The field this week returns to a more regular size as 132 golfers will tee it up with the top 70 and ties making the cut.
This tournament has been growing in popularity over the years and so field quality will still be decent. Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker and newly crowned Masters champ Jordon Spieth will all tee it up.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina
Par 71, 7,000-7100 yards depending on setup
Habour Town Golf Links is one of the most idyllic settings the players visit all year and a fine follow up to Augusta National. The course was designed by Pete Dye and has some characteristics about it that make it a much different test from some of the courses the players have been visiting recently. First, it’s set on the ocean-side, which means strong breezes and gusts of wind can come into play. Second, it has tighter fairways than most courses and much smaller greens. Hitting the fairway and making greens in regulation will be a much more difficult proposition for the players this week. Finally, Habour Town is a par 71, which means the players get less par 5 scoring opportunities than the previous few weeks, scores here typically don’t go super low.
Last Five Winners
What Will it take to succeed at Harbour Town Golf Links?
Harbour Town Golf Links is a course that truly cannot be overpowered. Accuracy is vital here, but more so for approaching the greens than off the tee. The players will need to be pinpoint with their irons to avoid the numerous sand traps and occasional water hazard. Additionally, the ability to get up and down from off the green will be vital. With small greens and often a windy forecast, players will simply not be able to find the putting surface as often as they would like no matter how dialed in they are. A good ball striking week along with deft touch and the ability to handle the wind all make for good attributes at Habour Town.
Who has had Success Here?
This is a serious horse for the course week, as certain players have absolutely shined at Habour Town year after year. Luke Donald’s history is impossible to ignore. In the past 6 years he has finished 2nd three times and 3rd twice, that’s 5 top 3’s in 6 years. Jim Furyk’s history is nearly as good. Furyk won the event in 2010, has finished 2nd twice and has also finished 4th, 7th and 8th, all since 2005. Former world number 2 Rory Sabbatini also seems taken with Habour Town. In fives visits since 2009 he’s landed three top tens, a 14th and a 17th. Finally, lessor known Brian Davis has played here 8 times since 2005, he’s only missed the cut once and finished 2nd in 2010.
Who has Struggled Here?
Not surprisingly, the golfers who rely on power off the tee over finesse around the greens have not fared well overall at Habour Town. One top name who really seems to dislike the course is Bill Haas. He’s played here 10 years in a row and missed the cut or withdrawn 6 times. His highest finish is 24th. Charles Howell III is also not a fan. His last four years have seen two missed cuts and only a best placing of 29th. Martin Laird, another powerful hitter, has done even worse by missing the cut in three of his four visits and only landing a best placing of 41st. Lastly, even though he had a nice Masters performance, Ernie Els does not seem taken with Habour Town. His last 6 visits have seen 4 missed cuts and a best finish of 48th, hardly befitting of a golfer of his pedigree.
What Statistics are Important?
As already mentioned, getting up and down a lot will be important this week so scrambling is a statistic that should be given extra weight. Just looking at the list of former winner’s shows you that guys with touch around the greens fair quite well here. Proximity to hole—from the fairway—is another statistic to use this week to help identify players with a better than average chance. The greens simply don’t allow players to get away with many inaccurate shots and so those who are dialed in with their approaches will have a better chance than most. Finally, one way to get up and down a lot and save pars is to have a hot putter and so strokes-gained putting is an important statistic I would keep in mind. Habour Town doesn’t give player’s a ton of scoring chances and the need for sinking par savers and birdie chances when they arise will be key.
Really look for players who have a solid course history this week. Statistics are important but this is truly a course that players seem to either love or hate. Look to roster as many “in love” players and avoid those who just aren’t that into Habour Town. As well, when looking for value plays, really focus on players who can get up and down with consistency while staying out of trouble. Their consistent games will pay off large this week.
My pick to win: Russell Henley
Henley is a great young player who just simply thrives at windy coastal venues. He’s won at the Sony Open in Hawaii and also nearly won at the McGladrey Classic, which features another seaside course. Henley played great at the Shell Houston Open two weeks ago where he led the field in greens in regulation, and then played solidly again last week at Augusta, finishing 21st, his best finish ever at the event. Henley is ranked 13th in strokes gained putting on the year and I think his strong flatstick and strong recent play will get him to top spot on the leaderboard this week.