After a gruelling first major of the year, our man takes a good look at this week's US PGA Tour action in South Carolina, where he's backing a bunch of outsiders from the off...
This will be the 45th staging of the RBC Heritage and this year, as it did in the years 1983 - 2010 it immediately follows the US Masters.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Par 71, 7,101 yards. Stroke Index in 2012 - 72.29
Assisted by Jack Nicklaus, Hilton Head was designed by Pete Dye, who also designed Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship. It has been the event's sole venue, so there's plenty of course form to go on. The fairways aren't overly narrow but you do need to find the right spot on them to attack the tiny Bermuda greens. It's a coastal links style track that's greatly affected by the wind.
Live on Sky all four days, starting on Thursday at 8.00pm
Last Five Winners
2012 - Carl Pettersson -14
2011 - Brandt Snedeker -12
2010 - Jim Furyk -13 (playoff)
2009 - Brian Gay -20
2008 - Boo Weekley -15
What will it take to win the RBC Heritage?
Driving distance is not important at Hilton Head, it's all about accuracy. Pinpoint iron-play to find the small Bermuda greens is vital and so is great scrambling. Even the most precise players will miss at least the odd green or two here so getting up-and-down successfully is key but the most important stat in recent years has been putting.
Is there an angle in?
There are a number of other blustery seaside tracks with grainy greens used on the PGA Tour, where form crosses over well. El Camaleon, home of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, or the OHL Classic at Mayakoba as it will be called in November, the Waialee Country Club, home of the Sony Open and the Trump International Golf Club, which hosts the Puerto Rico Open, all correlate strongly with Hilton Head but the closest match is the Seaside Course at Sea Island, host course for the McGladrey Classic, played in neighbouring Georgia.
Hilton Head stalwarts, Jim Furyk and Davis Love III looked like fighting out the finish of last year's McGladrey until a fast-finishing Tommy Gainey gazumped everyone with a sensational final round of 60. Although we've only had three renewals of the McGladrey to date, over time, I fancy it will prove to be the best form guide for this event.
Is there an identikit winner?
Look at past winners. Players tend to play well here year after year. Nine players have won the event more than once and the previously mentioned Davis Love has won it five times!
Last year's winner, Carl Pettersson won with ease and when Brian Gay set the 72 hole scoring record in 2009 he cantered home by fully ten strokes but most years we get a very tight and exciting finish.
Don't give up on your picks, even if they appear to have too much to do with a round to go. Brandt Snedeker came from six off the lead two years ago and Stewart Cink was fully nine shots back with a round to go in 2004. Another reason to see a correlation with the Seaside Course at Sea Island maybe, as both Gainey and Ben Crane, the 2011 McGladrey winner, came from miles back to win.
Market Leaders and the US Masters hangover
I'll be very surprised if favourite Brandt Snedeker can lift himself so quickly after Sunday's poor performance at Augusta. He was favourite going into round four on Sunday but after birdying the 1st hole he never really looked like winning his first major and it would be an incredible effort for him to lift himself so soon.
Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, and to a lesser extent, Luke Donald, and Jim Furyk were all in the mix at Augusta and the same warning applies to them as it does to Sneds. They could all find it tough to get going this week and I'm swerving all of them.
Having dismissed the market leaders readily, I've had no problem finding selections, far from it.
Of those priced below 50.049/1, Boo Weekley came closest to inclusion. He's a two-time winner of the event and in decent form but I thought I'd get at least 50.049/1 and I can't possibly take less than 40.039/1.
Although ten looks like an awful lot of picks before the off, given none of them are less than 50.049/1 and that half of them are over 200.0199/1, it's really no different to backing a couple of players towards the fore in the market. So I haven't gone quite as crazy as it first appears. Anyway, here they all are...
This is just the sort of test to suit multiple winner Zach Johnson and he's a bigger price this year than he was when finishing runner-up twelve months ago.
Ernie Els found form last week, without actually getting into contention at Augusta. Finishing 13th with a final round 69, he actually topped the putting stats for the week which probably tells us more about how soft the greens were than anything else. He's come close to winning this a few times, maybe he can get it done this year.
Ben Crane has won the aforementioned McGladrey Classic, was 4th last time out in Texas, 6th in this event last year and comes here fresh having not played in the US Masters. I couldn't really see a negative and he was the first one I backed. Though Brian Gay followed fast...
Gay's win here in 2009 was as dominant a performance as you'll see and given he played well enough last week at Augusta, he too was a very straightforward selection.
Recent Honda Classic winner, Michael Thompson, has a fine record in the McGladrey, finished inside the top-20 here last year, and will have been delighted with his final round 67 at Augusta on Sunday. Maybe the inevitable dip following his win is over?
Rory Sabbatini, Matt Every, Tommy Gainey and Ted Potter Jr are all players that have either played well here or should play well here but the best of my monster-priced picks could prove to be Puerto Rico Open winner and South Carolina resident, Scott Brown, who I backed at a massive 280.0279/1.
Brown's making his Hilton Head debut this week but that hasn't put me off. He's bound to have played it plenty of times, it really ought to suit his playing style, and debutants have a fair recent record in the event. Jose Coceres (2001), Peter Lonard (2005), Aaron Baddeley (2006) and Boo Weekley (2007), all won on their first visit here, so why not Brown?
Zach Johnson @ 50.049/1
Ernie Els @ 70.069/1
Brian Gay @ 75.074/1
Ben Crane @ 80.079/1
Michael Thompson @ 95.094/1
Matt Every @ 240.0239/1
Rory Sabbatini @ 250.0249/1
Scott Brown @ 280.0279/1
Ted Potter Jr @ 320.0319/1
Tommy Gainey @ 330.0329/1
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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