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One of the favorite stops on TOUR, Hilton Head Island welcomes the RBC Heritage and defending champion …

RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina


Harbour Town Golf Links


Yards: 7,101

Par: 71 (36-35)

Greens: Tifeagle Bermudagrass with Poa annua; 3,700 square feet on average.

Stimpmeter: 10.5-11’

Rough: Bermudagrass with perennial ryegrass playing at 1.38”

Bunkers: 53

Water Hazards: 12

Course Architect: Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus (1969)

Purse: $5,800,000

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.

The Chalk

Yahoo! Group in ( )

Jim Furyk (B): The 2010 champ has five top 10s in his last nine starts around Harbour Town. After not breaking 75 at Doral in early March Furyk has straightened his game out with T20, T6 and T14 finishes in his last three starts. He’ll hit plenty of fairways and greens and can scramble with the best of them. He’s made 14 cuts in a row on TOUR.

Luke Donald (A): The quintessential horse for the course, Donald’s best finishes this season are on tracks he’s had past successes. In the last five at HHI, he’s finished T37, T3 twice and T2 twice. He has played 14 of those 16 rounds at par or better and that includes ELEVEN rounds in the 60s.

Matt Kuchar (A): After his finish at Valero, gamers had questions about Kuchar’s ability to finish. After SHO, gamers had questions about Kuchar’s ability to finish. After the Masters, gamers had questions about Kuchar’s ability to finish. I don’t think any gamer is thrilled that Kuchar didn’t close these deals but back-to-back-to-back top five finishes is nothing to sneeze at either. Just hop on board and enjoy the ride.

Jordan Spieth (B): After NEVER playing this course before a practice round last year, Spieth broke par in the first three rounds of the tournament to contend for the lead. His 73 in windy conditions set him back on Sunday. He was 19. He was T2 at his first Masters last week. He’s the real deal folks as he’s hit the top 25 in nine of 10 cuts made this year and will be looking to get right back into contention again this week.

Zach Johnson (B): The harder the course, the more I like him and Furyk and they both sit in the top five this week. Johnson wears out sprinkler lines in the fairways and spends most of his round replacing divots on the greens he hits. Throw on a top 15 in scrambling and that’s a solid resume. He was second alone two years ago at Harbour Town.

Harris English (C): He currently sits fifth in the all-around ranking and that’s on the back of his excellent ball-striking. And he makes a ton of birdies which doesn’t hurt either. He’s already proven he can win on a tight track as he was victorious at TPC Southwind last June. He’ll find GIR from just about everywhere and he destroys par fours. He was T8 in his maiden voyage two years ago.

Kevin Na (C): Now that his health issues are behind him, gamers are being reminded more often than not in 2014 that Na needs attention. Sure, he’s slow, blah, blah, blah but let’s not forget he can play! In his last five starts, he's finished T4, MC, second, T14 and T11. He also had a T3 and T8 earlier in the season so this isn’t just a hot pocket. Na plays difficult courses well and he’s hit the top 10 in his last two visits to Harbour Town.

Russell Henley (A): I liked the way handled himself last week at Augusta in his first trip so he should be fired up to return to HHI this week to build on last year’s T6 performance. After opening last year with 73, he rattled off 70-67 and an impressive 69 with gusting winds on Sunday. His putter can solve plenty of problems week in and week out.

Charley Hoffman (C): The 54-hole leader here last year after 66 on Saturday fell apart in the wind with 77 on Sunday. A pair of 66s en route to T6 last year on top of 65 (T8) in 2012 tells me all I need to know about Hoffman on this Pete Dye design. He’s also played the weekend in 11 of 12 tournaments this season and three of his last four have found T25 or better. He’s another steady veteran.

Graeme McDowell (C): The 2013 champ gets a place in this column because he’s knows how to bounce back from Masters disappointment. He’s loaded up the family again this week on HHI to watch him split fairways and work his magic around the greens. In six events in 2014 he’s found the top 10 in four of them.

Will MacKenzie (C): This is not a test. He’s hit the top six in three of his last four starts and made the cut in eight straight. He’s currently THIRD in the all-around ranking and is in the top 30 in ball-striking AND putting. I was late to the MacKenzie party but I’m not compounding my error by putting my head in the sand.

Matt Every (B): Here’s what I think about performances in the majors: unless guys play well, who cares? Look how many premium players MC last week. Am I going to stop rating them? Hell, no! Every decided to take the week off to get ready for his first Masters and he crashed and burned with 77-78 in his first time. Big deal! Please don’t forget in the four tournaments BEFORE that, he hit the top 10 in three of them, the top 24 in ALL of them and won once. He’ll be happy to get back to the normal TOUR stops to continue cashing checks in 2014.

