Coop’s RBC Heritage Preview
This week we are headed to Hilton Head Island for the RBC Heritage Open played at Harbour Town Golf Links (HTG). For the week after a major we have a solid field but only three players ranked in the T16 of the world golf rankings will be playing this week. Over the next four weeks don’t expect to see many of the top ranked players in any one tournament but a sprinkle of a few in each tournament as we lead up to the Players Championship were once again we will see the majority of the best players in the world. Last year we saw Wesley Bryan win while the two prior years Branden Grace and Jim Furyk walked away with the win. Winning scores over the past three years have been all over the place, -9, -13 and -18.
Harbour Town Golf Links
HTG is a par 71 course that plays around 7100 yards that is located on the coast which often brings wind into play. As you can see from the winning scores above how the course will play will depend totally on how much wind is in play. The course features slow Bermuda TifEagle greens that are among the smallest on tour. Getting off the tee this week isn’t a major focus as the course has fairly easy fairways to hit especially when you are clubbing down off the tee. The key this week will be hitting the small greens and when you miss scrambling will be important so you can save par. HTG has three par 5’s and all three play a different range of distances ranging from 500 yards to 590 yards. All three holes played under par last year and two of the three holes allowed the most birdies but don’t expect many eagles as we only saw 20 on the par 5’s last year. There are three par 3’s on the course that play around 200 yards and they all played over par last year. The 17th is a par 3 that plays around 175 yards and it played slightly under par last year but this is due to not having the amount of double bogeys that the other three par 3’s had. The 14th hole, 192 yard par 3, scored 25 double bogeys or worse which was the most on the course. HTG has 11 par 4 holes of which four are over 450 yards including the 18th which played as the second most difficult hole last year. HTG has two par fours that play under 400 yards and the 9th hole is one of the two. Last year this hole provided more birdies than one of the par 5’s. Overall don’t expect power to win this week as the course provides some doglegs, small fairways were some of them are tree lined, and plenty of sand which will keep the driver in the bag for the majority of the week.
Stats To Use This Week
As mentioned above HTG has some of the smallest greens on tour so we should be looking for players who are striking the ball well and hitting greens at close proximity from 150-175 yards. In order to save par you will need a solid short game because you will be missing some greens this week and the best way to stay in contention this week will be by scrambling well so you limit bogeys, scrambling %. I have read several articles about HTG and they all mention how important it is to get off the tee and avoid the overhanging limbs so driving accuracy will be critical. At first I was on this stat but the more I looked at career stats of players who have played well at HTG I have backed away from it this week. In addition if you are looking at driving accuracy stats for players over the last 6-9 weeks does the number paint a picture of what will happen this week as those stats are mostly derived when players use driver off the tee which many will not be doing this week. What I did find was SG Approach had a strong correlation to players who finished near the top over the last several tournaments at HTG so I will be using this as my last stat this week. Stats listed below date back 8 weeks and include any tournament played within that timeframe minus the WGC and Masters as those stats are not available. Ranks are within the field.
Course Studs Or Chalk This Week
It’s safe to say that Luke Donald (7.7k) absolutely loves HTG as he has finished second or third seven times over the last nine years while the other two years he placed 15th and 17th. It’s safe to say that Donald will be the chalk this week so you need to make that critical decision of taking him at high ownership or fading him. Many will look for several reasons as to why they should fade Donald this week but the simple answer is look at his results. My reasons for fading would be he has little to no positive form entering this week were in the past he has had better form leading in. In addition looking at Donald’s most recent rounds at HTG and you will see he has shot 70+ more often recently than in the past.
This week we are on a Pete Dye designed course and one of my rules is always play Matt Kuchar (10.8k) on Dye designed courses as he plays them extremely well. Kuchar hasn’t missed a cut at HTG in eleven attempts while his last four appearances he has finished 11th, 9th, 5th and 1st. It will be interesting to see were ownership ends up on Kuchar this week as he rarely is over 10k. On one hand I could see many people starting there lineups with him as he is safe but then the other side is he has limited upside to win and perhaps people just find the money to play Paul Casey or Dustin Johnson.
