With very little going on in terms of live sports, it stands to reason that the PGA TOUR has attracted new fans in the first two weeks after emerging from the three-month hiatus. Come Sunday, a few have to be wondering if only plaid jackets are awarded to the winners.
Just like last week's Charles Schwab Challenge, this week's RBC Heritage was relocated to an unfamiliar month due to the pandemic. In recent history, it's served as the exhale in the week after the Masters in April. This year, it not only is contested for the first time in June, it also assumes the original slot traditionally occupied by the U.S. Open and will finish on Father's Day.
As of midday Monday, the 153-man field at Harbour Town Golf Links includes 117 who competed at Colonial Country Club last week. For what it faces on the par 71 stretching just 7,099 yards, scroll past the projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: RBC HERITAGE
Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and defending champion C.T. Pan will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
In response to playing time missed as a result of the hiatus, 12 more spots were opened at the RBC Heritage. Customarily, it's an invitational with 132 golfers, but even with the expansion to 144, the field is nine stronger than rescheduled. This is because all automatic qualifiers are allowed entry regardless of reserved space.
Harbour Town will give the robust gathering all it wants. At just 3,700 square feet on average, greens are among the smallest everyone in the field will see all year. The biggest difference between April and June is that the putting surfaces no longer need to be overseeded. This will give the TifEagle bermudagrass planted in advance of the 2016 edition of the tournament the opportunity to really shine.
Due to work done to reconfigure cart paths and trim trees, some fairways are wider, but finding the shortest grass off the tee isn't necessarily the premium at Harbour Town. Not unlike the tee-to-green objective at Augusta National, placement for approach shots is key. That favors the thinking man and course management. Short of finding spot on the dartboards, including on each of the par 5s, shot-shaping under and around overhanging trees accentuates the challenge dimensionally.
If the greens were larger, the approach game would have even greater value, but Harbour Town caters to the small ball. As all worthy courses yield so as to prove fairness, there have been exceptions, but the champion likely will have scrambled well, which is to say that he's putted well.
C.T. Pan slotted below the field average in fairways hit last year, and he was right at the field average in greens in regulation, but he was tidiest with his short game, slotting second in putts per GIR. He did hit it tight (seventh in proximity to the holes), but he also made the most of his modest opportunities by ranking fifth in par-breaker conversion percentage with the putter. He finished at 12-under 272 as the field averaged 71.170 for the week.
The contingent that has played Harbour Town in April likely will feel more humidity this week. Daytime temperatures will climb into the 80s. A passing shower can't be ruled out and wind probably won't factor into club selection until Sunday, if at all.
Incidentally, the last four who emerged victorious at the RBC Heritage were first-timers on the PGA TOUR. Wesley Bryan (2017) and Satoshi Kodaira (2018) were tournament debutants. The active streak matches the Barracuda Championship for runner-up honors behind the Sanderson Farms Championship where Sebastián Muñoz became the sixth consecutive first-time winner last fall.
If you're interested in more history of the RBC Heritage, please check out the all-time Power Rankings that published during the original week of this season's edition.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.