2021 RBC Heritage
Profitable, but ultimately disappointing. Marc Leishman securing Top Oz, and Will Zalatoris notching a landslide win in Top Debutant provided the platform, but so many of our other bets looked likely to land also, but a poor weekend turned what could have been a great week into a mediocre one Cam Champ really should have finished inside the Top 20, indeed I thought he would land some each way money for us much of the week. Brian Harman was snared on the line to only tie Top Lefty, having been long odds on all week. Christiaan Bezuidenhout let a great early position go, and couldn’t take advantage of a soft South African section. And Jordan Spieth producing one of his worst putting weeks in some time deprived us of a proper run at outright glory. In all honesty it couldn’t have gone any worse than it did from the positions held going into the weekend, but at least a small profit was made.
At the business end, it was great to see Hideki Matsuyama get the Major monkey off his back, and that of his nation’s. Zalatoris once again displayed his serious talent, and Spieth showed that once he is breathing and walking, he will be a threat around Augusta. Quite a few surprising missed cuts, none more so than Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay, but a sign of life around there from Tyrrell Hatton. Maybe he is finally getting to grips with the place. Bryson DeChambeau once again suggested he is one to stay away from at short odds in the season’s first Major, and anyone backing Lee Westwood at 33/1 got what they deserved!
Back to basics this week, with the RBC Heritage taking pride of place on the PGA Tour, and I promise I won’t bore you with as long a script as last week! A combination of an appointment yesterday evening, and bookies being very slow to draft up alternative market prices this morning means it will be more to the point this week.
A short Par 71, at just over 710 yards, Harbour Town is a typical American links layout. Wind is not its sole defence as is the case with many British links tracks, but with not much forecast this week the winning score is likely to be in the high teens and maybe even hitting 20 under par. The roll of honour around here is befitting of a track that very much demands accuracy from the tee, and rewards a neat and tidy game in general. Jim Furyk, Brian Gay, Matt Kuchar are not associated with big hitting drivers, nor is 5 time runner up Luke Donald. Get it in play is the motto from the tees here.
Players of Interest:
It is rare for someone who really contended at Augusta to come bouncing out of the blocks and gain a win here. Plenty of the high end finishers there have shown up here when it has been played the week after (8 times in the last 9 years), yet only Matt Kuchar has finished in the Top 25 at Augusta and gone on to glory at Harbour Town. One in nine might not seem a bad return, but these players will have taken up a fair percentage of the market, and all told suggestswe should be staying away from those who had a tough week challenging for Major honours. So at just 25/1, 28/1 and 33/1 twice, I am steering clear of Cameron Smith, Will Zalatoris, Brian Harman and Corey Connors respectively.
12/1 will seem a big price on Dustin Johnson in a field like this, but although he hasn’t exactly played badly here in his 3 visits, it is just too fiddly a layout to see his main assets bloom. Add in how poor he was last week, and that performing defending champion duties is likely to be quite a draining week, and I would guess he would rather not be here. I imagine it has a lot more to do with the sponsor than any actual desire to tee it up here this week.
Webb Simpson was on my list of players of interest, but he too was in contention for much of last week, and in any case would have wanted quite a few points more than the 12/1 on offer.
Collin Morikawa will have been disappointed with his tee to green display last week. Maybe he had placed too much pressure or expectancy on himself, but he was a way from his best. He will surely improve on his debut run out here, on a track that certainly won’t punish his relative lack of length, but I just prefer a few others.
Indeed I like quite a few players in the outright market this week, so I will crack on with them now.
It’s very rare I will say this, as I think he is typically over bet and under priced, but the 25/1 on TYRRELL HATTON really fills the eye here. More accurate than length off the tee, his approach play these last two years has really elevated to the top level. It is no surprise that he was an excellent third last year. An opening 71 then, the worst score by any of the Top 20 finishers, was what cost him victory. No one played the final 54 holes better than the Englishman. Having really struggled to come to terms with the challenge Augusta poses, last week saw a massive improvement. His Sunday 68, which included 4 birdies on the spin on the back 9 will have left him feeling very good about his game. Ultimately finishing 18th, unlike many around him, he was never really in the heel of the hunt for glory.