Before you start construction of your lineups this week you will need to make decisions on the two players above and how you will play them. Based on there results it’s going to be tough to fade them. I originally had Branden Grace plugged in this section but he has WD as his wife is expecting their first child. Grace would have sucked up ownership from other players who will now gain ownership making them not as sneaky now. Plus I liked Grace as a play this week coming off a solid Masters performance but his decision is more than understandable.
Second Tier Course History Hoping To Reduce Ownership From Above
If you are looking for a course that sets up well for Russel Knox (7.8k) then look no farther than HTG. Knox was made four appearances at HTG finishing 11th, 2nd, 18th and 9th. Many will look at the recent form for Knox as he has missed two of his past five cuts but he has also placed 16th and 15th within that period. Knox could end up being a high owned play due to his course history or he could go under the radar as there are several players to choose from within his price range.
There is no doubt that Cam Smith (9.0k) will be a hot topic this week after his 5th place finish at the Masters this past week. Smith played all four rounds at Augusta National at par or better while he closed out the tournament with a 66 on Sunday. Smith evidently feels comfortable at HTG as he has played their twice with finishes of 29th and 15th. Don’t worry if the winds pick up as this should make Smith a better play since he is from Australia and familiar with how to handle the conditions. Slow greens have not been kind to Smith over his career as he has lost strokes gained on them but at HTG he has overcame that as he has one of the best strokes gained putting career. My last thought on Smith is he plays par 5’s very well and this week we have one less each round which is concerning as he will need to use the par 4’s to gain strokes.
It seems like over the past two years Adam Hadwin (8.1k) becomes DFS chalk around this time of the season and this week should be no different. Hadwin is coming off a solid Masters were he finished 24th which happens to be his worse results over his last four stroke play tournaments as he had previous finishes of 12th, 9th and 6th. Hadwin appears to be a solid fit for HTG as he has made two of three cuts with finishes of 22nd and 30th. I don’t think Hadwin is a bad play this week but using game theory I feel there are other players who have the same upside as Hadwin while at a much lower ownership. One last note on Hadwin, he performs better on fast greens vs the slow greens he will be playing on this week and over his career at HTG he has not been a good putter.
Your next big decision is are you going to play Dustin Johnson (12.0k) the week after the Masters at a tournament were he has missed the cut in both appearances at the price DK has assigned him this week. Johnson is playing this tournament this year due to his recent affiliation with RBC and its hard to determine if this course will fit his game style. I looked at Johnson’s results over the last three years and the best comparable course I could find was the TPC Southwind were he finished 5th two years ago. After that, I could not find any similar courses that DJ has played. There is no doubt that DJ is a much better player than when he missed the cut at HTG but when you look at the T5 finishers over the last several years very few are big ball hitters.
Paul Casey (11.3k) is in an interesting position this week for the DFS community because if you are a stats believer he is your man while if you are a course history buff he doesn’t look as good for his price. Casey has played HTG four times missing the cut in his most recent attempt while finishing 18th, 22nd and 11th in his other three attempts. Casey should be a popular play this week because everyone is going to remember his stellar play over the weekend at the Masters. I also feel Casey will pull ownership away from DJ since he is cheaper and you can make better teams with him.
Mark Leishman (10.3k) started the Masters off very well playing good golf in rounds one and two but couldn’t get anything going over the weekend. Leishman has made 5/8 cuts at HTG but only has one T10 finish while all his other finishes fall between 30th and 44th. Leishman should come in at low ownership considering his history and price this week making him a good GPP play if he were to have a good week.
If you are looking for a course that fits the style of golf Kevin Kisner (8.7k) plays look no farther than HTG. Kisner had a solid Masters finishing 28th at a tournament were he had not faired the best in the past while a few weeks earlier he played in the finals at the WGC. Kisner has made four of five cuts at HTG including his last four while his best finishes have been 11th and 2nd. At the beginning of the week I was hoping Kisner would fly under the radar but I am getting the sense he will be one of the more popular players this week. The stats below for Kisner are not good but if you look at how he played at the WGC and the Masters his game is headed in the right direction.
