Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What To Look For: The RBC Heritage Championship

I wanted to give a few quick thoughts on the Masters.

I, for one, did not root for Sergio Garcia.  Here's what Padraig Harrington had to say about Garcia:

http://www.golfchannel.com/news/golf-central-blog/harrington-masters-champ-garcia-was-sore-loser/

While I couldn't say that I never wanted Sergio to win a major (although it didn't mean much to me if he did), I didn't want him to win the Masters since he bashed the course on multiple occasions.  And I got the feeling if he had lost in the playoff, it would be a few years before he would bash the course, again.  I'm a little surprised how many people lost sight of that.

The course played about how you would hope the Masters would play...winning score of around -8 to -10, some very good players shooting some high scores and a somewhat difficult 4 days for most of the field.  It's a major afterall.

It's when Augusta starts yielding super low scores and the players treat the par-5's like medium length par-4's, the course loses a little of its spirit.  I'm still in favor of increasing the length of the rough.  I don't think it should be US Open long by any means, but if it could be Bay Hill long I think it could lead to more exciting tournaments like we saw this past week and make the event more interesting because more varying styles of play could actually win the Green Jacket.

People often talk about the 'modern' age of the Masters as being in the 60's, but in reality it's more in the past 10 years.  Here's a look at the champions since 1980.  As you can see, since Mike Weir's victory the last 12 out of 14 winners were very long off the tee.  Zach Johnson was short off the tee in 2007, but he needed record cold temperatures and breezy conditions for that to happen.


From 1982 to 1999, 10 out of the 17 winners were 'short' (or close to it).  And that was the time that really made the Masters as it exploded into a huge TV ratings phenomenon as you had great Masters in '86, '87, '88, '90, '92, '95, '96, '97 and '98.

As Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini likes to say 'boxers don't make great fights, styles make great fights.'  It's the same with virtually any athletic endeavor.  And while Augusta wasn't originally designed in that fashion, the only recourse to help prevent the outrageously low scores and to make things more interesting is to grow out the rough a little more and make it somewhat of a threat (particularly on the par-5's).


***

I thought the putt on #13 is what 'lost' the tournament for Justin Rose.  Out of all of the putts, that is the one that lost the most strokes from a strokes gained perspective.

I noted on my Twitter that despite being down by 2 strokes, Sergio didn't need to press on the 12th hole because it wasn't likely to help him anyway.

The 12th hole is a 'Critical Hole' at Augusta because so many players will dump it into the drink.  But, once Rose landed safely on the green, the numbers are pretty distinct that going for the pin is a bad idea.

Sergio then bails himself out on 13th hole after a poor drive.  13 isn't a 'critical hole', but it's on the cusp of being one.  It's not a critical hole because not enough players eagle the hole thru the week.  Still, Rose had the chance to gain another stroke on Sergio and he failed.

The 14th hole is a 'critical hole' due to the difficulty of putting on the green and the hole not being that long.  That creates a lot of birdie-bogey scenarios and Rose did his job by making par, but Sergio made birdie.

The 15th is another critical hole because it's a very 'eagle-able' hole and you can make bogey with a 2nd shot that finds the water.  Once again, Rose did his job by making birdie and Sergio got back a stroke by making birdie.

16 and 17 are not critical holes.  18 is and both Rose and Sergio played them brilliantly and could't convert the putt.  While Rose missed the putt on 17, it was longer than the one on 13.

The drive on the 18th hole in the playoff is a good shot to pick as well as being the real 'killer' for Rose.  Where Rose was hurt was with the front left pin location on 18.  If the pin is in back right where it often is on Sunday, Sergio still has to hit a shot in and make par.  But with the front left pin location the approach shot is much easier.  Rose being in the woods on his tee shot more or less relegated him to making bogey.


***



The Tour comes to Harbour Town for the 48th RBC Heritage.

Harbour Town is a Pete Dye design and arguably his first, famous design.  You can see a lot of Dye's favorite design concepts such as the use of railroad ties.  This is really a Dye design thru and thru...tight and 'marshy.'

Where Dye got out of hand for me was in his later designs which were filled with tight, blind tee shots with trouble on both sides that you can't see.  He's always been a designer that swings for the fences and is happy to have 1 beautiful hole if that means making 1 lousy hole in the process.

The course is generally well received by the players as it's a nice place to bring the wife/girlfriend to visit and some low scores can be had.  It's also the week after the Masters so those who played the Masters can make a short trip into Hilton Head.

If the course has its detractors, it's because it favors the shorter, more accurate hitter off the tee.  The bombers tend to avoid Harbour Town like the plague.  It's a very lay-up heavy course off the tee and like most Dye designs, it wants the player to hit the 280 yard tee shot accurately.  If the player is inaccurate, then they get into trouble.  If they lay-up and can't get to 280 yards off the tee, then they have a very difficult approach.

The good news is that the last Critical Hole at Harbour Town is the 18th hole.  However, while it's pretty, from a strategy standpoint it is quite dull as most players will hit a 240-yard lay-up shot off the tee and then hit their approach shot in.  Unlike Bay Hill's 18th hole, there's not nearly as many balls going into the water.  It's just a tough approach shot with a bailout to the right and too many players can't get up-and-down.

Projected Winning Score: -11

3JACK'S FAVORITES

Matt Kuchar +1,400
Kevin Kisner +2,000
Adam Hadwin +2,200
Martin Kaymer +2,200
Charley Hoffman +2,800


3JACK'S DARK HORSES

William McGirt +4,000
Bryson DeChambeau +4,500
Keegan Bradley +6,600
Kyle Stanley +7,500
Andrew 'Beef' Johnston +17,500





3JACK

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