The RBC Heritage is always tasked with the hardest act to follow in golf, slated for the week after the Masters each year. That task won’t be as hard this year, however, as it’s taken on new status as a Designated Event in 2023. Unlike the first five Designated events this season, the RBC Heritage will notice the most significant improvement in field strength, as many of the game’s best have been coerced to stick around for the first time the week after the Masters. As always, we go over the RBC Heritage odds in our tournament preview.
Like many of the other short, positional courses we’ve come to know and love on the PGA TOUR, Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina will ask for a repeatable formula of Driving Accuracy, SG: APP, and SG: ARG. Here’s a look ahead at everything you can expect from Harbour Town Golf Links ahead of the 2023 RBC Heritage.
RBC HERITAGE ODDS: THE FAVORITES
Scroll to the bottom for complete outright odds and to compare prices across legal U.S. sportsbooks in your state. Here are the opening odds for the favorites with odds shorter than 20-1 at the first two sportsbooks to post odds Monday morning.
THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
Just 142 miles southeast of Augusta, it’s not asking too much for the best players in the world stick around in Hilton Head the week after the Masters. While there may be a bit of a mental hangover for some, the last two winners of this event have done so after competing at The Masters.
With its newfound Designated status, this field of 146 will be the strongest in RBC Heritage history by a significant margin with all eligible PGA TOUR members inside the OWGR top-50 here to play. This event has typically drawn many late withdrawals after the mental and physical toll of The Masters weighs in, but as of now, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Rory McIlroy are all expected to highlight the field. The new elevated status of the event has notably attracted Scottie Scheffler and Adam Scott to make their first career appearances.
Jordan Spieth is back in action at Harbour Town after edging past Patrick Cantlay in a playoff last year. He’ll be joined by Stewart Cink, Webb Simpson, CT Pan, Satoshi Kodaira, Wesley Bryan, Jim Furyk, and Matt Kuchar to represent the list of past winners in the 2023 field.
INTRODUCTION TO HARBOUR TOWN GOLF LINKS
Harbour Town Golf Links is perhaps the most straightforward course to handicap on the PGA TOUR. A very clear trend has dominated: drive it straight, strike your mid-irons at an elite level and scramble well around the greens.
Against comparatively weaker fields historically, this formula has opened contention up to more grizzled veterans, essentially removing any distance advantage. The last 10 winners averaged 32 years old, with six winning at 35-plus. No winners checked in under the age of 27.
With that said, it sets up as a week where course fit prevails over recent form. Experience at Harbour Town and other comparable positional courses may provide a more distinct advantage than raw ball striking ability.
For Harbour Town course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past RBC Heritage winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our RBC Heritage odds page.Editor’s Note
EVENT HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
A glance at the list of players who have routinely performed best at the RBC Heritage should help paint a picture of what types players are most likely to contend this week. With that said, its newfound status as a Designated event will add a depth of talent this tournament has never seen before. With such a different caliber of field in store this week, I’m putting much less stock behind prior results at this event than I normally would.
Looking at recent course history, 11 players have multiple T15 finishes over the last five years: Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Matt Fitzpatrick, Kevin Streelman, Michael Thompson, Shane Lowry, JT Poston, Corey Conners, Scott Piercy, and Troy Merritt.
There are 13 players who have made the cut in each appearance over the last five years (min. three starts): Simpson, Kuchar, Alex Noren, Joel Dahmen, Maverick McNealy, Andrew Landry, Matthew NeSmith, Collin Morikawa, Sepp Straka, Dylan Frittelli, Ryan Palmer, Xander Schauffele, and Wyndham Clark.
Webb Simpson And Matt Kuchar
Over the last five years, Simpson and Kuchar are in a dead heat atop the list of course horses, each averaging 7 total strokes gained per year with eight combined top-25 finishes since 2018. Before his T59 finish in 2022, Webb had carried a streak of five consecutive top-16 finishes at this event, including his win in 2020. This will be his first appearance without Paul Tesori on the bag (recently joining forced with Cameron Young), so we may expect a little regression in 2023 as Webb continues to trend in the wrong direction with his career.