That performance was pretty much a continuation of what Hatton has been producing the last few months. Leaving aside the Matchplay, but for a missed cut at The Players (another event where results don’t mean too much to me) he has 6 top 22 finishes in his other 7 outings of late. I think that general consistency, his obvious ability to pull apart a course like this, and the confidence last week’s finish will have given him should leave him at a shorter price than he is here.
Another who’s price I have scoffed at more often than not is HARRIS ENGLISH. But at 45/1 this week, I think it’s time I got him on board. Many of far higher profile than I, will have waxed lyrical about English being a Top 10 in the world player at various times this year. He isn’t, but this is a field bereft of quite a few of those top 10, and I really like Harbour Town as a fit for Harris. True he only has two Top 20 finishes here from 8 appearances, but quite a few of those years were right off due to too much tinkering with his game and team. It is only in the last 12 months that this 3 time winner on Tour is starting to fulfil the promise he showed back in 2013-2015. His win on the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January just confirmed that he was now most definitely back on the right track.
So many of his top end finishes have come on coastal tracks such as this, and a 7 under par 64 to close on his last visit here is the kind of golf I am hoping for this week. Like Hatton he will come here off his best Masters finish to date, yet also was never in contention, and that has to be a positive. Accurate from the tee, if his approach play is dialled in this week he will take a bit of beating. Highly dependable on the greens, with two of his three wins to date coming on this week’s surface of Bermudagrass, there is plenty to like about the chances of English here. Having had a bit of a slump after his win in Kapalua, his game is now very much trending in the right direction again. 45/1 that it trends to a win this week is too big all things considered.
ABRAHAM ANCER is still in search of his first win on the PGA Tour, but he has been knocking on the door as loudly as any, and 30/1 that he cracks the code this week looks too big to ignore. Another in the mould of accurate rather than long, he actually sits 2nd in Driving Accuracy this term. On a course where not just hitting the fairways, but the right segment of them is very important, this bodes well for the Mexican’s chances. Like Hatton he was slightly slow out of the blocks on a low scoring Thursday here last year, but from there to the line he was only a shot worse than the Englishman, and better than everyone else. He has been ultra consistent of late. Indeed if you go back as far as the November Masters totalling 12 events, he has not only just missed two cuts, but they are the only occasions he has been outside the Top 26 finishers. His accuracy off the tee doesn’t end there either, he is 14th this term for Greens in Regulation, and as alluded to earlier it’s that type of neat and tidy game which is required to compete at Harbour Town. His tee to green game here 12 month ago was superb, and if a few more putts drop this time around he can go one better. In a week with a few star names missing, and question marks over a few others, I really like the claims of Ancer here.
I was very close to backing Kevin Na, but I have amassed a few towards the head of the market already, so he just misses out. Those that want an extra arrow, I certainly couldn’t put you off the 40/1 to 8 places.
MATT KUCHAR was disappointing in missing the cut last week, but of the last 5 winners here to have played at Augusta the week previously, 3 missed the cut. In truth Kuchar just had the one bad round last week, an opening 78 doing the damage ahead of being just one shot too many to make the weekend with a Friday 70. I fancy him to bounce straight back here, and at 50/1 far too much stock seems to have been placed in the poor opener last week.
This type of layout is the proverbial meat and drink to Matt, and since 2014 his form figures here read 1/5/9/11/23/2/41. His one disappointment was last year, a year where he struggled in general, yet started a shorter price than he is here. I am more than happy to wade in him with him, and prepared to take less than the top price of 60/1.
A player I have long since admired, and had my share of success with, is MICHAEL THOMPSON. Very much one to trust when conditions are favourable, that is certainly the case this week. Highly consistent of late in events with far deeper fields than this, and not always on courses so suitable, this week looks tailor made for the talents of Thompson. As yet the wind is not due to get up too much this week, but as ever on coastal shores this can change rapidly. Thompson’s win in the 2013 Honda showed he certainly wasn’t afraid of such conditions, and his above market expectation results in US Opens down through the years show that he is in his element on a links style layout. His recent win at the 3M Open shows he is far from a one trick pony though, and the winning score of -19 could be a likely target this week. 34th at Augusta last week, a venue I wouldn’t have down as one that would suit our man, just copperfastens my belief that Michael has taken his game to a new level, one of consistent high level performances. In this field, on a layout where he has finished 8th and 10th on his last two outings, I really like the quotes of 110/1 here.
