This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.44M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Course: Harbour Town Golf Links
2021 champion: Stewart Cink
Most tournament organizers would not want to follow a major, much less the Masters. But Harbour Town has been a special place on the PGA Tour for more than a half century and the golfers love it. As such, the RBC Heritage field is pretty stacked. Five of the top 10 in the world, 12 of the top 25 and 25 of the top 50 have made the short jaunt from Augusta to Hilton Head Island.
South Carolina native Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay and Sungjae Im highlight this star-studded 132-man field, which also includes Daniel Berger, Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick, Rickie Fowler, defending champion Stewart Cink and former champs Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar. Also in on a sponsor's invite a week after missing the Masters cut is reigning U.S. Amateur champ James Piot.
You'd think the top players would take a pass the week after a grueling major. But so many of them love, love, love this 1969 Pete Dye design that they come back year after year and year – despite having to wear that hideous plaid sport coat if they win. Harbour Town is the only course this tournament has ever been played on. In 1969, an aging Arnold Palmer, winless for more than a year, came to Hilton Head Island and captured the inaugural Heritage Golf Classic.
So why do so many greats come here year after year? Maybe because Harbour Town reminds of a bygone era, when golf courses weren't a-thousandy-billion yards long. No, this quaint little track checks in at under 7,200 yards – though it's up 70 yards from past years – and the golfers will have to be more tacticians than bombers. Kuchar is back for the 16th straight year and has said the narrow, tree-lined fairways, dog legs, water hazards and tiny greens "make it exciting to try to truly play chess around this golf course." Kuchar got his checkmate when he won the tournament in 2014. He is part of a who's-who of former champions here that could fill a wing in the Hall of Fame. Beginning with Palmer, who was 40 when he won, get a load of this list: Jack Nicklaus – who consulted with Dye – Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman, Payne Stewart, Nick Price, Jim Furyk and five-time champion Davis Love III, who at age 57 is in the field again this time around.
Even though there are many big names on hand, they don't often do well. Maybe it's the Masters hangover, maybe the shorter track lets so many other golfers into the conversation. For whatever the reason, the last decade of winners is filled with long shots and short hitters, and we have seen lots of low-priced golfers on the first page of the leaderboard.
Harbour Town underwent extensive renovations in 2015. A year later, Hurricane Matthew roared through, felling thousands of trees on the island. What we saw the next four years were some pretty tight scores. Branden Grace won at 9-under in 2016, followed by Wesley Bryan's 13-under, and then 12-under by Satoshi Kodaira (2018) and C.T. Pan (2019), which goes to show that a short track still can have some teeth. Two years ago, played in June after the pandemic restart, it was the fifth easiest track on Tour all year as Simpson set the scoring record at 22-under. Last year, with the tournament back in April, Cink came close to matching Simpson at 19-under, though the scores were generally back where they were in previous years, as Cink was four clear of runners-up Harold Varner III and Emiliano Grillo. It was Cink's third RBC win – an incredible 17 years after his second.
Harbour Town's best defenses are wind, water on every hole and bermudagrass greens that average less than 4,000 square feet, the smallest greens on Tour this side of Pebble Beach. That makes getting on the green in regulation a challenge. This is traditionally one of the hardest GIR weeks of the season and therefore there is a premium on scrambling. The signature hole is the 18th, a 472-yarder leading to the famed red-and-white-striped lighthouse and marina. Fittingly, it usually is the hardest hole on the course.
Two years ago, they expanded the fairways on more than half the holes, making it hard to determine whether the low scores from 2020 were related to that or the one-time move to June. The official Golf Course Superintendents sheet also noted that the "area had a cold, wet winter, which was not good for the bermudagrass. Course has seen extensive play during pandemic." As is always the case in April, the bermudagrass greens have been overseeded with Poa trivialis. To help sort this all out, it will be interesting to see where the sportsbooks set the over/under on the winning score.
Weather-wise, it looks like a decent week: overcast with highs in the 70s every day, a 25 percent chance of rain all four days but nothing seemingly problematic, and moderate wind.
