Fresh off a second-place tie in the Masters, the No. 1 golfer in the world, Dustin Johnson, is back in his home state of South Carolina to compete in the RBC Heritage April 18-21.
The favorite to top the 132-player field at Harbour Town Golf Links finished 12-under at Augusta National on Sunday, one stroke off Tiger Woods’ lead. He’ll compete alongside several other notable names who made a deep run in the Masters, including Francesco Molinari (+1400, tied for fifth at Augusta), Bryson DeChambeau (+1800, tied for 29th), Patrick Cantlay (+1900, tied for ninth) and Xander Schauffele (+1800, tied for second).
Forty Masters competitors committed to playing in the $6.9 million RBC Heritage, now in its 51st year. The field features 11 previous Heritage winners, including Matt Kuchar (+2200), Jim Furyk (+3100), Brandt Snedeker (+6100) and defending champ Satoshi Kodaira (+15000). Kuchar, Schauffele and Johnson also rank in the top five in the FedExCup standings.
While it would be tempting to back a solid finisher at last weekend’s Masters event, only one player, Matt Kuchar, in the past two decades has won the Heritage after placing in the top 10 at Augusta. Typically the top players take the week off following the mental toil of the Masters. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Tony Finau are just a few who have this year.
Johnson is playing in the Heritage for the second time in 10 years. Last year he finished 16th in Hilton Head. The course doesn’t exactly favor Johnson, however, as it takes the driver (his greatest advantage) out of play. Harbour Town is annually ranked as the course with the shortest average driving distance on Tour at 267 yards off the tee. The key to the 7,100-yard par-71 course is putting the ball on the right part of the fairway in order to tackle Harbour Town’s greens, the smallest on tour.
Wind can also play a factor on the seaside course. The forecast going into the weekend is favorable overall, but Friday and early Saturday could see strong winds reaching 25 to 35 mph, as well as thunderstorms developing later in the day.
If you look at previous experience at the Heritage, Kuchar, Cantlay, Jordan Spieth (+2000), Kevin Kisner (+2700) and Webb Simpson (+2500) have all done well on the course. This season, however, Spieth has yet to achieve a top-10 placing, while Kisner has consistently landed somewhere in the top 20 on the year, aside from his win at the WGC Match Play. Simpson tied for fifth at the Masters, but before that, his last top 10 came in January at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Cantlay and Kuchar own the more impressive résumés with recent top-10 finishes. Cantlay is the one to watch, though, as he finished the Heritage tied for third in 2017 and tied for seventh in 2018, with a scoring average of 68.5. Couple a confidence-boosting ninth-place tie at the Masters, Cantlay’s best performance in a major, with familiarity at Harbour Links, and the 27-year-old should find himself atop the leaderboard to close out the tournament Sunday.
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