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RBC Heritage Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 12 Apr 2021 | Comments

Webb Simpson returns to the iconic Harbour Town Golf Links to defend the RBC Heritage title he won last year, denying Mexico’s Abraham Ancer his maiden PGA Tour victory by a single shot.

Simpson overcame a three-hour weather delay as he recorded five birdies in six holes on the back nine and closed with a seven-under 64 for a one-shot victory over Ancer. Simpson won the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in 2012. The U.S. Open has been scheduled to end on Father's Day every year since 1976, but it was moved to September last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RBC Heritage filled the spot on the schedule and Simpson, now a father of five, enjoyed his second victory of the season with a record score at Harbour Town. He finished at 22-under 262, breaking by two the tournament record set by Brian Gay in 2009.

"It was a crazy day," Simpson said. "I didn't get it going until the 12th and then the putts started going in and I started getting confident. It's amazing to be standing here right now."

Simpson, who had won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, moved to No. 5 in the world and topped the FedExCup standings.

Ancer, trying to become the fifth straight winner of the RBC Heritage to capture his first PGA Tour victory at Harbour Town, hit all 18 greens in regulation and tied for the lead with a three wood over the trees to the par-five 15th that set up a two-putt birdie. He also birdied the 17th but came up agonisingly short despite a round of 65.

There was just no catching Simpson, who rolled in birdie putts from 10 feet and 20 feet on the 12th and 13th, two-putted for birdie on the 15th and then sealed it with two more birdies from 15 feet and 18 feet.

Charles Schwab Challenge winner Daniel Berger also stayed in the mix by chipping in for birdie on the 17th and closing with a 65. Tyrrell Hatton, whose last tournament had been his victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, was leading until a poor tee shot led to bogey on the 13th. He shot 66 and tied for third.

Dylan Frittelli had the best round of the tournament, a 62 that put him in the lead before the final groups even teed off. Justin Thomas had a 63 and tied him. Both knew it wasn't going to hold up, especially after returning from a storm delay to still conditions and even softer conditions.

Brooks Koepka hit driver on the 331-yard ninth hole and holed a three foot putt for an eagle. He birdied the next two to get within one of the lead, but his hopes ended when he missed a short birdie putt on the 15th. He closed with a 65 and finished seventh, his best result since the Tour Championship.

Last year the event was played without fans, but there will be some spectators in attendance this time, albeit way short of the 119,000 who attended in 2019 before Covid-19 changed the world.

Working with officials from the town of Hilton Head, the state of South Carolina and the PGA Tour, the Heritage Classic Foundation has developed a plan that includes a limited number of sponsors and fans in open air and socially-distanced settings. Health and safety remain the number one priority, and the tournament has implemented a number of protocols to keep everyone safe.

Matt Fitzpatrick

New COVID-19 safety protocols mean some elements of the tournament have changed. The skyboxes and private hospitality venues that usually surround the course will be replaced with open air villages and concession areas. Additional health and safety protocols include the mandatory use of facial coverings, social distancing and other health and safety measures. All permanent and temporary structures will have complete daily sanitization. Safety measures regarding food preparation and distribution will also be in place.

Harbour Town, with its red and white lighthouse, is one of the most instantly recognisable courses on the PGA Tour. And it is a rare beast in that it rewards brain power over brawn as list of previous winners proves fairly conclusively. Recent champions have included Simpson, Wes Bryan, Jim Furyk, Branden Grace, Carl  Pettersson and Graeme McDowell. In an era dominated by men who pummel the golf ball vast distances, what each and every one of these golfers have in common is accuracy from the tee. They are all men who plot their way around courses rather than trying to beat them into submission.

The tournament was won in 2015 by Jim Furyk, in 2016 by Branden Grace, in 2017 by Wes Bryan, in 2018 by Satoshi Kodaira, in 2019 by TC Pan and last year by Simpson.

To Win:

Collin Morikawa. This place should be made for his game

Each Way: 

Matthew Fitzpatrick. Has the perfect game to master Harbour Town

Each Way:

Tommy Fleetwood. Needs to get the monkey off his back and win on the PGA Tour

Fantasy Picks:

Collin Morikawa. His iron play is made-to-measure for the small greens

Matthew Fitzpatrick. One of the straightest drivers on Tour - and that is key here

Tommy Fleetwood.  Can never be ruled out

Tyrrell Hatton. Can Mr Angry find something to smile about again?

Daniel Berger. Played well here is 2020

Sergio Garcia. Back in the Ryder Cup mix

Dustin Johnson. Can never be ruled out

Paul Casey. Fabulous ball striker

Bryson DeChambeau. Could be made to look pretty foolish

Webb Simpson. Don’t rule out a successful defence

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup

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