The last three days have surely been the craziest days of Jordan Spieth’s young life, but now it’s back to business for Spieth and 131 other PGA Tour pros at the RBC Heritage, an event that has been held at the prestigious Harbour Town Golf Links since its inception in 1969.

Harbour Town is a unique place– it’s relatively short, measuring only 7,100 yards (and usually playing shorter than that due to firm and fast conditions), and it features the smallest greens on the PGA Tour. Consequently, players who excel here tend to be straight hitters with great short games. Length is not a priority at Harbour Town. Past champions of this event include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, and, more recently, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Graeme McDowell, and last year’s champion, Matt Kuchar.

If you think Harbour Town sounds tailor made for a certain 21-year old who is the talk of the golf world at the moment, you’re not alone. Spieth can currently be backed at 7.8 at BETDAQ, making him the clear favorite this week (Zach Johnson, the man with the next-shortest odds at the Daq, is listed at 17.5). He’s played this tournament in each of the past two years and has done well, finishing 9th in 2013 and 12th last year, and based on his form over the past month it’s nearly impossible to bet against him with any degree of confidence. That being said, the odds are short and his week has been long, so I’ve decided to take my chances elsewhere:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Matt Kuchar (25)– I normally avoid picking defending champions for a couple of reasons: number one, we don’t see players win the same tournament in back-to-back years too often on the PGA Tour. It’s not an easy thing to do. Also, picking the guy who won last year just feels like the easy way out, sort of a “throw your hands up in the air” admission that you have no idea what’s going to happen, so you may as well go with the safe choice. Well, this week I’ve decided to deviate from what I “normally” do and back Matt Kuchar to get the job done at Harbour Town for the second straight year. Kuchar’s win in 2014 was certainly memorable– the final-round 64, which was capped off by the dramatic holed bunker shot on the last, tied the lowest final round by a winner in tournament history. It wasn’t his first taste of success at this event, either, as he’s made 8 consecutive cuts here and has racked up five top-25 finishes. And don’t let his relatively poor performance (t46th) at The Masters fool you; he had finished 33rd or better in 10 of 11 tournaments prior to last week, making him one of the world’s most consistent players over the past 6 months. Plus, repeat champions are more common in this event than some others on Tour, as nine players have won multiple times at Harbour Town. Don’t be surprised if Kuchar becomes number ten.

Russell Henley (42)– Henley had a nice week at The Masters, finishing 21st after opening with a 68, and he nearly won the Shell Houston Open two weeks ago, finishing 4th after firing four straight rounds in the 60s. In other words, Henley is playing extremely well at the moment, and he has some good history at Harbour Town, finishing 6th here in 2013. He may not be as experienced as some others in the field, but Henley has quietly moved to the top of the “second tier” of the world’s best young players, and a win at Harbour Town would be a big deal for his career. I’m not sure if he can close the deal this week, but at better than 40/1 I’m willing to pay to find out.

Brendon de Jonge (82)– If you’re seeking long odds this week you may want to give South African Brendon de Jonge a hard look. De Jonge has played very well this year, finishing 5th in Houston two weeks ago and piling up five top-30 finishes since February, and he’s had some success at Harbour Town, finishing 9th here in 2013, 29th in 2012, and 21st in 2011. Like many South Africans, de Jonge always seems to play his best golf on Bermuda grass, and Harbour Town, like most courses in South Carolina, is covered in Bermuda tee to green. It’s a bit of a long shot, for sure, but I think de Jonge is a nice value at the current price.


Ian Poulter (1.91) vs. Jim Furyk (1.91)

I think many people will be tempted to back Poulter here after last week, when the Englishman tied for 6th at The Masters after a brilliant weekend while Furyk missed the cut, but I strongly advise against that course of action. Furyk is a cash register at Harbour Town, winning here in 2010 and amassing five top-10 finishes over the last decade. Poulter, meanwhile, has played this event three times since 2005 and has finished 72nd, 47th, and 36th. And it’s not like Furyk’s game is too far out-of-whack– he had made five consecutive cuts prior to last week. Recommendation: Furyk at 1.91

Graeme McDowell (1.91) vs. Charl Schwartzel (1.91)

Graeme McDowell has had a rough year but he seemed to be turning the corner last week, as an opening-round 71 led to a made cut at The Masters. While simply making a cut shouldn’t be a big deal for a player as accomplished as McDowell, it served as the first concrete evidence in several weeks that his game was moving in the right direction. I’m betting that this week, at a place where he triumphed just two years ago, McDowell will continue on his road to recovery. Charl Schwartzel, meanwhile, has been playing nearly as poorly as McDowell for the past few weeks, and he has limited familiarity with Harbour Town, having played this event only once in his career. Recommendation: McDowell at 1.91

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