PGA Tour Golf: RBC Heritage
Hard to think of a course which could be such a different test after the Masters,and Harbour Town requires a completely different skill set to Augusta. It is a short course, where drivers will not be needed too often, you have to think and plot your way around here and driving accuracy, and not distance is the key stat, leaving yourself in position to hit the very small greens. Everyone is going to miss them sooner or later and so it is important to be able to scramble too. It is a real horses for courses event and the same players do tend to do well here year after year. Luke Donald has five top 3 finishes in seven visits and missing the Masters last week , will not have done him any harm ( 3 of the last 8 winners here, since the event has followed the major ,DNP Augusta and another three missed the cut) and watching a fellow Brit win the first major of the season, might have inspired him. We were firmly with Donald on the Money List in his glory year of 2011, the game has seemingly passed him by now and to be honest, it seems longer than five years since he was at his peak, but on this course, which plays to his strengths, he is certainly not out of things at 50-1.
Another former clubgowi semi-regular is Jerry Kelly, who will turn 50 later this year and then, I assume, join the senior tour, but he is still competitive at the "big show" and whilst he will not win, he was never exactly prolific in his heyday and two wins in closing in on 600 starts tells you all about that, but career prize money of almost $30m also tells you how very consistent he has been and the Heritage has been a major contributor to the Kelly pension fund. He has three top tens here and has finished 18-31-5-29-36 in the last five years , he is ranked 2nd on Tour in scrambling this year, which is an upgrade on already solid stats in that category and is #4 for accuracy off the tee and arrives here having made 8/9 cuts in 2009, with a T9 at the Sony Open and T33 and T21 in his last two starts, shooting a Sunday 65 at the Peurto Rico open in the last of those. He was 22nd in that last year before his 18th (joint) finish here and went on a "tear up" (it is all relative !) after that, going 18-22-17-10 in consecutive events, last of which was the hugely important Players Championship, which, like Harbour Town is a Pete Dye designed course. He has finished between 5th- 36th the last five years and his key stats are better coming into the event this year and at 5.50 to finish top 20 that sounds a very fair price.
A player I really like the look of is Kevin Kisner, he was runner up here last year, losing in a playoff to Jim Furyk, but he has since made the big breakthrough winning the RSM Classic five months ago on a course with many similarities to Harbour Town. Kisner is a local lad and was born in Aiken, South Carolina, about two hours drive from Harbour Town and he will feel very much at home here, especially after his deep run last season. He went 2-1-9-5 in consecutive start either side of his win and seems sure to win again sometime soon, his form tailed off a little after that, but he played very nicely for 37th at Augusta on a course that doesn't really suit him (but which he has always dreamed of playing) and will be far happier here, where distance off the tee is not an issue.
Kisner has played the course at Hilton Head since his junior days and it sets up perfectly for his game, he felt confident he would win last year and it took 74 holes for a dogged Jim Furyk to beat him and he went close again a few weeks later at the Players, which as we have already discussed is a Pete Dye course, he shot 67-67 on Friday-Saturday to get into contention and on Sunday made birdies on 16 and 17 and almost again on the last which would have given him the win. Instead he was in a three hole aggregate playoff with Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia, he got it down to just him and Fowler, but lost out at the 4th extra hole. That was his big moment and from then on he realised he could compete with the best . Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo said “If any player watched this today, I’ll tell you what, not one of them wants to be in a playoff with Kevin Kisner going forward. “He flat-out said, ‘I don’t care who you are, I’m going to take you on.’”Johnny Miller, on NBC said Kisner was a “star in the making.”
Kisner had already been a star, right through his youth and college days and was Georgia’s first four-time All-American and everything had come rather easy all the way up to the PGA Tour and then he hit a wall and it was only at the third time of trying to establish himself that things clicked and he felt he could be competitive, at the Players he went a step further and knew he could win. Now that the breakthrough has come, he can be a multi winner and Harbour Town already owes him one.
Donald might go well, but I think I need to see a solid start before I could actually back him. So I will suggest......
Jerry Kelly to finish Top 20 5.50 general quote
Kevin Kisner to finish top ten 3.50 general quote
Kevin Kisner to win outright 26.0 general quote