I was very tempted to take the plunge on BRANDT SNEDEKER two weeks ago in the Texas Open at a big price. After an excellent 6ht place finish there, I am very surprised to see him chalked up as big as 150/1 here. As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions in the past, Sned is always a player I like to side with after he shows a bit of spark. That was provided and more in Texas, where his approach play really caught the eye. When Snedeker gets dialled in with his wedges, he tends to stay hot for a few weeks. Most of his wins on Tour have come after an eye opener such as that, and as a past winner here, I felt he deserved quite a bit more respect than the market is offering him.
In truth I could have backed 10+ players in the outright market. Na was clearly tempting, but so too were Sergio Garcia, Brendan Grace, Rory Sabbatini, Doug Ghim and Graeme McDowell. 6 is more than enough though, so I hope I have gone with the right ones!
Top GB & Ire:
It is here I have chosen to get with GRAEME MCDOWELL. I know it is slightly conflicting with the Tyrrell Hatton outright bet, but in truth I don’t fancy a lot of the others in here, and each way on G Mac at the prices on offer is very appealing. The Irishman comes without the Masters hangover that a few towards the head of this market may have, and in truth given where his career is at the moment, this is very much a Major for McDowell.
Winner here back in 2013, he has made 5 of 7 Harbour Town cuts since then, and it remains the type of layout that the former US Open winner can pop up at. He was delighted with his return to form at the Corales 3 weeks ago, and didn’t play badly at all in Texas the week after. While many may view this week as a nuisance, and down tools if close to the cut line, you can be fully sure you will get maximum effort from G Mac. He won’t have too many more chances to get his full playing rights back, and can use this as a springboard back up the world rankings.
Top 20 Finish:
It’s back to MICHAEL THOMPSON, who I feel is highly likely to have a decent week here. He isn’t the type to go missing after a decent week at Augusta. That will merely be viewed as a confidence boosting bonus, what’s on offer this week is his bread and butter. He won’t fritter away shots, he will cope with anything the weather has to throw at them, and he has been producing his best or close to it for a sustained period now. On a track that very much plays to his strengths, the 4/1 plus on offer that he banks his 3rd Top 20 on the trot here, is a solid bet.
Top Continental Euro:
The 11/2 on Rory Sabbatini would look quite appealing, but for respect for Sergio Garcia’s chances this week. You could dutch them, but we are going short enough then.
Top South African:
I wanted 2/1 to play Branden Grace here, but with nearly all firms now up and no sign of anything over 7/4, I have left it alone.
1.2pt ew Tyrrell Hatton 25/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *Anything 20/1+ with 7+ places acceptable 1pt ew Abraham Ancer 33/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *Anything 28/1+ with 7+ places acceptable .8pt ew Harris English 45/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, PP/BFSB) *Anything 40/1+ with 7+ places acceptable .6pt ew Matt Kuchar 50/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Skybet)
.3pt ew Michael Thompson 100/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Skybet) *110/1 and 125/1 available elsewhere to less places
.3pt ew Brandt Snedeker 125/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 888) **150/1 with Sporting Index/Spreadex to ⅚ places *125/1 with 365/BV/Unibet to 5/6/6 places *110/1 with Skybet 8 places also fine
Top 20 Finish:
4pts Michael Thompson 9/2 (PP/BFSB) **If 9/2 goes very quickly I will settle at 4/1, plenty of that available *7/2+ acceptable
Top GB & Ire:
1pt ew Graeme McDowell 28/1 (¼ 3 places, WH/Betway/Boyles) **33/1 with 365/SBK but they are win only *33/1 with Skybet for those with accounts *25/1+ acceptable
Running Totals 2021: