RBC Heritage Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE RBC Heritage returns to the magnificent Harbour Town Links at Hilton Head Island boasting its strongest field in years as the PGA Tour’s return without fans continues. The tournament is normally held the week after The Masters and, as a result, the strength of the field tends to suffer but with everybody raring to get back into the swing of things it is going to be very different this time around, with world number one Rory McIlroy the star attraction.
Perhaps the most disappointing news of all is that Tiger Woods, who had indicated that he might be playing, has decided to sit out this week.
And that is a real shame because a strange thing happened in the charity match that featured Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady - Woods did not miss a single fairway. And the general consensus was that he is swinging the club better than at any point in his career. With Woods it is now, of course, all about his health. If he turns up at any event pain-free the chances are that he will contend. The enforced break has helped a lot of players who were struggling with their games but Woods is the first to admit that he needs to carefully manage his schedule to continue his career. He has clearly enjoyed the break, spending plenty of time with his children while working on his game and his fitness.
Like Colonial last week, this is another venue that favours shotmakers over bombers. Even without Woods, the field features 114 Tour winners, which is the most for any event since the PGA Tour began tracking winner participation. Included in the field are all of the world’s top five players - McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. They will be joined by Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, Jim Furyk, Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed.
“We are going to give the world a great RBC Heritage,” said tournament director Steve Wilmot. “It won’t be the same as other years but I will take this alternative any day. The second-best thing to being at Harbour Town during the RBC Heritage is to watch it from the comfort of your own homes, drinks in hand. This isn’t just our decision, and it wasn’t the PGA Tour’s decision - it was a joint decision. The governor was involved, the mayor was involved, RBC were involved and it was a case of, ’The opportunity is there, let’s go ahead and commit to this date.”
The tournament fills the void left in the schedule by the US Open, which is now being held later in the year.
The Tour has increased the size of the field from 132 to 154 at a tournament that raises $3m every year for local charities. Its annual impact on the local economy is estimated to be worth at least $100m, with ticket sales sending most of its charity work. Obviously, that won’t be the case this year.
Hilton Head Isiand mayor John McCann said: “While golf fans may not be able to walk the course, the fact that millions of TV viewers will be able to tune in is incredible news. It is a huge victory for golf and for our local community.”
Wilmot says he has been overwhelmed by the response to the news that the event is going ahead. “It’s the texts I have received from real estate agents, it’s other businesses saying thank you and welcome back. When CBS, the Golf Channel and Sky Sports go to 220-plus countries and one billion households and people are watching golf at Hilton Head Island and this community, it amounts to the biggest marketing this community has.”
He admitted that the absence of spectators is going to have a significant impact. “We are basically going to be running a tournament with no revenue opportunities. For four weeks leading up to the tournament we traditionally average about $800,000 in ticket sales and that has been lost to us. The impact is still going to be there, but for us to go ahead and move forward with this opportunity will eventually benefit us all. We are going to have to analyse all these things and there’s definitely going to be what I would call a hiccup year.”
Those who know about these things have been predicting big things for Collin Morikawa and he is definitely worth an each-way bet at Harbour Town. When he posted a 67 in the second round at Colonial it meant that the 23-year-old had made his 21st consecutive cut since joining the PGA Tour, which is an incredible achievement. It is the second longest streak in the past 30 years, begin only Woods, who began his PGA Tour career by making 25 consecutive cuts.
“To have that consistency over the past year, especially not having any status last summer, it means a lot,” Morikawa said. “And obviously the goal is to reach Tiger, if not beat him.”
Remember that Morikawa is seeing all these courses for the first time.
The Charles Schwab Challenge was an eye-opener. We now know that Jordan Spieth is back in business and that Justin Rose has spent the lockdown getting his game back in shape. We also know that Harold Varner III has been inspired by his part in the Black Lives Matter campaign. McIlroy continued where he left off, DeChambeau resembles The Incredible Hulk, Rahm still temper issues, Rickie Fowler’s new swing remains a work in progress, and Johnson and Koepka remain a long way short of their best.
The RBC Heritage was won in 2015 by Jim Furyk, in 2016 by Branden Grace, in 2017 by Wes Bryan, in 2018 by Satoshi Kodaira and last year by CT Pan.
RBC Heritage Picks & Tips
Justin Rose. Harbour Town is made for the Englishman
Collin Morikawa. As consistent as they come
Bryson DeChambeau. Hugely bulked up
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RBC Heritage Fantasy Picks
Justin Rose. Played some glorious golf at Colonial
Collin Morikawa. Could be a superstar
Bryson DeChambeau. Does it his way
Rory McIlroy. Will be there or thereabouts
Justin Thomas. Has returned in stunning form
Jordan Spieth. Great to see him finding some form again
Jon Rahm. Determined to put last week behind him
Rickie Fowler. Still looking to find his best form again
Viktor Hovland. Will become a serial winner
Sergio Garcia. In need of a good week
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