This week, due to time constraints I am just going to post tips, a brief description of the event and course and the reasons why I have gone for the players I have.
The RBC Heritage is played at Harbour Town, Hilton Head, which is situated by a coastal line, meaning a strong chance of wind affecting the play. The 7,100 yard, Par 71 course was designed by Pete Dye and challenges players’ accuracy, with small, challenging greens to aim for. Good iron play will be needed, as the approaches to the green will be the most important part of each hole, so players ranked highly in the Greens in Regulation statistic should do well here. Apart from that, Scrambling is also important, as if and when a player misses the green, making par or better with a good touch around the green will be vital.
Last year we saw Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson battle it out in the play-off, in which the former prevailed. McDowell excelled in the wind on the final day shooting a 69 (-2), whilst Simpson shot level par and gave McDowell the opportunity to snatch the victory from his grasp.
Wind is forecast again this week, and should therefore be considered a factor in the end result. Players with good course form, and solid numbers in the statistics mentioned above are what I am looking for here, as well as being able to play well in the wind generally.
Here are my selections for the 2014 RBC Heritage.
Russell Henley 40/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Russell Henley has reversed my opinion on him on two occasions now, in his short PGA Tour career.
After winning the Sony Open, in Hawaii on his first start on the PGA Tour, I really thought he was the real deal, and even backed him to win the U.S Open last year, then his form dropped. He looked out of sorts for quite a while at the end of last year and I started to doubt my initial thoughts on him.
Then he managed to restore the faith winning the Honda Classic, in a play-off against Rory Mcilroy, Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer, and show us again, just how talented he is. He went on to finish T7 at the Houston Open, and then T31 in his second Masters appearance last week. He played really well at Augusta, and I believe now, after having a couple of visits, he may well contend there in the future.
So why do I like him this week?
First of all, Henley can play in the wind. He proved that, winning the Sony Open in Hawaii, as well as dealing with blowy conditions en route to his second victory at the Honda Classic. He also played well here on debut, especially when the conditions were at their worst in round four.
Henley finished 6th here on debut, and he, like eventual winner McDowell managed to shoot a final round of -2. Luke Donald was the only other person, apart from Henley and McDowell that managed to shoot that number on the final day, when the wind got up, here at Harbour Town.
With a win already this season, and further top-10 since, it looks like Henley is ready to take on the best of the rest on Tour and really establish himself as one of the leading youngsters. Harris English, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed have been receiving most of the plaudits so far this season, and Henley will be happy to put himself amongst that group.
He is my favourite bet this week, and at 40/1, he looks a fantastic price, based on his current form and his performance on debut last year.
Billy Horschel 60/1 (Betfred, StanJames) 1pt e/w: Horschel played really well at Augusta last week, on his first appearance and he will be hoping to replicate his form, from tee-to-green this week, and improve on his play on the greens from last week.
He ranked 2nd in Greens in Regulation last week at Augusta, finding the promised land over 72% of the time, bettered only by tournament runner-up, Spieth. His problem was what he did when he got on the putting surface, and that’s what will need to improve for him to contend.
Only eight players ranked worse than him in Putting last week, and all eight of those players missed the cut, so for Horschel to finish the way he did (37th), with that kind of performance on the greens was mightily impressive. It was around this time last year that every aspect of his game clicked, and he was on the best run of career so far going into this event, and also after, when he got his win at the Zurich Classic a week later.
He came into this event last year with a 2nd and a 3rd to his name in his last two starts, and maybe he was riding a hot streak, but his 9th place finish here on debut was a big positive for me, and I can see him going well again.
Horschel is a part of Sea Island golf club, and there are three former winners of this event, who are also a part of the Sea Island set up. Brandt Snedeker, Davis Love III and Stewart Cink have all won here in the past, Snedeker just once in 2011, whilst Love III has five wins here, and Cink two, so that should give Horschel confidence. There may be nothing in that link, but a lot of players at Sea Island, apart from those aforementioned have also played well here, including Harris English and Zach Johnson.
His finish last year was indeed encouraging, but the amount of greens he’s been hitting this season is a huge factor. Not only did he rank 2nd last week as previously stated, but he also ranks 16th on Tour throughout the season, in both Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation, so his game tee-to-green is in great shape.
If he can get the putter to heat up this week, I am sure he will be bang in contention over the weekend, and his price could look very good come Sunday. Of course you are taking that chance that he does turn it around on the greens, but we see him go on a roll a lot of the time, and there’s no reason why that can’t happen again this week.
Scott Langley 175/1 (Bet365) 0.5pt e/w: Langley is the first of my two long-shots, and I feel Langley especially is more than overpriced in this field.
