Following an enthralling return to professional golf where Daniel Berger stole the Charles Schwab Challenge from under Colin Morikawa’s nose last Sunday, the PGA Tour’s re-vitalised calendar continues this week at Harbour Town for the RBC Heritage.
Typically held a week after the Masters, the RBC Heritage usually has a much lesser field than the likes of Rory Mcilroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and so on, but like last week, it makes a welcomed change to see the world’s best battle it out on an unfamiliar setup.
Quite surprisingly, last week was set to be like Harbour Town in the way of it being more difficult for the long hitters and reducing the likeliness of them overpowering the course. But, that notion was scrapped immediately on day one when Bryson Dechambeau found himself hitting towering 350-yard drives and leaving himself 100 yard wedge shots into the majority of holes.
Fortunately, in the end some sanity prevailed with Morikawa and Berger being the two battling it out in the play-off, both not well known for being especially huge off the tee.
Harbour Town will not be able to be taken on with the driver like Colonial though, and will prove to be a much sterner test off the tee.
Tight and tree-lined with very small greens, Harbour Town requires a lot more strategy and it will be essential players get into positions that allow them to get at the smaller targets. Not only that, lots of overhanging trees that can block players out from parts of the fairway further emphasise how important positional play is this week in South Carolina.
My main pick for this week though, has to be Bryson Dechambeau (16/1).
Ranking first in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and SG: Tee To Green while ranking eighth in SG: Approach The Green, Dechambeau is unquestionably the main talking point in golf at the moment.
With so many top players in the past having spent months in the off-season trying to increase length or change a shot shape in order to introduce more variety to their game and inevitably failing and reverting back to their normal, Dechambeau has been a freak of nature with the changes he has made this season.
A very vocal and unorthodox player already, his recent changes have raised plenty of eyebrows in the world of golf. Top of driving distances statistics, the American has put on a further 20 pounds in the PGA Tour’s three-month hiatus, in addition to what he had already gained between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, while seemingly losing no flexibility, accuracy, or feel.
Almost a completely different player to what he was when he finished fourth at Harbour Town in 2016 and third in 2018, there is reason to believe that the course may not suit him this time around.
However, in the form he has been in all season, the American is more than capable of adjusting his game to prepare for this event.
Similarly, he will be desperate to prove the doubters wrong and show that there is more to his game than the fact that he can now hit it the longest on tour. His putter and short game altogether will require some work based off last week, but I’m backing him to turn that around continue to prove people wrong like he has done ever since he step foot on tour.
Hopefully he will reduce how much he hits the driver as it began to become a bit erratic at times on the weekend at Colonial, but that should be a given anyway due to how important position play is in South Carolina.
With a few near misses, including last week, he will be hungry for a victory to go with his good performances. That coupled with two previous good finishes at Harbour Town makes the RBC Heritage a perfect opportunity.
After some stellar golf last week from the Englishman, Justin Rose (30/1) is my next choice for this week’s RBC Heritage.
Rose had no top 10s in 10 months on the PGA Tour (excluding the Hero World Challenge) coming into the Charles Schwab Challenge last week. But after a change from Honma back to some more familiar Taylormade equipment, Rose found himself in contention and finished just one stroke behind eventual winner Daniel Berger.
Now although his game wasn’t disastrous in the past year, it was far from the normal standards he has set, with him regularly featuring at the top of leaderboards week in, week out throughout 2017 and 2018.
With a positive return to the course, it would seem that the PGA Tour’s break has certainly worked in his favour and allowed him to come back much stronger after some work on his game.
Talking after his final round at Colonial, Rose said: “I’m delighted with the way my game has come out, I’ve worked really hard at it the last three months. I wasn’t looking too pretty back in March so it’s nice to turn it around and I feel really confident and comfortable with my game now heading into the summer and hopefully we can keep this rolling.”
His putting, the one thing that was always considered a weakness for Rose, actually improved during his poor form too, with him ranking 17th in SG: Putting last season. If the rest of his game has returned to even 90% of what it was in 2017 and 2018, he will be a fearful competitor with some better putting to go alongside that.
Going off of one week of good play is admittedly a small sample to rely on, but the 39-year-old is without question a form player, who builds confidence with good performances. Stringing together top 10s or victories has always been a feature of Rose’s game, and I expect that to continue this week with him contending at the RBC Heritage.
My next pick is somebody who did not perform as well as my first two choices last week, but will undoubtedly be encouraged by the fact the driver is not so much a necessity here as it proved to be last week, somewhat surprisingly.
Kevin Kisner (50/1) may not have played well at Colonial, but he does have previous form here in his home state of South Carolina, where he came so close to winning before being pipped at the post by Jim Furyk in a play-off back in 2015.
Outside of that, he has also posted a top 10 in 2018 and an 11th the year before that, meaning on five visits here he has been in and around the top 10 more often than not.
And there are obvious reason for his success round here, the course setup and the wind.
Kisner is clearly a big fan of Open Championships, with two strong finishes in recent years, including a runner-up finish to Francesco Molinari. The reason for that being of importance is because Harbour Town is probably the PGA Tour’s closest event to an Open.
Likewise, earlier this year when the winds gusted at the Sony Open, Kisner flew up the leaderboard with a 64 on the Saturday and finished in fourth. He thrives on the tough, blustery conditions, and this week at the RBC Heritage is no different.
Unsurprisingly too, of his three PGA Tour wins, one came at the RSM Classic which is extremely similar to Harbour Town and a good indicator as to who might play well here.
The variety needed in your game to hit less drivers and the touch on and around the greens perfectly fit Kisner’s way of playing and makes him a strong candidate for this week.
Fourth and finally for this week, I’m going with Kevin Na (90/1).
Plenty of players came close to being picked, with Luke List, Patrick Rodgers, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson all being potential choices, but Na came out on top due to his previous here and some better form since the beginning of the 2020 season.
He may have missed the cut in a disappointing defence of his Charles Schwab title last week, but Na and his tenacious character will undoubtedly be able to forget that quickly.
Missing the cut by just one shot may have been hard to swallow too, but it wasn’t exactly representative of a terrible week, as a good weekend could have easily resulted in a top 20 finish and we’d be looking at it from a completely different perspective.
He will be keen to make amends this week, and will be pleased it is somewhere he has played some excellent golf in the past. With four top 10s in eight visits, Na’s track record at Harbour Town is better than most.
As well as strategic tee shots and precision iron play, short game and putting on these wind swept Harbour Town greens will be crucial, and that is something Kevin Na is exceptional at when in his groove.
Being way down the pecking order in length, the American more than makes up for it with his putting alone, but his short game generally is a revelation when he is firing.
With these types of courses not being a regular on the PGA Tour and length becoming an increasing necessity when it comes to most courses now, Na will be eager to take advantage here, somewhere that undoubtedly makes it a more competitive playing field for him.
Bryson Dechambeau (16/1) – 3 pts e.w.
Justin Rose (30/1) – 2.5 pts e.w.
Kevin Kisner (50/1) – 1 pt e.w.
Kevin Na (90/1) – 1 pt e.w.