Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, April 17 at 3:00 PM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is April 11 at 7:10 AM EST.
2019 RBC Heritage
The 2019 RBC Heritage Field
A hunger to win and rack up points and prize money, or take the appearance money and run? That’s the question this week for gamers, as we size up a strong field of differing motivation levels. There is a holiday feel in the air, and many will be looking to simply punch their appearance ticket and pick up an easy check. Others, however, will be desperate to slip into the garish Tartan Jacket. Local boy Dustin Johnson headlines a decent gathering that also includes the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Francesco Molinari. Course specialists such as Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Russell Knox and Luke Donald again aim to tame the Harbour Town Links, while a strong British contingent will be led by Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Eddie Pepperell. Truth be told, this is another stacked field.
When the name Pete Dye appears on the course architect tag, you already know the kind of experience that awaits the players. A number of his signatures are here: sweeping doglegs framed by trees, and of course tiny greens that even the most precise of players will miss in regulation. Add in a devilish breeze that sweeps off the Atlantic, and you have a recipe for a tough old test of golf: winning scores here have been as low as -9 in the past couple of years.
The Harbour Town Links plays to 7,100 yards for its Par 71, and that leaves the players just a trio of Par 5s to work with; just one of those comes on the back nine. These could be crucial with Si-Woo Kim – who lost in a play-off to Satoshi Kodaira 12 months ago – accumulating -9 of his final -12 tally on the longer holes. The fairways are of average width but the rough is penal, so this is a layout that favors more accurate drivers than bombers. And with Dye’s trademark small greens placing a huge emphasis on approach, don’t be surprised to see lots of irons hit off the tee this week. With greens missed there will also be lots of scrambling and chipping to take care of, and these Bermuda greens run smooth and true so a hot hand with the putter will always help.
What We’re Looking For This Week
This is Pete Dye golf, and so some of the usual rules of engagement go out of the window. The emphasis on many holes at Harbour Town is to avoid making mistakes, rather than blowing them apart with monstrous hitting. Bogey Avoidance is one stat we can consider, but remember that the majority of errors will come around the greens, where any player not confident in chipping will come unstuck. You will find that the vast majority of players hit irons and fairway woods off the tee this week. Last year Nick Watney led the Driving Distance stats at 301.8 yards, which is way down on the norm, and Satoshi Kodaira took the spoils with an average drive length 271.6 yards. So, hitting fairways in order to give yourself the best possible chance of finding these greens, is essential.
We’re looking for accuracy from tee to green then and a bit of magic in the short game. As far as correlating courses are concerned, we can look at tournaments such as the RSM Classic, which is played on a trio of coastal layouts in nearby Georgia, and the Sony Open, where Waialae offers gusty conditions and smaller-than-average Bermuda greens. And perhaps there’s a case to be made for TPC Sawgrass too, another Pete Dye creation. There are plenty of names which feature high on leaderboards here and in THE PLAYERS Championship, from Kuchar and Simpson to Si-Woo, Poulter and Kisner.
To Win Outright:
Keith Mitchell 90-1
This is a borderline offensive price for a recent Tour winner who has shown plenty of class on Bermuda. Keith Mitchell’s win at the Honda Classic proved he’s far more than just a bomber, and to follow up with T6 at Bay Hill just a week later shows there’s some finesse to his game. We also like the T16 he recorded at the Sony Open earlier in the campaign; another windy assignment played out on small Bermuda greens. Mitchell closed out with 69 in his first look at Augusta last week, and with a game that suits Harbour Town it is illogical that Mitchell is priced in this range when some much worse pros are priced in te 50-1 range. Mitchell ranks 22nd ON TOUR in SG: Tee-to-Green, 26th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders and 44th in Greens in Regulation (Risking 0.2 units to win 18 units).
Sungjae Im 45-1
This talented young Korean appears to be closing in on his maiden PGA TOUR title, and a layout like Harbour Town might just be the likely destination for it. Raised on the Nine Bridges course on Jeju Island, Im will be comfortable on tight coastal tracks, and he has shown a real comfort in the wind and on Bermuda in his debut season on the Tour. He’s another player who would like to gatecrash the majors or qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs, so there will be no foot off the gas from this star in the making: just more top quality golf and, hopefully, a first PGA TOUR win to go with his pair of victories on the Web.com Tour last season. We normally don’t go after a 45-1 shot but one can sense this pro is on the verge of a win and we don’t want to miss out should that come to pass here (Risking 0.2 units to win 9 units).
