The Heritage has been a regular PGA Tour fixture since the 1960s, and is well established as the event that follows the Masters. Perhaps not surprisingly given the very different test, plus the gruelling nature of that Major, few Masters contenders have successfully carried their form over to Harbour Town Golf Links.
Nevertheless, that hasn’t been a huge impediment to form followers. Only one champion this century, Jose Coceres, was a rank outsider. There are numerous course specialists, including multiple champions Davis Love, Stewart Cink and more recently, Boo Weekley. Examination of recent top fives reveals plenty of experienced players, whether the likes of Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, or less obvious types such as Billy Mayfair, Todd Hamilton and Lee Janzen.
COURSE AND STATS
The key requirements for Harbour Town could scarcely be more different from Augusta. Driving distance is completely irrelevant, with tee to green accuracy essential on a course with narrow fairways and very small greens.
As the ‘Links’ in the course name suggests, this course is exposed to the wind, which may explain the general success of British Open champions. In short, the stats to focus on are driving accuracy, greens in regulation, along with previous course form.
2pts ew MATT KUCHAR @ 28/1 (GENERAL)
Regular readers may be getting a little sick of Kuchar, though in fairness he did grab a place for us in the Bob Hope Classic. Nothing has altered my view that he is a man on the up, and his figures look more solid with each passing week. Last week’s 24th at the Masters was no disgrace, even if it was only the second time he’s missed a top 20 in his last 14 completed strokeplay events. Harbour Town must be considered another golden opportunity for a payday, seeing as Kuchar twice made the top-ten here, prior to the recent marked improvement.
1.5pts ew STEPHEN AMES @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
Players who missed out on the gruelling Masters weekend could have a slight advantage, amongst whom Ames looks the strongest candidate. Accurate and an excellent wind player, the Heritage is always one of Ames’ best opportunities on the schedule. He’s yet to win it, but has made the top 30 five of his last six visits, twice inside the top seven. He’s been in consistent form all year, and looks due a place payout.
1.5pts ew LUKE DONALD @ 33/1 (40/1 SPORTINGBET)
Loathe as I am generally to back Donald, who is far from the most reliable player when in contention, I do feel that this course is perfect. Forget the missed cuts at Augusta and Redstone, both of which are probably too long for him, and think back to his PGA Tour form during February and March. Donald finished second at Riviera, sixth at Copperhead and also looked in good nick at the World Matchplay. He has often thrived on courses where precise iron play is required to attack smaller than average greens, such as Torrey Pines, and finished a distant runner-up at Harbour Town last year.
1pt ew BEN CURTIS @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
It was no surprise to see Curtis struggle at Augusta, a course which has always seemed too long for him. Short and narrow Harbour Town is a very different story, even if Curtis has yet to master it. Prior to the Masters, he’d served strong notice of a return to his best with top 15s at Copperhead and Bay Hill, and given the success of former Open champions in this event, he ticks all the right boxes.
1pt ew HEATH SLOCUM @ 70/1 (TOTE, STAN JAMES)
Last week’s 18th was a superb result for a short-hitter like Slocum, and continued a good recent run of form just outside contention. This short-narrow track is absolutely perfect for last season’s Barclays Classic champion, as he showed when finishing runner-up in the Worldcom Classic here, way back in 2002.