April 11, 2023, 5:27 pm
The first major of the season is in the books. Mother nature tried to ruin the weekend halting play on Saturday, but the players were able to get through enough of the course to be able to have the traditional Sunday evening finish. Jon Rahm was able to chase down Brooks Koepka and win the tournament by four strokes. As impressive as Koepka was the first three days, it always felt like it was Rahm’s to lose. He battled through the tougher weather wave to keep Brooks within range and then put the pedal to the medal on Sunday to take charge. It was a masterclass in closing out a tournament with a lead (minus the suspect drive on eighteen that didn’t even reach the fairway).
While others may be fatigued from the first major of the year, we continue on to another elevated event in the RBC Heritage played at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We have already seen a few W/Ds this week that include Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Aaron Wise, and Alex Noren. We will monitor any more as the week progresses, but I imagine barring injury, that we shouldn’t see any additional names drop out.
This is one of the most unique courses the players will tee up on this year. With large trees lining the fairway, it makes sense for players to sometimes put it in the rough then in the fairway and get caught with a large branch in their way of their second shot. True to most Pete Dye designs, this will require strategy to get around, with lots of doglegs and the short nature of the course (Par-71 that plays less than 7,200 yards), players will not be able to overpower the course off the tee. This brings in a slew of player types that can compete on this course. Players will typically hit less than driver on most of their tee shots.
The greens are 2nd smallest in proximity and rate out at average in terms of speed. In contrast to last week at Augusta, the greens and most of the course in general is flat. The rough is up to 2.5” this year, so we will see how that will impact shot selection off the tee for the players. To add to the difficulty of the small greens is the omnipresent wind factor being that this is coastal course. A strong around the green game could come into play if the weather decides not to cooperate.
We are back to a full field event with a 143-player field after the withdraws with the standard top 65 and ties advancing to the weekend.
Carrying the designated event moniker this year means we will see the strongest field this tournament has attracted. Even when this was the second event out of the Covid restart in 2020, the field was not this strong as (before the withdraws) every player in the top 50 of the OWGR was slated to tee it up this week.
Most of the players in the field have played at this course at least once in their career with two major exceptions being Scottie Scheffler and Adam Scott. The spot on the schedule (the week after the Masters) has always left Heritage in a less than ideal landing spot for top players, but with the extra money up for grabs this week and the short proximity from Augusta, we are treated to the best of the best the PGA Tour has to offer.
I will be taking course history into account this week, but not going over board with it. As mentioned before this is the strongest field this tournament has ever drawn, so it will be a good test to see if the same names are able to pop up towards the top, or if the top end talent we have this week overpowers the leaderboard.
Here are the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– Iron play is always on this list and forever will be. It is the stat most correlated with success. This course is also so demanding with second shots and poor iron play will result in a missed cut this week.
- SG: Putting– Normally I don’t put too much stock into putting because it is the most volatile of all the strokes gained metrics. This week however, is different because past performances have shown us that a strong putter is required to be in contention this weekend.
- Proximity 150-200 YDS– Nearly 50% of all approach shots will be from this proximity this week. I tend to look at long term form when it comes to proximity stats because a couple poor shots can really throw short term numbers out of whack (especially with having just gone through the Florida swing which can really mess with these numbers).
- Opportunities Gained- Conditions will have a say in the winning score this week, but generally 13 to 15 under will get the job done here. Opportunities gained looks at golfers who give themselves 15 feet or less for birdie and needless to say, the more opportunities our golfers put themselves in to score, the better.
- Par 5 Scoring- The par 5s are 3 of the 4 easiest holes on the course and must be taken advantage of. Winners have averaged .25 strokes gained on the field when playing the par 5s in previous editions of this tournament.
Follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional thoughts as the week goes on and I’d be happy to help out with any lineup questions you have. Let’s make some money!
Round 1 Props
Thrive Contest Plays for Thursday’s Round 1 Action
Jon Rahm 68.5 Strokes- LESS (110 Pts): Let’s ride the momentum of the Masters champ to continue his excellent play into the opening round. There will be some sentiment of him being “burned out” from the stress of winning the most prestigious tournament on the calendar a week ago and while that may be fair, I think Rahm is on a mission. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t intend to win the tournament and that starts with a strong Thursday round.
Shane Lowry 2.5 Birdies- MORE (75 Pts): 3rd, 9th, MC, 3rd in his last four appearances at this event, so the course history is certainly there. I think he is going to get a little too popular for my taste to use on DraftKings, so I will get my exposure to him this way. Lowry hit the over on this line in thirteen of the fourteen rounds mentioned earlier, so the confidence level is high in this play.
Collin Morikawa 72.5 Strokes- LESS (75 Pts): In 12 career rounds at Harbour Town, Morikawa has gone over this number once (the final round of the 2020 edition). This is a place that rewards solid iron play and doesn’t require length off the tee, which is an ideal fit for Morikawa’s game. Putting is always a concern with him, but I have no concerns in him staying under this line.
Props Record YTD
DFS Top Tier Play
Finau has been fine this year. The Masters was his first finish outside the top 25 of the calendar year (26th), but has only two top 10s in eight attempts. His iron play has been excellent, the off-the-tee has been solid, as well as round-the-green and putting. It just hasn’t resulted in a top end finish yet and I think this could be the week for Tony. He is one of the best in the field with greens in regulation, which will be amplified this week due to the small green sizes. His accuracy off the tee to put it in the right spots will be key this week to complement his aforementioned strong iron play. He also ranks 12th in the field over the past 50 rounds in strokes gained total of courses that play under 7,200 yards. I like having Tony as part of my core as a second guy in to my lineup given his price tag, or staring my lineup in balanced builds (I think he posseses enough win equity to be able to get away with that here).
Others Considered: Jon Rahm ($11,100), Patrick Cantlay ($10,300)
DFS Mid Tier Play
Rose is just another cog in the machine of resurgences we have seen on tour this year from some veterans. Unlike Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, Rose was able to find the winners circle back in February at Pebble Beach (the only course on tour with smaller greens than Harbour Town). Rose had a 14th place finish the last time he teed it up here back in 2020, which was as close to a field strength to this week as we will get. Rose is somebody I like to target on shorter courses that require strategic placement off the tee and a strong short game. He may go a bit overlooked this week being the same price as Kuchar who has immaculate course history and is coming in with good form. Si Woo Kim ($7,600) and Corey Conners ($7,800) should also be popular in this range.
Others Considered: Sahith Theegala ($8,000), Tom Kim ($8,500)
DFS Value Play
Strokes gained putting is nearly as important as approach play at this event when looking at past top ten finishers. Both categories see top ten performers gain about .84 strokes compared to their counterparts. Whenever putting is a premium (yes, good putting is usually required to win week to week, but there is an extra emphasis on it this week) I am always going to give Denny a look. He comes in with great form having top 20s in 3 of his last 4 events including a 13th at THE PLAYERS which is another shorter Pete Dye-designed course. I see J.T. Poston sucking up a lot of the ownership in this range due to course history, so I will happily pivot to Denny.
Others Considered: Adam Svensson ($7,000), Joel Dahmen ($6,900)
Outright Betting Picks
Tony Finau 29-1 (FD)
Tom Kim 45-1 (DK)
Sahith Theegala 70-1 (DK)
Wyndham Clark 110-1 (DK)
Position Player Name DK Salary G Jon Rahm $11,100 G Tony Finau $9,400 G Justin Rose $7,700 G Denny McCarthy $7,200 G G REMAINING BUDGET $14,600 for 2 golfers