Charles Howell III 50-1
We nominated the RSM Classic as a potential correlating event to the RBC Heritage, and so by that token we must back the champion there who remains in form some months later. We’re happy to ignore Masters form for the most part too, but Chucky Three Sticks fired two rounds in the 60s there and that adds further fuel to the fire that he can go well this week. Check out CHIII’s form since winning the RSM Classic: nine stroke-play events played, no cuts missed, two top-10s, four top-20s and no finish worse than T35. But can he win, that’s the big question!? Look, Chucky is a hard player to get over the line, we know that, but to get a classy operator like this at odds of 50/1 at a layout that suits, means we have to give him a whirl (Risking 0.2 units to win 10 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for the THE RBC Heritage
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUP below is for 72 holes:
Xander Schauffele +149 over Dustin Johnson
DJ is the 8-1 favorite to win this event but Xander is also one of the favs at 18 and it’s not going to be long before Schauffele has the World #1 ranking beside his name because that’s how great he truly is. Schauffele played Harbour Town for the first time last year and shot -5 to finish in 32nd. He now has course familiarity. Overall, Schauffele ranks 19th ON TOUR in SG: Putting, 4th in SG: Total, 14th in SG:Approach the Green and 15th in SG: Tee to Green. All of his rankings are trending in the right direction. When a price like this is being offered on Xander, it’s almost a must bet every time.
We don’t have to go through an analysis of DJ, as he’s ranked #1 in the world but there are things other than golf that come into play here. You see, back in February of 2018, Dustin Johnson signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with RBC to be their brand ambassador. Of course, this is RBC’s biggest sponsorship event of the year so DJ will have more obligations than just showing up. He’ll also be playing in his home town so there are a million distractions for him. DJ probably can handle the pressure of all that faces him this week but it has to be weighing on him even a little bit. DJ was RBC’s ambassador at this event last year but that was was just two months after signing to be their brand ambassador thus, he was immensely focused to put forth a great showing. He shot -7 and finished T16th. This is a sport that requires compete focus and when there are distractions galore, it puts some added weight on one’s shoulders. DJ and Xander are so close in the statistical rankings but it is Xander that has zero obligations for this event other than showing up and playing golf. DJ may beat him but we like Xander’s chances more and we love the price tag (Risking 2 units to win 2.98 units).
#7020 Sungjae Im +102 over Jason Kokrak
If you read or listen to any publications that cover this sport of cover DFS in this sport, you will hear Jason Kokrak’s name come up frequently this week because he has some course form. He connected top 20s here in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and that has him on the radar. We say big deal. This is an accuracy course. Kokrak ranks 71st in Fairways Gained and 160th in SG: Around the Green and 82nd in Putting. Indeed he did finished 12th, 18th, and 6th in three straight starts here but it might be more significant that he’s missed the past two cuts at this course and has lost 11.4 strokes putting over the past two attempts.
We wrote about Im above but to add a little more to that, he ranks 10th in the field in strokes gained over the past 24 rounds, and he is top-30 in all three tee-to-green stats over the past 100 rounds. He hasn’t played this course before but has been good on Bermuda and we trust we’re getting another bargain here (Risking 2 units to win 2.04 units).
Others to consider for DFS or to win outright:
Russell Knox 55-1
As a renowned fan of Pete Dye layouts, Russell Knox is on the shortlist this week. He won the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, one of Dye’s famous layouts, and his record here – 11-2-18-9 within his last five visits – confirms the Scot is comfortable at Harbour Town too. Strong winds won’t concern a former Irish Open champion and French Open runner up, and the timeline of Knox’s highest grossing performances is like a who’s who of resort-based, Par 70/71 golf. There have been little flourishes of form lately (T14 at Pebble Beach, T24 at Valspar) and you wonder if something more substantial is just around the corner for a man who would have been watching the Masters enviously from home (Risking 0.2 units to win 11 units).
Vaughn Taylor 200-1
If you're looking for a deep cut, maybe consider Taylor. He's 11th in Fairways Gained and 37th in Strokes Gained: Approach. He has played here four out of the past five years, finishing 64th twice and missing the cut in the other three. He's been rough on the course but is a bit better recently than his price would indicate but perhaps more importantly, he chose to play this event because he likes the course and trusts that he can earn a pay cheque here. He has course familiarity and you can expect him to make the cut and then anything can happen from there.
Ryan Moore 45-1
Ryan Moore can’t miss the cut, can he? If we weren’t on Im, we’d probably be taking Moore, who is in the same price range as Im. Moore most recently posted a third at the Valero Texas Open and finished 16th here last year. Moore grades out 2nd in Approach, 19th Around the Green, 1st in Fairways Gained, and 15th in Par 4 scoring over the past 100 rounds. Ya think?
Patton Kizzire 100-1
There were three rounds under par from Patton Kizzire at Augusta, and that hints heavily that he’s found something in his game at last. That’s interesting, because the RBC Heritage is a tournament that’s definitely in his crosshairs. He’s a former winner of the Sony Open and OHL Classic after all, which are both played at tight, fiddly layout often battered by high winds, and having set up home in Georgia, he should feel at home this week. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, so maybe we shouldn’t read too much into his Augusta renaissance, but he is after all a more prolific winner than many above him in the betting.
Mix and match any or all of the above with your own to create a DFS roster to look something like the samples below:
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RBC Heritage Classic (Risking 4.60 units - To Win: 0.00)