Fantasy Insider: RBC Heritage
April 16, 2014
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory Sabbatini has finished no worse than T17 in his last four starts at Harbour Town. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
As the 23rd of 45 tournaments, the RBC Heritage serves as the midpoint of the 2013-14 PGATOUR season. It's a little strange to digest this early in the calendar year, but it's the new normal.
Aiding in the distortion is that many of the notable internationals have yet to make half of their starts to fulfill the membership minimum of 15. This group includes Jason Day (four), Thorbjorn Olesen (five), Adam Scott (six), Rory McIlroy (six) and Charl Schwartzel (six). Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson have played seven times. Among the Americans, Jim Furyk stands out, also with seven starts. Tiger Woods (three) and Steve Stricker (four) are not required to reach 15 to retain status. Fourteen golfers have already totaled 15 starts; Scott Brown and Cameron Tringale lead the way with 16.
So, while that's not necessarily unusual, in conjunction with the fact that many players had a head start in the fall, positioning in the FedExCup standings still requires a fresh perspective. For example, Jhonattan Vegas is currently 125th in FedExCup points with 195.337. Through last year's Masters, that total would have been good for 104th.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Rory Sabbatini ... First action since withdrawing during his second round at Bay Hill with a pinched nerve in his neck. He had dealt with a reported rib injury the week prior at Copperhead. Otherwise, the South African boasts a peerless record at Harbour Town with no worse than a T17 (2012) in his last four trips.
Russell Henley ... He was on the receiving end of a lot of love despite being omitted from my Power Rankings. The recent winner of The Honda Classic has added a T7 in Houston since, and he tied for sixth in his debut at Harbour Town last year. For the week, he ranked T13 in both distance and accuracy off the tee and T11 in greens in regulation. It's his current GIR clip combined with his wild inconsistency that concerns me. He's 170th (62.56 percent) after ranking as high as 104th (68.83 percent) following his title defense of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Stewart Cink ... Probably a popular pick this week and for good reason. He's fresh off a T14 at the Masters where he turned in a 4-under 68 on Sunday. Won the RBC Heritage in 2004 and has missed just one of the last 11 cuts (2012). T24 last year.
Ryo Ishikawa ... Harbour Town favors savvy ball-strikers, but it's the kind of intelligent layout that could boast this phenom as a future champion. He's back with an axe to grind and flashing measurably better form. In his debut here last year, he began the final round tied for sixth, and then closed with an 80 to place T48. His approach game is so much crisper, but it's fair to suggest that he's simply more comfortable in the U.S.
K.J. Choi ... Got eaten up a bit in the middle two rounds of the Masters (75-78), but signed for red numbers to open (70) and close (71) for a T34. Currently 54th in FedExCup points. Tied for 18th at Harbour Town last year after a T46 at Augusta National.
Boo Weekley ... A flier for weekly -- see what I did there -- salary gamers only. He picked off the first two of his three PGA TOUR titles here in 2007 and 2008 and hasn't missed a cut in seven appearances, but he's gone all of 2014 without a top 25. The drought includes no top 40s in his last six stroke-play starts and nary a red number in his last 13 rounds.
Camilo Villegas ... Another relative endorsement based on two facts. First, he doesn't miss many cuts. While he has only one top 25 this season, he's 11-for-13 and sits 85th in FedExCup points. The other angle is supported by three top 10s in the last six editions of the tournament, including a T9 last year.
Vaughn Taylor ... Received one of the last sponsor exemptions. He's a sneaky risk in any format thanks to three top 15s in his last six trips. That slate includes a T13 in his most recent in 2012. Relegated to Past Champion status for 2013-14, he's cracked only one field (T65, Puerto Rico), but has stayed busy on the Web.com Tour where he's 4-for-4 with one top 10.
Hunter Mahan ... If he's all the way on the mend from a recent hip/back injury, it hasn't translated into the kind of form that we expect. A T26 at the Masters (where he didn't break par in any round) is his best result since he acknowledged discomfort. The better of his two finishes at Harbour Town is a mere T44 way back in 2007.
Brian Gay ... Since mowing the field at Harbour Town by 10 strokes in 2009 when he posted a still-tournament record of 20-under 264, he's failed to crack the top 30 in four return trips. His only top 30 in a full-field event this season was a T4 at The McGladrey Classic five months ago.
Ernie Els ... The long-time supporter of this tournament is back for his 15th appearance. However, since a solo second in 2007, he's just 1-for-5 with a T48 in 2009. And since going 4-2 at the Match Play in February (where I've reminded on multiple occasions that he was over par in each of the first three rounds), he's made only two of four cuts, neither of which going for a top 40.
Billy Horschel ... Beware the T9 in his debut here last year. That occurred at a point in time when he was raking. One year later, next week's defending champion in New Orleans has gone six consecutive stroke-play starts without a top 35 and has broken par just four times in his last 14 rounds. Granted, the Florida Swing is challenging, but his adjusted scoring average has climbed by 0.606 strokes during the drought. He's 141st on TOUR in its overall ranking.
Jason Kokrak ... He's more hit than miss -- seven top 25s among nine cuts made this season -- but it's the absence of sustainable form that limits his greatest value to long-term formats, at least until he circles back on past sites of success to elevate our confidence. Only cut made in two appearances at Harbour Town yielded a T71/MDF last year.
