RBC Heritage: Fitzpatrick can hoist Hilton Head trophy

Matt Fitzpatrick
England's Matt Fitzpatrick can star at Hilton Head

Dave Tindall is back to preview the RBC Heritage and has three each-way selections for the action at Hilton Head...

"Fitzpatrick was fifth for Strokes Gained Putting last when shooting all four rounds in the 60s to finish tied 32nd at Colonial while he ranked 24th for SG: Around The Green. In other words, he displayed the tidy short game which will serve him well this week."

Main Bet: Matt Fitzpatrick each-way @ 55/1

It's done the rounds for a few years now that Matt Fitzpatrick loves Hilton Head.

A 2017 piece for pgatour.com showed that the Englishman had been holidaying with his family at the famous South Carolina venue since the age of 12.

"It's such a special place. It's my favourite place in the world," he cooed, showing off clubhead covers of the venue's famous red and white lighthouse.

Which is all well and good but how has he fared there?

Fitzpatrick was tied 23rd on debut, missed the cut the next two years and improved to 14th in 2018. Last year he slipped to tied 39th on the final day.

One problem is that he's always played the event in its usual post-Masters slot so has carried over the mental fallout from the severe test at Augusta National.

I'm hoping the more relaxed June setting will remind him more of the holiday vibe and I have a sneaky feeling should he get in contention, that extra love for Hilton Head might just carry him through to a big title challenge.

It certainly seems like a venue he should like.

Looking at past Strokes Gained results, Off The Tee seems the least important stat as highlighted by two of the last three winners registering negative figures for that category.

By contrast, three of the last four winners were in the top 10 for Around The Green and the last six winners were all in the top 16 for SG: Putting.

Fitzpatrick was fifth for Strokes Gained Putting last week when shooting all four rounds in the 60s to finish tied 32nd at Colonial while he ranked 24th for SG: Around The Green.

In other words, he displayed the tidy short game which will serve him well this week.

Before the lockdown he'd posted tied ninth at Bay Hill and watching compatriot Tyrrell Hatton win the Arnold Palmer may act as a further spur.

After so many second places in the last couple of seasons, I'll take him to finally get it done and 55/1 seems a decent price.

Next Best: Branden Grace each-way @ 45/1

Branden Grace (720).JPG

I'm definitely looking for a player who showed good SG: Around The Green and SG: Putting stats last week and a number fit the bill.

Patrick Reed was in the top five for both categories at Colonial so is definitely on the shortlist.

So is J.T. Poston, who is a popular bet this week (now 70/1) having finished sixth here on debut last year and T10 at Colonial. Before the PGA Tour re-started, Poston had also finished T8 in the individual event in the 36-hole warm-up at Sea Island contested by a mix of PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour players.

Ian Poulter (10-7-11) and Rory Sabbatini (three top 10s at Hilton Head) were also considered.

But, given that the quirky Harbour Town course at Hilton Head has thrown up several multiple winners down the years, I'll go for another past champion in Branden Grace.

The South African scored a two-shot win here in 2016, ranking 10th for SG: Putting and 3rd in SG: Around The Green.

He was 17th and 10th respectively in those two categories at Colonial and the switch to Bermuda grass here could suit him further.

Grace opened with a trio of 66s at the Charles Schwab and said after round three: "I feel the ball-striking has improved every day. The putting has been great the whole week so far, and if I can come tomorrow, maybe hit a few more fairways and get myself the chances, I feel I'm going to make some putts. If I can do that, I'll be there or thereabouts."

It didn't work out as he fell to T19 but that's a decent warm-up for this event where he posted T7 and T11 either sie of his win in 2016, meaning he has three top 11s in just four appearances at Hilton Head. "This is my favourite place," he said when defending in 2017.

Grace is a nine-time winner on the European Tour and gained the latest with an emotional victory in his home South African Open in January, finally capturing the event for the first time.

He kept the good form going with T9 in Phoenix but then went off the boil so the break probably did him more favours than some.

Take the gutsy Springbok at 45/1.

Final Bet: Sungjae Im each-way @ 28/1

At the front end of the market, the most interesting candidate has to be Bryson DeChambeau, installed as the 14/1 second favourite behind 11/1 Rory McIlroy.

Instinctively, it seems like this course isn't suited to his new strongman circus act and will prove too subtle and yet he has intriguing course form numbers of 4-MC-3-MC since 2016.

His modest short-game stats at Colonial are just enough to put me off but I'll be watching him closely.

Luke List won on the Korn Ferry Tour last week and was third here two years, making him worth a ponder at 100/1.

But I'll move back to nearer the top of the pile and close with a punt on Sungjae Im at 28/1.

The FedExCup leader was practising hard during lockdown but, given how much he likes to play for real, his lack of a competitive start put me off a little at Colonial last week.

However, on a course where he'd missed the cut in 2019, he got back into the groove with an impressive T10.

That followed his brilliant Florida Swing which brought him a first PGA Tour win (Honda Classic) and a third (Bay Hill).

Those results showed his liking for Bermuda and they're more than enough to trump the fact that he didn't make the weekend on his Heritage debut 12 months ago.

Im is a very fast learner and, with his competitive eye in again, I'll be surprised if he's not on page one of the leaderboard.

A final note: he's been doing all his practice at TPC Tampa Bay which is a short par 71 with Bermuda grass - the same deal he faces this week.

The sky is the limit for Im so I'm happy to take 28/1.

Staked: £664
Returned: £516.26
P/L: -£147.74

2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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