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It's going to be a far different vibe this week on the PGA Tour.
The pressure cooker of the year's first major is in the rear-view mirror, and players can take a bit of a sigh of relief upon arriving on the South Carolina shores for this week's RBC Heritage. Harbour Town Golf Links is back into its traditional post-Masters spot on the schedule after shifting to June last year, when Webb Simpson set scoring records en route to a decisive victory.
He'll be back to defend that title against a field that includes world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. But with DJ in a bit of a swoon, it could create some value elsewhere in the field as players look to capitalize on one of the Tour's shortest and most unique venues. Here's a look at some of the players that have my attention, including a former champion:
To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)
Matt Kuchar (+5000): It's been seven years since Kuchar slipped into the tartan jacket in impressive style, holing a bunker shot on the 72nd hole for a one-shot win. He was in the midst of a prolonged slide until last month, when he made a run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and chased that with a top-10 finish at the Valero Texas Open.
Kuchar missed the cut at the Masters, but there actually hasn't been a strong recent correlation between players performing well at Augusta National and following it with another strong showing the following week. I'm more interested in his robust course form, which includes a 2019 runner-up amid six top-10 finishes. Kuchar found a spark at two courses where he has shined previously in Austin Country Club and TPC San Antonio. I expect that trend to continue this week despite the hiccup in Augusta.
Kevin Streelman (+6600): No one has stronger ball-striking stats over their last 24 rounds at Harbour Town than Streelman. The veteran missed the cut last year when the event was played in June but has three top-10 finishes among his last five trips when it was held in April including a 2013 T-3 result when he shared the 36-hole lead. Nine of his last 10 rounds here have been under par.
Streelman played well in his last start, winning a match play group that included Viktor Hovland, Abraham Ancer and Bernd Wiesberger before running into eventual champion Billy Horschel. He also had top-25s at Pebble Beach and TPC Scottsdale and has made six of seven cuts this year. Streelman hasn't won on Tour since 2014, but we've seen a number of players snap lengthy victory droughts this year including Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama the last two weeks. Don't be surprised if Streelman adds his name to that list.
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Doc Redman (+15000): Taking a bit of a flier here on a (North) Carolina who went to nearby Clemson. Redman hasn't flashed much recent form, but he has played particularly well on some of the Tour's shorter layouts where length off the tee isn't a prerequisite: T-3 finishes at Wyndham and Safeway last year, and a T-4 finish in Bermuda in November. That's a similar recipe for what he'll face this week, as Harbour Town demands accuracy in orders of magnitude over distance.
Despite his rocky road over the past few weeks, Redman still ranks inside the top 50 on Tour this season in Strokes Gained: Approach. The former U.S. Amateur champ has also made the cut in each of his two prior Heritage appearances, including last year when he bounced back from an opening-round 72 to finish T-21 after three straight rounds of 67 or better. If his short game cooperates, he could have an opportunity to significantly improve upon that finish.
Top Finishes (odds via PointsBet)
Will Zalatoris (+270 top-10 finish): Might as well ride the hot hand. Zalatoris showed last week that he has every trick in the book, finishing second in his Masters debut and nearly snagging a green jacket before securing full-time status on the PGA Tour. It's only a matter of time before he breaks into the winner's circle, and it could come as early as this week. But he's been a much more reliable top-10 wager, racking up as many or more such results across the Korn Ferry and PGA Tours as any other player in the world. Another debut appearance and effort to learn a course on the fly doesn't dissuade me from investing in a promising star who will soon be leveling up.
Ian Poulter (+300 top-20 finish): Poulter was the first-round leader here in June, and he has a knack for putting up low scores at Harbour Town. The Englishman has had a few flirtations with slipping into the tartan jacket, racking up four straight top-15 finishes in the process. Those results would be even better if not for some final-round swoons, as he shot two 73s and a 75 to fade from contention from 2017-19. His T-26 finish at the Masters didn't receive much fanfare, but it was certainly a solid result and came on the heels of a group-winning performance at the WGC Match Play. This course fits his eye and I expect his name on the leaderboard over the weekend.
Stewart Cink (+600 top-20 finish): It's been 21 years since Cink bagged the first of two titles at Harbour Town, also winning here in 2004. The veteran remains in the midst of a resurgent season, one that began with a drought-breaking win in Napa and now includes six top-20 finishes. The most recent of those came last week in Augusta, as Cink finished T-12 to ensure an invite for the 2022 edition. He's playing with house money now, ensured of exempt status beyond his 50th birthday and enjoying time with his son on the bag. Those good vibes should extend this week to a course he has won at before, and I'm willing to nibble at this price even though he hasn't cracked the top 25 at this event since 2013.
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