RBC Heritage Tips: Three-ball picks for the opening round

Golfer Emiliano Grillo
Emiliano Grillo is a strong favourite to win his group

Check out Paul Krishnamurty's best five picks for tomorrow's opening round at Harbour Town Golf Links...

"Tee-to-green accuracy pays at this quirky track so one would think Emiliano Grillo would build up a bank of form with course experience."

Naturally most attention on the opening day revolves around the star groupings. However the best bets are often to be found in groups with low expectations, who might not even appear once in the TV groups.

Former champ Gay has little to beat

Take this one. Kevin Tway has missed six straight cuts and never bettered 70 in eight rounds at Harbour Town. Sung-Hoon Kang hasn't made a top-30 in over a year and, while he did finish 11th here in 2017, his other four visits resulted in bad missed cuts and terrible stroke average of 75.

The selection is also on a bad run but, having won the Bermuda Championship six months ago, at least his struggles are partly excused by mostly playing courses where he never thrives. Brian Gay does usually make this cut (11 from the last 14). He's a former champion and was sixth in 2017. I reckon he'll do enough to win this.

Thompson set for another good week

Unless either Graeme McDowell or Luke Donald turn back the years at a course where they have previous, Michael Thompson won't need anything special. Top-ten in the last two Harbour Town renewals, Thompson made the Masters cut following a top-20 in the Honda. Another solid week is on the cards.

That simply can't be said about these opponents. True, Donald is a course specialist and Gmac a former champion. However the former comes in off missed nine straight cuts and 14 of his last 17. The latter has struggled here since winning in 2013 and broke a similarly dismal run with fourth at Corales but struggled again afterwards.

Grillo rated well ahead of this pair

Tee-to-green accuracy pays at this quirky track so one would think Emiliano Grillo would build up a bank of form with course experience. 16th and 33rd from three visits is respectable, and he comes in off four top-25 finishes in six.

Again, the opposition is ordinary. Xinjun Zhang looks a no-hoper at present, having missed 12 of his last 16 cuts and averaging 75.5 for his last four rounds. Harold Varner would be more plausible, were it not for a terrible Harbour Town record. 59th is his best finish from five attempts.

NeSmith top value at favourite course

Having read Ben Coley's argument at sportinglife.com for backing Matthew NeSmith, around a course he knows inside out and seems perfectly suited, the South Carolina native also very much appeals as the outsider of three here. Three rounds from four on his first attempt on the PGA Tour were 67 or better.

67 is a score Russell Henley has only made three times in 20 professional rounds here. He's missed four cuts from seven. Bezuidenhout made the top-30 on his debut. He's very much respected.

Lee preferred in very weak group

Frankly, any player at 9/5 for a three-ball involving Nick Watney warrants serious consideration. He's missed 12 straight cuts, averages 74.5 for his last 12 rounds and has a poor record here.

That leaves Henrik Norlander or K.H. Lee. A similar standard and both considered at the odds, but the Korean gets the nod on the basis of his far superior putting numbers on Bermuda of late.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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