Key Stats to Winning at Harbour Town
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Accuracy
• Strokes Gained: Putting
A truly long hitter hasn't won here in forever, but that's only because Dustin Johnson imploded in 2019. Carrying a one-stroke lead into the final round, he ballooned to a 77 and plummeted to a tie for 28th. That opened the door for Pan to secure his first Tour win. Cink is not known as an overly long hitter– he's far from short – but did rank third in the field in driving distance. As mentioned above, 2020 was a birdie-fest, and it's hard to determine why. What we do know is that Simpson ranked eighth in the field in SG: Approach, seventh in Tee-to-Green and second in Putting. And yet he won by only one shot over Abraham Ancer, who lost strokes on the greens and was ranked 61st in Putting. Before Cink, the previous four winners – Simpson, Pan, Kodaira and Bryan – were all outside the top-100 in driving distance the years they won. Bryan and Kodaira were real outliers, as they have since fallen off the PGA Tour map. What makes it hard for the long hitters? For one, at the 300-yard mark the fairways narrow to an average of 22 yards, just about the slimmest we see all year. That's still the case, even with the widening of many fairways last year. The week generally results in the shortest average drives of any tournament and the worst greens-in-regulation numbers. Firing at the tiny greens, even the most accurate iron players will see their GIR numbers dip. But Cink, in a masterful performance, led the field in GIR at nearly 78 percent. He also was second in Approach and fifth in Around-the-Green, so he was able to still win comfortably despite ranking 25th in the field in putting. As we often say, smaller greens tend to neutralize the better putters. That doesn't necessarily mean that putting doesn't matter this week; it's just that poorer putters have a better chance of having a good putting week. If your guy isn't winning heading into Sunday, take heart with this little nugget: Before Cink and Simpson, seven straight Harbour Town winners rallied from at least two shots back on the final day. The over/under on the winning score as determined by golfodds.com is 269.5.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Collin Morikawa - $10,200 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1200)
One of the biggest challenges this week is identifying which of the top golfers will come ready to play a week after the Masters, and which have a figurative hangover. The first fade for me is Cameron Smith ($10,800). We also see top-dollar guys have issues here, so Justin Thomas ($11,100) and Dustin Johnson (10,500) are out. Morikawa is only the No. 4 guy on the DK board, which is surprising in and of itself. He also is the most accurate golfer on a course where accuracy is paramount. He finished seventh here last year.
Shane Lowry - $9,800 (+1800)
Even though Lowry and Morikawa both finished top-5 at Augusta, Lowry faced many more pressure-filled situations, as he was contending and Morikawa kind of backed in. So that's a concern. But we turn to the Irishman because he has been playing well all year, has played well here in the past – ninth last year, third in 2019 – and perhaps most importantly is second on Tour in scrambling.
Corey Conners - $9,700 (+2500)
This will be the fourth week in a row that Conners is playing. And that was a concern until checking that last year Conners made the RBC Heritage his fourth week of play in a row and tied for fourth. The only difference was he was out in the first round of the Match Play event last year and this time played the maximum number of matches. But that was four weeks ago, so it's not a huge deal. Maybe the only more accurate golfer in the field is Morikawa.
Daniel Berger - $9,600 (+1800)
The potential for a single-digit winner or close to it speaks to focusing on conservative play. Berger is a very conservative player. He's also accurate, and is ranked 22nd on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach and 10th in Around-the-Green. Berger finished 13th here last year and third the year before.
Tier 2 Values
Matt Fitzpatrick - $9,500 (+1800)
Fitzpatrick's good season continued last week with a top-15 at the Masters, his second-best showing ever at Augusta. He's been a regular at Harbour Town, playing seven of the past eight years. Fitzpatrick finished fourth last year and was 14th two of the previous three years. He's ranked 15th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green.
Joaquin Niemann - $9,100 (+3500)
Niemann is having a good season, highlighted by his breakthrough win at Riviera. The weak part of his game is putting, and he the smaller greens may help him out there this week. Niemann has played Harbour Town just once before and it was a good one – a tie for fifth in 2020.