Brian Harman (9.8k) didn’t have the best performance at the Masters finishing 44th but he did finish the week with a 69 at a course that doesn’t fit his game best. HTG should be a course that gets Harman back on track with a solid finish as the course fits his game much better. Harman has made five of his last six cuts at HTG with two top ten finishes. I have the same exact thoughts on Harman as I do Kisner with a little less love. I have a good feeling that Harman will now be a player that goes lower owned due to his higher price.
One of the reasons I was hoping the two players above would be lost is due to Webb Simpson (9.4k). Simpson capped of his career best 20th place finish at the Masters with a 67 on Sunday highlighted by back to back eagles. Simpson has made 7/8 cuts at HTG but has been boom or bust with his finishes as he has four finishes in the T14 but three finishes of 50th or worse. I played Webb heavy last week at low ownership and if I get the feeling he will be highly owned this week I will pivot to the two guys above as I feel they have just as good of a chance to finish in the T10. In no way am I saying Simpson is a bad play as I will have plenty of him if he comes in at around 10% but much higher than that number will lead me to play game theory. In the past Simpson chalk weeks have not ended well for DFS players.
I really like were the game for Bud Cauley (7.3k) is right now as he has finishes of 18th and 14th coming off his wrist injury were he had a WD and missed cut. Cauley will be making his fourth appearance at HTG were he placed 9th last year after taking a few years off from the tournament. Like Kisner the stats below are not great but they are heavily skewed by his missed cut were he played awful. I think Cauley will be overlooked this week as there are several players in the low to mid 7k’s to choose from which will even out there ownership.
Emilliano Grillo (8.6k) arrives at HTG as one of the hottest players on tour posting three T10 finishes over his last five tournaments. Grillo is making his debut at HTG but I feel this is a course that should fit his game well. With this being the debut for Grillo and several players already mentioned with good course history I feel he is going to get lost this week and come in at lower ownership than what he should be. My only concern for Grillo is he has better putting splits on other surfaces than what he does on bermuda.
Kevin Chappell (7.9k) is on the bad side of many within the DFS community after missing the cut at the Masters last week while being owned at around 15% on average. This plus many will still consider Chappell to have not recovered from his back issues after the WGC match plays will lead to low ownership on a very good player. Chappell has decent history at best at HTG missing two of four cuts while placing 9th and 29th. I feel the ownership will be so low on Chappell this week that if you go in at 10% you will be three times over the field.
For the last two years people have been saying HTG is a course that should fit the game of Matthew Fitzpatrick (7.6k) well. Unfortunately he has walked away after Friday the last two years leaving many players disappointed. Fitzgerald wasn’t in great form heading into the Masters and he didn’t play all that great minus a 67 on Saturday. Fitzgerald should come in at low ownership and it won’t take much to be overweight on the field by two to four times. Fitzgerald is to good of a player to continue playing poorly and is due to get his game back on track very soon and it could be this week.
One of my favorite plays this week is Patton Kizzire (7.3k) as I feel this is a great course fit for him with the bermuda greens and shorter track. Kizzire missed the cut at the Masters last week while he missed two of five cuts prior to the Masters. Simply put the last several weeks of play have not been on courses that set up extremely well for his game. Kizzire has played HTG the last two years with finishes of 32nd and 14th and I feel he will come in at low ownership while he has shown what he can do on similar courses to HTG as he has a win at the Sony Open.
Chesson Hadley (7.3k) started out the year as the DFS darling as he was playing well but how have things changed for him recently. Hadley has missed two of his last four cuts but perhaps he has his game headed in the right direction with an 18th place finish a few weeks ago. What I really like about Hadley is his iron game was very sharp a few weeks ago at the Houston Open were he finished 7th SG Approach. Surprisingly Hadley has not played well at HTG as he has missed the cut two out of three times with 38th being his best finish. One concern I have for Hadley is his short game can be suspect which is needed to compete at HTG.
