With another of the PGA TOUR's elevated events seeing most of the best players coming together at Harbour Town for the RBC Heritage.
The Lowcountry region of South Carolina will provide a high-quality field the week after the first major championship of the season.
Harbour Town Golf Links, located on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, annually provides the test the week after the US Masters. For the first time, the event will have an elevated designation, and 17 of the top 20 and 38 of the top 50 will be competing.
Pete Dye's par-71 layout tips out at 7,213 yards, the longest in the history of the event, as the par-3 seventh hole added a new professional tee box for the 2023 edition. Harbour Town Golf Links has hosted the previous 54 editions of this event on the waters of the Calibogue Sound.
RBC Heritage odds
A disappointing 75 in Round 2 last week stunted any chance for Scottie Scheffler (8-1) to defend his Masters title. That's hardly surprising, as only three before him can say they have.
This week, there won't be a champions dinner, extra member duties, or a red-hot spotlight burning on his every move. Making his debut, his interest should be piqued in navigating another Pete Dye staple.
Although he didn't win, he factored last week (T10), and ran his streak on TOUR to 11 consecutive events of T12 or better. The last time he finished outside of the top 12 was the last time he played in South Carolina, a T45 finish at Congaree last October.
An absolute box-office performance from Jon Rahm (9-1) last week saw him become the only European player EVER to win the US Masters and the . Chasing down four-time major champion Brooks Koepka from four strokes behind was incredible golf.
Winning the event by four shots cemented his place in Masters history and returned him to No. 1 in the OWGR. Remember, winning the Masters didn't get him (or anybody else) into the field this week. The schedule has been known for some time.
Whatever is left in his emotional gas tank will be emptied this week before he takes next week off.
One of the major course horses this week, Patrick Cantlay (12-1) looks to avenge his 2022 playoff loss to Jordan Spieth. In his previous five visits, he's contended on the weekend four times, including a pair of T3 paydays and a T7.
The year he missed the cut he still shot even par (71-71). T19 or better in his last five on TOUR includes three top 10s.
Collin Morikawa (18-1) will be making his fourth start at Harbour Town, making the cut in all three previous visits. The two-time major champion will be looking to improve on T7 from 2021 as his best payday. He should hit more greens than most and won't mind putting some of the easier greens on TOUR. T10 last week at the US Masters.
The defending champion suggested after his final round at the US Masters (T4) that he was mentally out of gas after playing in eight of the last 10 weeks. Jordan Spieth (20-1) will be making his ninth start in 11 weeks as he tries to join 2021 winner Stewart Cink (3), Davis Love III (5), and Jim Furyk (2) in the multiple-champions category. He's never MC here, including after winning the Masters in 2015, in six previous visits.
Others to consider
Cameron Young (20-1): 63 to open, 66 to close last year for T3. He's been on fire for 14 months, minus picking up the trophy. It's now top 10 paydays in three of four on TOUR. Having Paul Tesori, 2020 champ Webb Simpson's old caddy, on the bag won't hurt, either. First-time winners on TOUR won here from 2016 thru 2019.
Shane Lowry (30-1): He's 23-under (T3, T9) in his last two visits. Of his last eight rounds, he's posted a pair of 65s and a pair of 66s. Opened with 65 and finished T3 in 2019.
Matt Kuchar (): When course form meets recent heat, I'm always interested. The 2014 champion is fourth on the all-time money list and has cashed in 18 straight here. In his last 20 rounds, he's signed for 70 or better in 19. He fell one shot short in 2019 and was T3 last year.
SG: Approach the Green
Clicking on the link above will show the entire list of leaders for the current TOUR season.
Cutting the corner? Taking on the hazards? Forced carry?
Pete Dye's Harbour Town begs you to try because the risk-reward will pay off. Getting it in play off the tee is the first step but taking less club to do so increases the importance of the approach. Water is in play on all 18 holes and most greens are more than well-bunkered.
Oh, and the greens are the second-smallest collection on TOUR. Cantlay led the field last year hitting 75% GIR. Only eight players hit more than 50 GIR.
SG: Around the Green
The evidence above suggests there will be greens NOT found in regulation. Scoring from off the putting surface with the putter, wedge, or favourite chipping club can save shots. Of the top nine finishers, six were in the top 10 in this category at the end of play.
Overall Putting Average
Harbour Town has ranked in the top five easiest courses to putt in five of the last six years, with the 2020 June event being the lone exception. The coastal exposure will usually have breezes in the forecast so the speed of the greens is muted purposely. Attacking with chipping/pitching doesn't come with penalty. Neither does finding GIR.
Tommy Fleetwood (60-1): Checks the boxes in the short-game areas and his last top 10 in the USA was at Conagree in October.
Maverick McNealy (100-1): Grew up on the tiny greens at Pebble Beach and owns T4 (2021) as his best from three starts. Never MC and has six of 12 rounds 67 or better.
Wyndham Clark (110-1): Don't forget about his red-hot form just because he didn't qualify for the Masters. He's rattled off 12 straight made cuts including top-six paydays (Corales, Valspar) in his last two.
Davis Thompson (175-1): Grew up on Sea Island, Georgia, just down the coast, and took second at Pete Dye's Stadium Course at PGA West.
Sam Stevens (150-1): Backed up T3 at Corales with solo second at Valero in his last two starts. Ball-striking is his calling card and he'll enjoy the putting on these greens.
Erik van Rooyen (350-1): Hard to argue with T10-T21 and eight rounds in the red in just two visits. T10 at Valspar last month and T6 at PGA West.
There is plenty of prestige, points, and another jacket on offer this week. The purse is $20 million, $2 million more than at last week's Masters. The winner also will pocket 500 FedExCup points and slip on a tartan jacket.