Webb Simpson - $8,800 (+3500)
This is one of Simpson's go-to tracks where he almost always play well: ninth last year, win in 2020, 16th the year before, fifth in 2018, 11th the year before. So what's he doing down here sub-$9000? Well, he's been playing his worst golf in years and just fell out of the top-40 in the world rankings. But until we see a bad result here with our own eyes, this is still Webb Simpson at Harbour Town.
Tommy Fleetwood - $8,200 (+5500)
Fleetwood has never been a good putter, but he is elite with a wedge in hand. He's ranked second on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green. A few weeks ago, Fleetwood was teetering on the edge of the top-50 in the world after missing the cut at the Honda. But he's strung together four straight top-25 stroke-play results since then, highlighted by an impressive T14 at Augusta (where wedge play is kinda important). Fleetwood missed the cut here last year when not much was going right for him, but he tied for 25th in 2019.
Tier 3 Values
Chris Kirk - $8,000 (+6500)
Kirk's name has been appearing in the DraftKings weekly preview almost as much as my own – he's been a pick almost every week, and that's because he's been playing well. We've talked about his elite tee-to-green play, but built in there is SG: Around-the-Green, and he's ranked 11th on Tour. Kirk finished seventh here a year ago. There's only one other golfer who wasn't at the Masters priced higher than Kirk (Alex Noren, $8,300).
Matt Kuchar - $7,800 (+6500)
Kuchar is as rested as he's ever been heading into Harbour Town, though he wishes he weren't. He didn't qualify for the Masters for the first time in forever. Now ranked 98th in the world, there won't be many avenues for Kuchar to get back to Augusta. This week might be the best one. Besides winning in 2014, he was runner-up here in 2019, even 18th last year. Kuchar is coming off a runner-up at the Valero two weeks ago. A lot of Kuchar's game is not what it once was, but he's still third on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green.
Adam Hadwin - $7,600 (+6000)
Hadwin has not played Harbour Town well in the past. That's curious, because it seems prefect for his game. He did have a top-25 here back in 2017, but that's his only one in six starts. So he at least has it in him. Hadwin is coming off three straight top-10s, including fourth at the Valero. He's ranked 26th in SG: Around-the-Green.
Lucas Glover - $7,200 (+15000)
Glover plays Harbour Town every year, and he's been decent, making six of his past seven cuts with a couple of top-25s. He's not a great wedge player, but he is great off the tee and with his irons. He's ranked 14th in driving accuracy and 11th in greens in regulation. Glover made a rare Masters appearance last week and acquitted himself nicely with a tie for 30th
Brendon Todd - $6,800 (+18000)
Todd's biggest problem is length – he's dead last on Tour in distance off the tee, averaging only 275 yards. But that won't be a concern this week. He's also 11th on Tour in driving accuracy, 43rd in SG: Around-the-Green and an elite 10th in putting. He's made six of his nine cuts this year, including a tie for eighth last time out at the Valero. Todd has made half of his six Harbour Town cuts, including a top-5 back in 2015. He tied for 39th last year.
Brian Stuard - $6,700 (+18000)
Stuard's blurb is going to be a repeat of Todd: He's second-to-last in distance off the tee, also averaging only 275. He's also second on Tour in driving accuracy and a better-than-average 50th in SG: Around the Green. Stuard has made the cut seven times in nine tries here, including top-20s two of the past three years.
Michael Thompson - $6,500 (+25000)
Continuing our long-shot theme, Thompson hits it only 285 yards off the tee. He's not quite as accurate as Todd and Stuard, but he's still ranked 39th. He's ranked 19th in scrambling. Thompson has made four straight cuts at Harbour Town, two of them top-10s. Last year he tied for 42nd.
Tyler Duncan - $6,200 (+25000)
Duncan is only 250-1. There are a lot of guys worse – 300-, 400-, even 500-1. So the DK Sportsbook sees something here. Duncan has made only half of his eight cuts this season, but he has a good chance this week. Like with Todd and Stuard, distance off the tee is the big problem. But he's third on Tour in driving accuracy, and he's 54th in SG: Around-the-Green. Duncan has missed two of three Harbour Town cuts, but his make was a tie for 28th two years ago.