By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
The RBC Heritage has long embraced its role as a soft landing for those making the jaunt from the Masters. Before a scheduling quirk in 2011 that bumped the tournament two weeks after the season's first major, Hilton Head Island served the next destination on the schedule every year since 1983.
As of midday Monday, 14 of the 34 inside the top 25 on the final leaderboard at Augusta National are scheduled to tee it up at Harbour Town Golf Links this week. For all intents and purposes, it's a shot-maker's paradise. Veteran ball-strikers that position themselves well off the tee and can shape approaches will succeed. As far as the aforementioned anticipated cushion in the wake of the Masters, this week's host track flashed some teeth last year.
As you'd expect from a par 71 that maxes out at 7,101 yards, distance off the tee is irrelevant. Harbour Town ranks inside the top-10 shortest in average driving distance every year; it was fourth in 2012 at 277.8 yards. Meanwhile, last year's fairways-hit percentage of 64.94 was its lowest in recorded history (since data was first archived in 1992).
Breezy conditions contributed to a scoring average of 72.29 last year, highest in the event since 2005. Greens average just 3,700 square feet, so Harbour Town always submits one of the smallest greens-in-regulation splits, but last year's clip of 53.58 percent was its lowest in the last seven years. Par breakers matched the futility of birdie opportunities at 16.93 percent, also the lowest recorded since 2005.
Harbour Town doesn't necessarily penalize as much as it rewards good strikes. Still, while its scrambling percentage of 57.80 ranked in the middle of the pack as compared to all courses played in 2012, it was the track's worst clip since data was first maintained in earnest in 1992.
A quiet week in the sky will greet the field of 144 on Thursday, but a reasonable chance for inclement weather could crash the party on Friday and into Saturday. Winds are expected to freshen along with the threat. Temperatures peaking in the mid-70s will fade into the upper 60s on what is forecast to be a dry Sunday.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among recent winners at the RBC Heritage, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
|Power Rankings: RBC Heritage|