clear, do not be put off if the player you fancy for the week performed badly at the Masters, In fact the opposite seems to apply, as it is possible if your fancy for the week performed well at Augusta they will turn up at Harbour Town jaded and will under-perform.
Not unsurprisingly for a links course the winning score tends to be dictated by the weather and how much the wind blows.
The lowest winning score over the past ten years was -20 when Brian Gay spread-eagled the field in 2009. Jim Furyk came close to this when he shot -18 [along with Kisner] in 2015 before winning in a play-off.
The average winning score though tends to come in around -13 or -12.
The first three days seem clear, however as I write storms seem a strong possibility on Sunday.
The winds look reasonably calm for the first two days but start to pick up on Saturday and are forecast to be stronger still on Sunday.
As I always say though treat the weather forecast with caution!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
CAMERON SMITH – 33-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 32nd
So I am facing a big dilemma this week.
On one hand I have obviously made it clear above that I am very wary of backing a player at Harbour Town who has been in the thick of things the previous week at Augusta, however on the other hand we have a player who is obviously a huge talent, who has just finished 5th on their Masters debut and who I highlighted at the beginning of the season as someone I think will perform well at Hilton Head.
For those reasons [and the fact that my players in our ‘six to follow for 2018’ blog appear to be on a roll at the moment!] I feel I just cant leave the young Aussie out.
It’s also worth saying that whilst Cam finished 5th at Augusta he was never in serious contention to win the Green Jacket so there will be no Mental let Down to contend with on that front.
My logic in highlighting The Heritage as an event that Cam will play well at is fairly straightforward.
As a native Queenslander brought up in the windy conditions of Brisbane, unsurprisingly he has produced some of his best golf on links style courses.
He finished 4th at Chambers Bay at the US Open, has finished 11th at Pebble Beach and in two previous visits to Hilton Head has finished 29th & 15th.
I’m convinced Cameron will get his first PGA individual PGA Tour win this season and I am taking a leap of faith that rather than being drained from his first Masters experience he will be on a crest of a wave and if this is the case I can see him coming very close to that win this week.
KEVIN KISNER – 40-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED TIED 7th
The event saw it’s first South Carolinian native winner last year in the form of Wes Bryan and I was pleasantly surprised to see Kevin Kisner chalked up at 40-1 to bring back to back successes for the home state.
Kis came close to winning at Harbour Town when he was a PGA maiden back in 2015 only to lose out in a play-off to Jim Furyk.
Since then of course Kevin has notched up two PGA tour wins including one at a similar coastal track at the RSM classic.
In 2016 Kevin was in poor form when he arrived at Hilton Head and a disappointing week ensued, however last year he was back in the groove with an 11th place finish, which would have been a lot better but for a poor Sunday.
It’s been a slow start to 2018 for Kisner but everything clicked in to place at the Matchplay 3 weeks ago where he finished runner up to Bubba Watson.
Last week he backed that up to produce his best finish at Augusta posting a 28th place and I am confident he can continue his good form this week at one of his favourite venues on tour.
SI WOO KIM – 100-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 2nd
Talking of prices I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the young South Korean Si Woo Kim being given three figure quotes this week.
Here we have a world class player whose career breakthrough result came at another Pete Dye design at TPC Sawgrass.
To back up his liking for Pete Dye tracks we then see that on his only previous visit to Hilton Head he finished 14th.
To rubber stamp further his liking for coastal short tracks Si Woo also has a 4th place finish at the Sony Open and a 3rd place finish at the Mayakoba to his name.
So we’ve established that Harbour Town is a course that the South Korean is more than likely to play well at but what about his current form?
Well the season until recently has been the usual mixed bag from Si Woo which we have become accustomed to, however over the last couple of outings things have started to click in to place.
Firstly Si Woo played well in the Matchplay to win his group before losing in the last sixteen.
Then he has backed this up with a solid 25th place finish at Augusta to make the cut in the Masters for the first time.
The thing that makes these two finishes of particular interest to me is that when Si Woo has won his two PGA tour titles to date he hasn’t come in to the events on a blinding run of form, but has actually won events following steady 25th & 22nd place finishes.
So in summary we have a world class proven winner, on a perfect track for his game rounding in to steady form.
To me that should make him a 66-1 shot at best this week and on that basis I am delighted to be able to take a three figure price with seven e/w places available.
RORY SABBATINI – 150-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 23rd
For my next pick I am going to back to the well with a player I have been following fairly closely of late in the form of Rory Sabbatini.
Rory as we know has been in pretty solid form this year and was beginning to look like a winner in waiting when he finished 5th at the Valspar a few weeks back.
Since then he has cooled off a bit relatively speaking with two ‘down the field’ finishes in the Dominican Republic and Houston.
This week however The South African returns to a venue he has played really solidly at in the past and this is what makes him of interest to me this time out.
Prior to his slump over the last few years, Rory had finished in the top 20 in five consecutive run outs at Harbour Town and I am optimistic that with the good form he has been showing this year he will perform well again at what must be one of his favourite tracks on tour.
MATT EVERY – 200-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 56th
For my final selection this week I am going to take a chance that Matt Every’s 8th place last time out in Houston was not a flash in the pan but a sign that things are really turning a corner for the Floridian.
Every’s struggles over the past 2-3yrs have been well documented and he has said himself that there have been times when he has stood on the tee and barely been able to have a swing thought to swing the club.
The finish in Houston though represents his best result since he defended his title out of the blue at Bay Hill in 2015, so you have to think Every will take some confidence from this performance.
Whilst the finish in Houston is the first time Matt has put four rounds together in a very long time the signs have actually been there this season that better things are on the horizon.
At the Sony Open in January he opened up with a 65 and he also opened up at the CareerBuilder later the same month with a 66.
As recently as the week before Houston he again started well at the Corales Puntacana before trailing of over the weekend, however it all then clicked for four days in Houston.
Renowned as a great ball striker when in his pomp Every has proven in years gone by that his game is well suited to windy coastal tracks, and as well as having three top 20 finishes to his name at Harbour Town he has consistently played well at the Sony Open and the Mayakoba over the years.
Every has proven in the past he has what it takes to win and he last did so to defend his Bay Hill title when he was horribly out of form.
With the big prices on offer I am therefore willing to take a chance that Matt has turned a corner and if this is the case he could provide a big shock at a huge price.
UPDATED 10th APRIL
TRADER - BEN MARTIN FINISHED 55th
I must confess there was no one player in the 200+ price market on the exchanges who leapt of the page this week to me as a trader option.
After a lot of consideration though I have decided to go with Ben Martin.
Martin is another native of South Carolina in the field this week who hopefully will take some inspiration from last years winner Wes Bryan.
Ben made his mark on the PGA tour with his maiden win on another Par 71 track at the Shriners back in 2014.
The next couple of years were a pretty up and down time for Martin with missed cuts followed by high finishes, however since early May 2017 he has quietly settled in to a pretty consistent groove on the tour making 19 out of his last 24 cuts.
Over the years Ben has shown a liking to both Pete Dye courses and short coastal tracks.
In addition to finishing 3rd at Hilton Head a few years back he has performed well at the Sony Open and of course finished 4th at Sawgrass in 2015 and I am hopeful that with the solid form he has shown this year there is a good week in store for him at Harbour Town.
CURRENTLY TRADING AT 280+