It will be interesting to see what kind of buzz is created by William McGirt (7.6k) this week due to his recent course history at HTG. McGirt started his career at HTG by missing his first three cuts but then something started to click as he has placed in the T10 three of the past four years with a 31st place finish also in the mix. McGirt enters this week in suspect form missing three of his last seven finishes but when he makes the cut he has solid finishes between 16th and 33rd. The biggest question I keep asking myself is can McGirt finish T15 for the fourth time in five years which would be a lofty accomplishment for a player of his stature. I feel due to the price of McGirt he will go lower owned as there are several other players who people would rather click on in his price range.
I must say that I came away impressed with Si Woo Kim (7.4k) last week at the Masters as I had low expectations for him and didn’t see him finishing 24th. Si Woo should stay off the radar of most this week because after all he is Si Woo but he does have a 14th place finish at HTG two years ago which could help drive his ownership over 5%. Si Woo appears to have his game in solid form as he also played well at the WGC match play a few weeks ago. Si Woo plays better on bermuda greens, is a solid wind player, and if the scores stay in the -10 to -12 range he could surprise. There are a couple other trends that have me on Si Woo this week with one being he has played well at Pete Dye courses over his career. Don’t be surprised if this is the week that Si Woo comes from nowhere to contend for a win.
SG Approach- 105th
Another player I feel confident in this week is Austin Cook (7.2k) as he makes his debut at HTG this week. Cook missed the cut at the Masters last week and his previous five tournament results were finishes of 31st to 49th with a missed cut thrown in there. What I like about Cook this week is he will be playing a course that seems to fit his game style as he has a win at the RSM Classic and a 18th place finish at the Sony Open earlier this year. Much like Kizzire, I feel people will ignore his results at similar courses and come in at a low ownership making him a solid GPP play.
It’s been seven weeks since we have seen JJ Spaun (7.3k) as he makes his return this week at HTG were he finished 6th last year. Spaun has been battling injury all year long while posting horrible results and the key for me is trying to find out how he feels heading into this week. Spaun will be owned at less than 1% most likely this week and if healthy he has the game to make the cut and finish T20.
It will be interesting to see were the DFS community lands on Patrick Cantlay (9.1k) this week after he missed the cut last week at the Masters. Cantlay finished third last year in his lone appearance at HTG but his game was in much better form last year. Cantlay has struggled this year to match the same success he had last year as he has only one T10 in his last five tournaments. For me how much Cantlay I have will come down to his projected ownership which I feel could possibly be on the lower side. Currently Cantlay is one of my favorite players this week.
The hatless wonder Ollie Schniederjans (7.4k) will be looking to follow up his third place finish last year in his debut at HTG with another T10 finish this year. This will be the first tournament for Ollie as he has been off the last three weeks but he did make the cut in his previous three tournaments with finishes of 41st, 49th and 64th. I feel that the lackluster results will help keep down the ownership for Ollie this week but if you look at last years results heading into this week he is actually in better form.
Kevin Na (8.2k) has posted some solid results over his career at HTG making 8/10 cuts which includes four T10 finishes. Na arrives this week in decent form making the cut in his last five stroke play tournaments which includes a second place finish while his remaining results range from 20th-48th. Na should be a good GPP as I feel he will go lower owned this week as he has still left a bad taste with people from his WD a few weeks ago.
Jason Dufner (7.8k) is back at a course that fits his game style much better than what he had to face last week at the Masters. Dufner should go overlooked this week after he missed the cut last week at the Masters but he is playing at a tournament that he has played well at over his career making eight of nine cuts but only has two T15 finishes and neither placed in the T10. Dufner is a safe play this week but doesn’t carry much upside.
Currently I have mixed feelings about Xander Schauffele (7.7k) this week as I am not sure HTG is a good fit for his game. X man has missed cuts at similar courses played at the Sony Open and RSM Classic but that was at the beginning of last year. Is X man a better player now than he was then, yes but the courses being short and bermuda greens weighs on me. I am going to need to find some reasons to play X man this week as I feel there are just as many players with as much upside as him this week.
That’s all for this week, good luck to everyone! Thanks