Power Rankings: RBC Heritage

April 09, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist

You can excuse the marketing team at the RBC Heritage if it considered stealing a line from "Field of Dreams." After one-year emergency funded by the Heritage Classic Foundation and contested two weeks post-Masters due to a scheduling quirk, this tournament was on a lifeline. However, all that once was good could be again. Actually, go ahead and make that is again.

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Not only is the tournament back in its traditional slot the week after the Masters, but RBC is slated to support the event through 2016.

Harbour Town Golf Links is the only host course the event has ever known. The first edition in 1969 was won by Arnold Palmer. Hale Irwin recorded the first and last of his 20 PGA TOUR titles here in 1971 and 1994, respectively.

Johnny Miller was "The Desert Fox" but he also picked off a pair of wins in Hilton Head (1972, 1974). Jack Nicklaus (1975), Tom Watson (1979, 1982), Nick Faldo (1984), Bernhard Langer (1985), Greg Norman (1988) and Payne Stewart (1989, 1990) are past champions.

What the 6,973-yard, par 36-35=71 track lacks for in length off the tee, it compensates for in a demand for shot-shaping and touch around the 3,700-square foot greens, some of the smallest all year. They've ranked comfortably inside the top 10 most challenging to hit in regulation in each of the last six years. While not gaudy by any means, last year's clip of 58.58 percent is the highest of the range.

Meanwhile, getting up and down for par is quite doable as compared to other tracks. Harbour Town was ninth-easiest of 49 courses last year in scrambling. Its split of 61.90 percent also fell in line with recent years.

Experience also counts for something this week. None of the 15 rookies in last year's field cracked the top 20. In the previous two years, just two of 20 rookies posted top 10s -- Matt Weibring (T8, 2009) and Rickie Fowler (T8, 2010). Overall since 2009, rookies are an aggregate 13-for-35 in merely surviving the cut.

Unlike last year's event that was hit with bad weather early, this week's weather forecast is a Chamber of Commerce special. Sunshine is expected throughout. Winds might get a little testy, but high temperatures will rise from the upper 60s into the upper 70s as the tournament progresses.

MORE: Rookies | Medical | Reshuffle | Major qualifiers

Power Rankings: RBC Heritage
Rank Player   Comment
The 2010 champ also has a pair of second-place finishes and a solo fourth in his last seven starts at Harbour Town. He's coming off a solo 11th at the Masters. Prior to that, he finished T11 at Bay Hill the week after a playoff loss at Copperhead.
All that's missing at Harbour Town for the world's top-ranked golfer is the tartan jacket. In the last three years, he's finished second twice, third once and has an active streak of 11 consecutive rounds under par. Won the Transitions just four weeks ago.
The defending champion did what he does best, coming from behind to win. Six strokes back after 54 holes, he shot 64 and then won in a playoff. Currently 13th on TOUR in scrambling and 51st in Strokes Gained-Putting. Placed T19 at the Masters.
With his finesse around greens, you'd expect him to contend here, and he has. It's just been a while. He's chalked up seven top 10s in 12 starts but none since a runner-up in 2007. Surging this season with two top fives and a T12 in his last three starts.
Hasn't missed a cut here in his last seven appearances, a stretch that includes four top 25s. Shared the lead momentarily on Sunday at the Masters before finishing in a share of third place, his fourth straight top 10 this season.
Matched the lowest final round in Masters' history with his bogey-free 64 that included a hole-in-one at No. 16. Finished T17. Co-leads the PGA TOUR with four top 10s. Sits first in the all-around ranking. Three top 15s in six starts at Harbour Town.
He's recorded top 20s in half of his eight starts at this tournament, including a T9 last year. Placed T12 at last week's Masters, two weeks after a share of fourth place at Bay Hill. Currently 35th on TOUR in scrambling and 43rd in the all-around.
Brushed off his disappointment from his infamous loss in 2010 (when his club contacted the hazard in the playoff) with a T21 last year, his fourth top 25 in six appearances. More recently, he's posted consecutive T4s at Bay Hill and in Houston.
Just 1-for-2 at Harbour Town with a T22 in 2010. Six top 25s in eight starts this year. Ranks third on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation, fourth in Strokes Gained-Putting and fifth in scrambling. Benefited by a short course.
Shattering the stereotype of unheralded rookies. He's posted four top 15s, including at T14 two weeks ago in Houston. The tee-to-green specialist ranks just inside the top 100 in Strokes Gained-Putting and scrambling, but he's also 28th in adjusted scoring.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at Harbour Town:

11. Webb Simpson ... Tough to ignore his closing 78s at both Bay Hill and Augusta National but he's a strong fit this week. While he's finished T14 in each of the last two years here, he's also 17th on TOUR in greens hit and 32nd in Strokes Gained-Putting.

12. Boo Weekley ... Although both of his PGA TOUR victories have occurred at this event (2007, 2008), and he has two other top 15s since, he earns his way into this feature for posting top 15s in two of his last four starts this season. Ranks an unsurprising fifth in ball-striking.

13. Jason Dufner ... The 36-hole co-leader of the Masters closed 75-75 to finish T24, his fifth top 25 of the year. Last year's T14 at this event is his only top 25 in four appearances, but he ranks seventh on TOUR in total driving, 41st in greens hit and 45th in scrambling.

14. Ricky Barnes ... No matter how he rolls into town, he finds some magic at Harbour Town with two top fives in as many starts, so he's obviously comfortable here. He annually ranks among the top third on TOUR in greens in regulation; currently 57th.

15. Brian Gay ... Established the tournament record with a 20-under 264 when he dusted the field by 10 strokes in 2009. His other top 10 in 12 career starts occurred in 2006. Currently fourth on TOUR in scrambling and 34th in Strokes Gained-Putting.