Chris Stroud (C): Here’s another up-and-comer that should be on the radar this week after his T6 at Houston his last time out. He’s 35th in ball-striking, fourth in scrambling and 11th in total putting. He’s 12th in scoring average as well. In eight weekends he’s racked up seven top 25s and three top 10s.

Just Missed

J.B. Holmes: With finishes of T10 and T12 in two of his last three, Holmes has been turning back into the form that gamers were used to before his injury streak. A popular choice among our writers in the Golf Channel game in Group 4 his current form is worth another look this week.

Kevin Stadler: He was one of the first-timers that surprised last week at Augusta with his T8 finish. Not bad for a guy who was 155th in total putting. Heading into this week, he makes more sense as he’s fifth on TOUR in ball-striking and is eighth in the all-around. He’s posted four of 10 career rounds at Harbour Town in the 60s and was T4 in 2012.

Erik Compton: In his last three times out, he’s posted T5 at API, WD at Valero and T12 at SHO. Known for his Florida successes, Compton proved his worth on Bentgrass in Houston but he returns this week to Bermudagrass in South Carolina. After his performance at SHO, I’m not worried about the WD the previous week. His excellent short game and superior putting gets my attention this week.

Russell Knox: In March he rattled off four cuts made in a row including kicking off the month with his best finish, P2, at Honda. The solid ball-striker racks up fairways and greens for fun and currently sits 16th in the all-around ranking.

Billy Horschel: It’s interesting to see Horschel in this category but he’s earned his way here. His recent finishes have done nothing to inspire confidence but his striping of the fairways and greens during his first trip to Augusta last week did. His T9 in his first visit here last year doesn’t scare me off either.

Jerry Kelly: After bagging top 10s in two of his last three finishes in 2014 and playing in the final group last year, it’s hard to look the other way this week. The solid, crusty veteran is teeing it up for the 17th time this week and has found the top 10 three times in the last eight years.

Horses for Courses

Boo Weekley: The last player to defend his title on HHI, Weekley hasn’t found the top 10 since his victory last spring at Colonial. He’s never missed the cut in seven career tries and five of those finishes are T13 or better. If there’s any course he’s going to find form, this is it.

Camilo Villegas: He’s banged a top 10 in three of his last six starts. Villegas is known for his ball-striking so it’s no surprise he plays well here. Buyer beware that he’s only hit the top 25 once in 13 starts this season.

Ben Crane: His streak of five events in a row inside the top 30 was broken last year with T48. He still has played the weekend in eight consecutive events at Harbour Town.

Kevin Streelman: In 12 events he’s played five of them in the 60s. He’s also trending in the right direction as his last three years he’s finished T36, T17 and T3 last year. Gamers who have been on him since the beginning of the season will remind you that he has exactly zero top 25s in five, full-field, stroke play events.

Fade

Bill Haas: His brother is off his bag as he tries to shift into overdrive for the rest of 2014. He’s made 14 cuts in a row dating back to last season but if there is one course I’m keeping him away from it’s Harbour Town.  In nine starts he has five MC and his best finish is T24.

Brandt Snedeker: His final round scores at HHI since 2005: 78, 73, 76, MC, MC, 64, 75 and 74 last year. Wanna guess which year he won?

Ernie Els: He’s MC in his last three and has zero rounds at par or better.

Rory Sabbatini: He should be in the horses for courses column but a rib issue and a pinched nerve over the last few weeks scares me off. Proceed with caution.

Mark Wilson: He’s six of six in the last seven years and his last three finishes have been T21, T24 and T9 last year. Gamers who play horses for courses, please remember that Wilson has missed seven of 10 cuts this season with his best finish T46.

Longshots

Scott Langley: He’s played well on seaside courses in his young career and showed some chops in a solo third at a difficult layout in Tampa.

Justin Hicks: He’s hit five cuts in a row, he’s third on TOUR in ball-striking and was six-under heading into the final round here last year.

Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week

The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.

Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.

SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.

CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!

WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.

McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek

OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.

HTOC:  Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.

Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.

Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.

FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN

Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.

Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.

WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement

Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.

WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.

Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.

Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.

API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.

Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap

Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.

Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.

Coming Later Tuesday Afternoon

Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.

Coming Wednesday

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the RBC Heritage and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

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