The First Tee – RBC Heritage

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly April 15, 2019 20:02

The First Tee – RBC Heritage

This Week

THE COURSE

The RBC Heritage is played at Harbour Town Golf Links, a Pete Dye-designed par-71 that plays short at just under 7100 yards. There’s not much scoring here, with the course averaging the 14th-least amount of birdies over the past six years; the winners in that time frame have finished -9, -11, -18, -9, -13 and -12, and the cut typically comes above par.

Typical of a Dye design, Harbour Town has tight fairways and small greens, but the greens here are actually the smallest on Tour at only ~3700 square feet on average; this leads to some incredibly low GIR numbers historically, anywhere from 54 to 61% over the past six years. The typical approach shot here will come outside 150 yards even as the course is short, as drivers stay in bags for most of the week thanks to the tight fairways; that means a lot of long irons and woods off the tee, so fairways are still hit fairly consistently (~60-65%) for a narrow track.

The other factor of a Dye design that comes into play here is that there are a lot of blind approach shots, which definitely doesn’t help given the small size of the greens. This is definitely a second-shot course, so put a strong focus on good iron players this week. Missing the greens can be punitive here, as this course continues the Pete Dye trend of having tough bunkers surrounding the greens; they’re not easy up-and-downs, so strong scrambling and bunker play will be required.

The greens are fairly straight-forward for putting, as there’s not much undulation or sloping in them – they will be slower than what players have seen the past few weeks though, which could cause issues especially for players who played last week at Augusta. The greens are Tifeagle Bermuda.

Weather will be a factor as Harbour Town is a coastal track, so make sure to check the forecasts and check the FGI members’ email Wednesday night. There’s always some wind, but the gusts can get extremely high and would definitely affect play; looking at players that have found success at Dye courses as well as UK links courses is a good place to start.

 

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  1. Approach
  2. Putting
  3. Off the Tee
  4. Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  1. Greens in Regulation %
  2. Approach Shots: 150-200 Yards
  3. Par-4 Scoring
  4. Bogey Avoidance
  5. Scrambling

Top-Tier Golfers

Patrick Cantlay ($9700): After a phenomenal weekend at Augusta, Cantlay comes to Harbour Town where he’s picked up finishes of third and seventh in the past two years in strong form – he finished T9 last week at the Masters and has picked up two other top-10 finishes this season. On the season so far, Cantlay ranks 10th in SG: Tee to Green and has hit a whopping 70.3% of greens in regulation, while being an absolute par-4 stud: 22.59% birdie or better (third-best) and averaging 3.91 (tied for first), which is important here given the extra par-4 (compared to the par-72s we’ve seen recently) and given how tough the scoring on par-4s is.

One of the complaints about Cantlay is his play out of the sand, and while that’s been pretty bad so far – he’s +7 on 50 shots when he’s in a greenside bunker – his SG: Around the Green rank him 33rd, and he’s 14th on Tour in Scrambling.

Sungjae Im ($8400): While the young Korean hasn’t played at Harbour Town before, Im has great form – he’s on a string of four made cuts in his last five events, with all four being top-20 finishes and three of those were seventh-place or better. That form out of a rookie is fantastic, and his price point doesn’t reflect that.

Statistically, Im ranks 20th in SG: Tee to Green with 1.177 strokes gained per round, and he’s positive in every category:          +.494 off the tee (23rd), +.465 on approach (37th), +.218 around the greens (52nd) and +.148 with the putter (79th). He’s neither the longest nor the most accurate driver of the ball, but he positions himself very well and with a good approach game has made it to the green in regulation 69.6% of the time; he’s especially good with his mid-irons as he’s a combined -23 on 230 attempts between 150-200 yards out. He struggles on par-3s but ranks 31st and 18th in par-4 and -5 scoring respectively, and makes birdie or better 24.25% of the time.

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Emiliano Grillo ($7400): The Argentinian hasn’t had a fantastic year to date as his putter has failed him, but his game sets up very well here and he’s had a lot of success on Pete Dye tracks in the past and finished 16th here last year in his debut. Grillo ranks a whopping   12th in SG: Approach (+.801) and 29th in SG: Off the Tee (+.462), and excels with his wedges and mid-irons, with very strong proximity numbers although his numbers relative to par suffer relative to his competition because he’s such a poor putter – Grillo ranks 7th from 50-125, 24th from 125-150, 10th from 150-175 and 52nd from 175-200 in proximity.

As mentioned though, his putter is bad: he ranks 209th in BOTH one-putt percentage and three-putt avoidance, and 210th in SG: Putting, hitting only 64.8% of his putts in the 4-8’ range (about 2% less than average); that’s one of the reasons his Scrambling number is low (167th), although his play around the greens has never been his strong suit in the first place. He’s a high-risk bet thanks to the putting, but worth the risk.

Kevin Streelman ($7200): On first glance, there isn’t much that makes Streelman jump off the page as a great play statistically (outside of his very strong accuracy off the tee (69.2%)), as he ranks 22nd, 114th, 100th and 169th in SG: Off the Tee, Approach, Around the Green and Putting respectively.

That being said, Streelman is still 54th from tee to green and excels with his wedges and short-to-mid irons, and has still managed two top-10 finishes this year; he’s only missed the cut once here and has finished as high as third and seventh (last year), so his form isn’t as much of a concern as it would otherwise be. He’s the value version of Jim Furyk (who is the definition of Pete Dye specialist) and just needs to get some putts to drop.

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly April 15, 2019 20:02

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