2018 RBC Heritage Picks, Including the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #isitThursdayyet

One may think that being slotted the week following the Masters is one of the toughest draws on the annual PGA Tour tournament calendar, but the RBC Heritage isn’t just any regular tournament.  In fact, in a few years ago Golf Digest did a poll among PGA Tour players and the host course Harbour Town ranked 2nd among player favorites on Tour, behind only- you guessed it- Augusta National.  Let me repeat that- Harbour Town ranked SECOND place!  Ahead of Bay Hill, Memorial, East Lake, Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, Riviera and so many other top notch spots the Tour visits each year.

Harbour Town is a prime example of why it doesn’t take a 7,500 yard monstrosity to host a competitive PGA Tour event.  One of the many things that makes Harbour Town great, is that at just a shade under 7,100 yards (after a few tees were stretched by architect Pete Dye in 2011), it demands that players work the ball both ways, hit it high and low, and literally use very club in their bags during the round.  Trees hang crowd the edges of fairways and greens and require players to strategically place tee shots to specific quadrants of the fairway in order to have proper angles into the green.  A tee shot on the wrong side of the fairway could mean being fully blocked out by overhanging trees, leading to punch and run or other captivating creativity.  Placement off the tee is paramount this week, not just the bomb and bash mentality that we see at all too many Tour events these days.

Harbour Town’s sharp doglegs and dime-sized greens require extreme precision, as a player could literally hit anything from a driver all the way down to a 6-iron off the tee on some holes (seriously, guys will hit 6-irons off some par 4 tees this week).  This is how you get creative and crafty precision-happy past champions like Jim Furyk, Davis Love III, Payne Stewart, Nick Price, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Branden Grace and others.  It’s the definition of a course that requires actual strategy, not just brawn.

My picks last week at the Masters all made the weekend, with two of them in the top 25 (Hadwin t-24th, Day-20th), but were relative disappointments (particularly Day).  Also, Jordan Spieth once again did Jordan Spieth things and put together an incredible Sunday rally on his way to a 3rd place finish.

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLA (Last week: Day t-20th)

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay
– Brushing aside a MC last week at the Masters, it’s been a highly successful season thus far for the 26-year-old, highlighted by his breakthrough win last fall at the Shriners.  Notched a t-3rd finish in his debut at Harbour Town last year and I expect for a similar result with winning upside this year.

SEMI-FLIER (Last week: Hadwin t-24th)

Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson
– 9 for 12 in career cuts made at Harbour Town, including a runner-up back in 2012.  Not necessarily entering into this week in the best of form, but his accuracy off the tee and “small ball” game just seem like they’re headed for destiny in the winner’s circle here at some point (perhaps this week).

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last week: Spieth 3rd)

Brian Harman
Brian Harman
– Sure he’s from nearby Savannah and yep, he finished t-9th here last year.  But, his form has been on a downward trend of late, finishing well back at t-44th at the Masters last week and t-54th at Bay Hill a couple weeks prior.  Not saying he’ll miss the cut, but I don’t expect him to be in contention this week.  Pass.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last week: Xander t-50th)

Jason Kokrak
Jason Kokrak
– You may think that a basher like Kokrak would not be a prime play at a short, tight course like Harbour Town, but when you consider that he can just nuke his 2-iron off the tee 250-260 down the fairway all around this joint he makes for a very juicy play this week.  This is all the more backed up by his t-12th, t-18th, t-6th run that he had here from ’14-’16, before missing the cut here last year.  He’s faded out of form a bit his past two events, but was t-8th (Valspar) and t-20th (Riviera) at his prior two events right before that, so good form is not too far off.  Jason Kokrak is your Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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