Matt Kuchar, on the other hand, rides into Harbour Town in far better form with a T3 at the Valero Texas Open in his last start and a Semi-Finals appearance at the WGC Dell Match Play. He has gained the most total strokes at the RBC Heritage in this field, having made it through the cut in all 16 prior appearances and finishing T23 or better all but once since his 2014 win. He presents one of the safest floors in the field this week.
Looking at total strokes gained at Harbour Town over the last 10 years, the top-10 players in course history are Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Simpson, Luke Donald, JT Poston, Shane Lowry, Kevin Streelman, Jordan Spieth, Russell Knox, and Cam Davis.
We know this type of course by now. Short, target golf, positional. A rare opportunity for shorter hitters to contend, and the type of course where Webb Simpson archetypes have repeatedly found success.
With so many repeat names on the RBC Heritage leaderboard over the years, and a persistent need for driving accuracy and proximity from 125-200, there is a certain profile of player who can lean on their precise ball striking for consistency here. However, with so many new faces in this year’s field, comp course history will prove to be an even stronger indicator of success than Course History itself.
Pete Dye courses tend to mimic a consistent design philosophy that rewards a tactical approach off the tee and penalize misfires on approach. Of Pete Dye’s designs, TPC Sawgrass, TPC River Highlands, and Stadium Course serve as the top Dye comps to Harbour Town.
Courses that force the field to take driver out of their hands and reward accuracy both off the tee and on approach should serve as great comp reference points as well. Pebble Beach, Colonial CC, Waialae CC, Sedgefield CC, Sea Island Resort and El Camaleon each embody those characteristics well.
Combine performance across this long list of shorter, positional comp courses together, and the top-10 players in Comp Course History from this week’s field are Viktor Hovland, Russell Henley, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Corey Conners, Seamus Power. Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Thomas, Keith Mitchell, and Sam Burns.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER
- SG: APP / GIRs Gained
- SG: ARG / Scrambling
- Fairways Gained
- P4: 400-450
- Prox 125-200
- SG: Putting (Bermuda)
- SG: Ball Striking (<7,200 Yard Courses)
- Course & Comp Course History
The executive summary to approaching the RBC Heritage odds would suggest refining to players who are elite in SG: APP, SG: ARG, and Fairways Gained. It really has been that cut and dry of a formula to predict success at this event. Just five players rate out top 30 in SG: APP & SG: ARG and above-average in Fairways Gained: Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tom Kim, Jason Day, and David Lipsky.
Taking a deeper dive into each of the key stats this week, the top-10 players in SG: APP, the most critical stat of the week, are Tom Hoge, Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Sepp Straka, Ben Martin, Xander Schauffele, and Rickie Fowler.
Unique to Harbour Town, it’s rare to find many approaches beyond 200 yards, with only 20% of shots coming from this range in 2022. The 125-200 yard range has been the sweet spot in this event, with a concentration of about 30% of shots coming from 175-200 yards. The top-10 players in weighted proximity from 125-200 yards are Collin Morikawa, Cameron Young, Will Zalatoris, Jon Rahm, Si Woo Kim, Scottie Scheffler, Jason Dufner, Wesley Bryan, Rickie Fowler, and Robby Shelton.
Small Greens, Easy Fairways
With these greens being among the smallest on TOUR, short game will prove increasingly important to scramble for pars on errant approaches. The top-10 players in weighted SG: ARG & Scrambling are Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Byeong Hun An, Scott Piercy, Brendon Todd, Ben Griffin, Chris Kirk, Robby Shelton, Danny Willett, and Adam Schenk.