Kevin Streelman ... While he's finished T17 (2012) and T3 (2013) at Harbour Town, he had flashed more form in advance than what he brings this week. He's 9-for-10 on the season, but has landed outside the top 30 in his last three starts. His record features only two rounds under par in his last 14.
Marc Leishman ... Last year's T9 came at the heart of a wickedly successful run of four consecutive top 15s. However, he's without a top 30 in his last six starts this season. He had also gone 2-for-4 previously at Harbour Town with no top 40s.
Charles Howell III ... Just one top 30 in his last five starts (T14, Valspar) and a pair of missed cuts in his last three trips to Harbour Town (2011, 2013).
Brendon Todd ... In this game of imperfection, it's always anyone's guess as to what could happen, but he's logged only one top 30 (T6, Valero) in his last eight starts. Also missed the cut in his only appearance at Harbour Town (2012). Still 40th in FedExCup points, so remain patient.
Brian Harman ... One of many from the Sea Island, Ga., area making the trip up the coast this week, but the lefty has yet to solve Harbour Town. In two appearances as a pro, he tied for 70th in 2012 and added a T59 last year, closing out those weeks with 82 and 76, respectively.
J.B. Holmes ... His only probable value rests with weekly salary gamers. While he's logged top 15s in two of his last three starts (Bay Hill, Houston), the bomber hasn't put four rounds together in four tries at Harbour Town. He's survived three cuts, but none resulted in a top 35.
Keep an Eye On
Patrick Reed ... While what a golfer says is valuable, I don't get caught up in self-belief and how it's perceived by the masses. All that truly matters are results, health and other relevant matters to swinging a golf club in competition. However, since his famous comments and subsequent adjustment of being a top-five golfer, he's placed T52 (Bay Hill) and missed a cut (Masters). They rank as his bottom two of his last 10 starts. An additional reminder for the long-term is that his wife is scheduled to deliver their first child in late May.
Brandt Snedeker ... This is a conservative tilt toward his ongoing inconsistency. He won this tournament in 2011 and placed T17 in 2012, but he's logged only one top-35 finish in a stroke-play event in 2014.
Bill Haas ... Riding a consecutive cuts made streak of 14 that includes a T20 at the Masters where he held the 18-hole lead. He led the Shell Houston Open after one round, too, but faded to finish T37. Sat T6 after 54 holes here last year but blew up for a 76 to drop into a share of 24th place, which is still a personal best in nine tries.
Chris Kirk ... Hasn't missed a cut in 15 straight starts and arrives with a T20 at the Masters, but he's also finished T40 or worse five times in his last seven stroke-play starts. Just 1-for-3 at Harbour Town with a T30 a year ago.
Hideki Matsuyama ... Making his debut at Harbour Town. After four weeks off, missed the cut at the Masters by three strokes. Had been battling an injury to his left wrist for a while, but hasn't been able to make noise since a T23 at the Northern Trust Open.
Stephen Gallacher ... First appearance at Harbour Town and his sixth start on the PGA TOUR this season. The Scot is 116 non-member FedExCup points from qualifying for Special Temporary Membership if he wants it. To achieve it this week, he'd need no worse than a two-way share of fourth place. We'll see him in all of the big events this season regardless.
Returning to Competition
Steve Marino ... Out since the fall. This is his third commitment of 2014, but he withdrew early in both previous (Valspar, Valero). Has seven starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension.
Dudley Hart ... Paired with Marino and hoping to tee it up after his bad back forced him out after 30 holes of the Valero Texas Open. Still has nine starts on a Major Medical Extension.
Nicolas Colsaerts ... Scheduled to compete in the Maybank Malaysian Open. It would mark his first action since withdrawing during his second round of the Shell Houston Open with a neck injury.
Jason Day ... Tied for 20th at the Masters, but sitting out until THE PLAYERS Championship to allow his injured left thumb time to heal.
Jeff Overton ... Continues to battle a wrist injury. Fourth time he's withdrawn this year after the commitment deadline and before the opening round.
Freddie Jacobson ... In five starts since the start of the Florida Swing, he's finished no worse than T20 (Valspar).
D.A. Points ... A missed cut was the Masters was his fourth consecutive. Seven cuts made on the season, but no top 50s in full-field events.
If you weren't already aware, one of the new twists to PGATOUR.COM's redesign is that there is a comments section underneath all of my weekly features, including this one. As you'd expect, the space below the Power Rankings gets the most traffic, and I'm also a frequent contributor to it. The reason I mention it here is because every other week or so, an astute reader will criticize me for highlighting nothing but chalk in the Power Rankings. I beg to differ on the whole, but the same accusation can apply with my one-and-done.
Given my substandard season investing in chalk, I'll acknowledge that the plethora of forgettable finishes among the elite is just as random as the successes among the fringe. So, since we're at the halfway point of the season, I'm taking the opportunity to reset and embrace a new approach.
The top two in my Power Rankings for the RBC Heritage -- Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar, respectively -- are on my board, but no thanks. Put me down for Kevin Na, who sits No. 4. Na's grit through controversy as it relates to slow play has helped buoy his game for weeks. His track record at Harbour Town is sufficiently strong.
If you're also interested in turning to a new philosophy, consider Chris Stroud, Charley Hoffman, Will MacKenzie and, yes, Jerry Kelly. Two-man games will find value in these guys as well.
Masters: Brandt Snedeker; T37; $40,500.00; 32.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 19-for-22
FedExCup points: 967.629
Top 5s: 2
Top 10s: 7
Top 25s: 11
Missed Cuts: 3