Langley was 3rd behind Henley at the Sony Open, on what was also his first start on the PGA Tour, and although it hasn’t all been plain sailing since that first event, he has glimpses of some great form.
No evidence for this is stronger than his 3rd place finish at the Valspar Championship last month. He played extremely well in the wind there, which is one of the main reasons for picking him this week, and that to have that experience to draw on, in such recent memory, may well serve him well this week.
So he’s finished 3rd in two events where wind was a factor, and also finished T16 at the U.S Open, as an amateur in 2010, so he’s a player who seems to flourish in tough conditions.
He’s been largely unsuccessful this season, as he was for the most part last year, but he has another two top-20s so far this year, one of them coming at the Humana Challenge, where he shot -19, so he can certainly make birdies when he needs to as well.
Langley has already made more money this season, than he did over the entire season last year, so he may well be more settled and this could cause him to play some better golf.
On his debut here at Harbour Town last year, he finished in a tie for 24th, shooting level par in the blustery conditions on the final day, once again making a strong case for his ability in that department.
He ranks 21st in Scrambling which may well be hugely important for him this week, as he is not finding as many greens as he would like to this season, and his play around the greens can get him out of trouble.
On form Langley looks a very good player, and at 175/1 he seems a bit big, considering his 3rd place finish three starts ago. He has missed two cuts since, which reflects in his price, but hopefully he can bounce back and improve on his 24th place finish last year, at the second time of asking.
Lucas Glover 225/1 (Bet 365) 0.5pt e/w: The last of my picks may come as a surprise, but it is 2009 U.S Open champion Lucas Glover who rounds up my selections for this years RBC Heritage.
Although he has not won since 2011, when he won the Wells Fargo Championship, and has been largely out of form since, Glover keeps popping up, now and again, reminding he is still capable of a surprise week.
He missed seven straight cuts since the start of 2014, but on his eight start, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he improved dramatically to finish T14. He did again, return to form (in a bad way) and miss the cut on his next start, before again surprising this time at the Masters.
Last week, Glover finished 42nd at Augusta, but he was doing a whole lot better after the first 36-holes. After shooting a +3, 75 on Thursday it looked like it could be business as usual, going home early and watching the rest of the week at home, but he had other ideas. Instead of falling down the leaderboard, Glover shot his best round at Augusta, a -3/69, which was good enough to see climb into the top-15. This was his best round at Augusta, beating his previous best by two shots, but unfortunately this year was the last year of his Masters exemption.
He will be keen to get back in the major fields, and at points last season, it looked like he would do just that. He had two top-5 finishes last year, at the Honda Classic and Zurich Classic, and he held the 36-hole lead in the latter. He was in the lead going into the weekend, but in the same week, his wife was ready to give birth, and he was ready to walk of the course if he got the call that she was going into labour. This would of been a distraction, and might of cost him on that week, but this week he should have no such drama.
Glover does have a 7th placed finish here, admittedly back in 2008, and also had two top-20s prior to that, so he can, when on form play Harbour Town well, and I am hoping the last couple of starts will have given him the confidence to go well again here.
The former major winner currently ranks 12th in Total Driving, and 34th in Ball Striking so he is hitting the ball with some consistency, but of course needs to tighten up his game. This gives me hope that a good run of form is not too far away for Glover, and I hope it starts here.
Interestingly Glover ranks 11th in GIR Percentage <100 yards, so his wedges are on point, finding 69 of 72 greens from that position, and he’s also hitting good approaches from longer distances (175-200+ yards). Whilst the latter won’t really be a factor here, it’s good to see some of his game is in shape and hopefully the rest follows suit. Also, he is 11th in putts from 20′-25′, so if he finds the green, but has a putt in that distance, he may well make a few.
Winning a U.S Open and coming T12 in an Open Championship proves he can play in some difficult conditions. The wind got up a lot in the 2011 Open Championship, when he finished T12, so if he’s around at the weekend here, he could cope better than others in the gusty conditions.
Total Points Staked on the PGA Tour this week: 8
Total Points Staked this week (inc. European Tour): 17
Profit/Loss for 2014: +146.91
Two strong events this week, with plenty of interesting storylines. Will those that made the cut at the Masters show signs of fatigue this week, or will they benefit from good form? Can there be another shock winner on both Tours? Either why, whilst I’ve got some shorter players on side, I was happy to get some long shots in, especially here in the RBC Heritage. If you have any feedback, please get in touch on Twitter @TJacobsGolf
Normal service (longer previews) will resume next week. Thanks for reading, and good luck with your bets!