It’s not entirely necessary to model Fairways Gained this week, considering the field at large should inherently find more accuracy when clubbing down for these forced layups. So as an alternative, I’m looking to SG: Ball Striking on courses under 7,200 yards in order to identify the players who are best a clubbing down on positional courses. The top-10 in this category are Corey Conners, Russell Henley, Shane Lowry, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Luke List, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Chris Kirk, and Keegan Bradley.
Looking at the correlation charts this week, we see a notable dip in the importance of SG: OTT and P4: 450-500 relative to TOUR average. Driving Distance and Prox 200+ also rate out as the two least correlated stats with success for this event. Instead, P4: 400-450, SG: Short Game / SG: ARG, and SG: APP climb this week.
There are 14 players in the field who rank above average in each of the above key stat categories: Tony Finau, Max Homa, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Si Woo Kim, Xander Schauffele, Adam Svensson, Tommy Fleetwood, Nick Taylor, Jordan Spieth, Chris Kirk, and Justin Thomas.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: JUSTIN THOMAS
Justin Thomas will face the strongest field in RBC Heritage history looking to rebound off of the first missed cut of his career at the Masters. Those two factors alone should push his odds to a value we haven’t seen in a long time, despite his tee-to-green play remaining at his world class standard.
Not all missed cuts are created equal, and a second round 78 from Thomas in brutal, storming weather in Augusta may overshadow his strong 2-under start last week. Leading into the Masters, JT had gained 5+ strokes tee-to-green in five of his last six starts, three of those coming in Designated events. The story with JT has continued to center around his putting, as he’s managed to gain 1+ strokes putting in just one event since the RBC Canadian Open last June. Even still, the putting deficiency has been a bit embellished over his current slump, as he’s merely been stuck in neutral on the greens, losing more than a half stroke putting just once over his last seven starts.
Harbour Town is an ideal fit for a player like Justin Thomas who enjoys shot-shaping off the tee with less than driver and can lean on his elite short game to scramble from nuanced greenside hazards. He put that ability on full display with his 2021 PLAYERS Championship win at Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass, and his tee-to-green form is slightly improved now to what it was then.
The 2020 RBC Heritage field was the next best quality we’d seen before this year due to the adjusted COVID restart schedule, and Thomas relished the opportunity to play against the best then with a career best T8 finish. It’s clear Thomas, whose last two wins have come at the PGA Championship and THE PLAYERS, is motivated to compete against the best fields on the schedule, so I expect him to come out with something to prove after an early exit from Augusta last week.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 RBC HERITAGE
It’s always interesting to see how players respond in the week immediately following a major, especially this year, as many who would typically skip this event will be attracted by its new designated status. Although conditions were arduous at The Masters last week, Jordan Spieth and Stewart Cink have proved that it is not a detriment to have played the week before contending at the RBC Heritage.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2023 RBC Heritage odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
In my model this week, I’m emphasizing SG: APP, Comp Course History, Prox: 125-200, SG: Ball Striking (<7,200-yard courses), SG: APP, and SG: T2G (L12 rounds), followed by a more balanced mix of Fairways Gained, SG: ARG, Scrambling, SG: P (L36, Bermuda), GIRs Gained, and Par-4: 400-450.
After a lackluster showing at The Masters, it is still Tony Finau who emerges atop the model among this loaded field. Finau ranks top-5 in the priority stat categories of SG: APP and SG: Ball Striking on short courses, while recently showing spike putting upside on Bermuda greens. He’s looked strong on comp Pete Dye courses with top-20 finishes at The AmEx and THE PLAYERS this year, and has finished no worse than T26 in each of his last nine starts.
After Finau, the rest of my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Max Homa, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Tom Kim, Si Woo Kim, and Xander Schauffele.
When 2023 RBC Heritage odds open, I’m looking to find exposure to the best ball strikers with proven history on positional courses. I’ll have my eye on players like Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, and Tony Finau when odds release on Monday. Check back in later this week for more updates. Best of luck navigating 2023 RBC Heritage odds!
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