Everything you need to know about the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, the first PGA Tour event following the Masters.
Here's one underrated thing about the PGA Tour—there is no offseason. When the NBA playoffs finish, there isn't another meaningful NBA game for another four months. After the Super Bowl, the NFL regular season doesn't begin for roughly seven months.
But with the PGA Tour, there is no downtime after our sport's huge events. Got the golf bug? Craving more action after the Masters? Good news—your cravings can be satisfied this week, as the Tour heads about three hours southeast to one of the tour's oldest events, the RBC Heritage in South Carolina. This year's tournament marks the 50th anniversary of the Heritage, a tournament pros rave about mainly because of the quality of the host venue, Harbour Town Golf Links, and the picturesque scenery of Hilton Head Island.
Here's everything you need to know about the first tournament in the PGA Tour's post-Masters stretch.
The past champions
Native South Carolinian Wesley Bryan got his first (and as of now, only) PGA Tour win last year at the Heritage on the strength of a final-round 67. He finished at -13 and beat Luke Donald by one, while Patrick Cantaly, William McGirt and Ollie Schniederjans finished in a tie for third at -11. It was the finest moment in what was a very good rookie season for Bryan, and the win capped off a stretch of four top-7 finishes in six starts.
He hasn't played nearly as well since that victory, though—in the 23 PGA Tour starts he's made since last year's Heritage, Bryan has managed just one top-20 finish and missed nine cuts. He comes into this year's event on a stretch of four straight missed cuts and hasn't broken 70 since the first round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in January. Perhaps playing in his home state at a golf course with great memories for him will be the boost he needs to start playing the type of golf that saw him reach No. 36 in the world rankings last year.
Other recent winners at Harbour Town: Branden Grace (2016), Jim Furyk (2015), Matt Kuchar (2014), Graeme McDowell (2013), Carl Pettersson (2012). None of these guys are long hitters—Bryan is actually one of the shortest on tour—which goes to show that accuracy is paramount this week.
Understandably, a lot of the top players opt to rest after the Masters. These guys put a ton of work into trying to peak at Augusta and tailor the first part of their seasons with that goal in mind, so there's a need for a physical and mental break after the year's first major.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is in the field this week, due in no small part to the fact that RBC is one of his chief sponsors. He is the only top-10 player in the world in the field, however, and only three other players ranked in the top 20 will tee it up: Paul Casey, Marc Leishman and Tyrell Hatton.
Some other notable names playing this week: Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Jason Dufner, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Doc Redman, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Patrick Cantlay and Patton Kizzire.
Harbour Town Golf Links is a 1969 design by famed architect Pete Dye with assistance from some guy named Jack Nicklaus. It is routinely ranked inside different publications' list of the top 100 courses in America and most recently checked in at No. 9 on Golf.com's top 100 public courses in America. PGA Tour pros recently ranked Harbour Town the No. 2 course they play on a yearly basis, behind only Augusta National and directly ahead of Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.
It's a 7,099-yard, par-71 layout, and the most famous aspect of the course is probably the red and white lighthouse that stands behind the 18th green. It's a tight track with narrow fairways and water on plenty of holes, so the winner this week will have to be striking the ball well. The average winning score over the past Heritages is -12.
Dustin Johnson +800
Paul Casey +1400
Matt Kuchar +1800
Cameron Smith +2200
Webb Simpson +2500
Marc Leishman +2500
Patrick Cantlay +2800
Brian Harman +2800
Kevin Kisner +2800
Tyrrell Hatton +3300
Ollie Schniederjans +3300
Charley Hoffman +3300
Luke List +4000
Emiliano Grillo +4000
Bryson DeChambeau +4000
Luke Donald +4000
Ian Poulter +4500
Francesco Molinari +5000
Kevin Chappell +5000
Zach Johnson +5000
The gap between DJ and Paul Casey is about as big as you'll see between a first- and second-favorite on tour this year. When he's playing his best, Johnson is the best player in the field by a wide margin. I'm surprised to see Beau Hossler not even listed among the top 20 favorites, as he's coming off a second-place finish at the Houston Open and rested last week while many of these guys went through the gauntlet that is a major championship. Kisner jumps off the page as a long-shot value play; he's from South Carolina, has been playing pretty well (second at the Match Play) and finished second in this event in 2015.
I'm going with Marc Leishman this week. The 34-year-old Aussie played quite well in the first two days at Augusta before faltering a bit on the weekend, though he did end up finishing ninth. He has four top-10 finishes already this season, and his controlled fade will play nicely on a course that demands accuracy off the tee. Leishman gets it done this week at Harbour Town for his fourth PGA Tour win and third in the last two seasons.