Scott Shapiro's 2021 RBC Heritage preview
The Masters hangover is no doubt a real thing, after such an outstanding four days of action at Augusta National. But the good news for golf fanatics is that the first major of the year is once again followed by a quality event — the RBC Heritage.
The RBC Heritage is played at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina, a Pete Dye-designed course that does not favor those with distance off the tee. Being long does not hurt anyone's chances on this 7,099-yard configuration, but with small Bermuda greens and tree-lined fairways, there is an emphasis on other skills. Being accurate off the tee, having a strong approach game, and having the upside to get hot with the putter is what I value most on this coastal course.
The RBC Heritage was played later than normal last season, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and saw a much deeper field than usual when Webb Simpson closed with five birdies on the back nine to earn his seventh victory on the PGA Tour.
Simpson is back to defend his title and is listed as the favorite in the outright market. A pair of players who missed the cut at Augusta, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay, are the only others who sit below +2000 in a field that came up stronger than expected.
RBC Heritage odds
Simpson and Cantlay fit this course well, but I am going to go a bit further down the board to find my plays for the 2021 RBC Heritage.
Collin Morikawa (+2000, +500 top 5)
Few golfers have started their career on the PGA Tour stronger than the former University of California star. Morikawa has already captured four tournaments, including the 2020 PGA Championship in August at TPC Harding Park.
The 24-year-old had a bit off a letdown after his first major victory but was awesome in his win at the WGC-Workday Championship in late February. At this point, his game is not built for success at Augusta, given his shot shape, lack of distance off the tee, and his inconsistent short game, but he battled for four days and pulled off a top 20 finish last week in Georgia.
Morikawa did not play well in his first trip to Harbour Town last year, but his game fits the course perfectly. He ranks first in the field over his last 24 rounds in strokes gained approach, first in birdies or better, second in good drives, and second tee to green.
The only question will be whether he can get hot with the putter. Throughout his short career on tour, it has been feast or famine with the flatstick. I will hope it is the former.
Ian Poulter (+1100 top 5, +500 top 10)
The veteran Englishman was average, at best, to start his 2021 campaign, but he has rediscovered his form over the last couple events. He played well at the WGC-Match Play, before he was bounced in the round of 16 by eventual runner-up Scottie Scheffler, and continued his solid golfing with a 26th-place finish at the Masters. He heads to Hilton Head poised for a big effort at a course his game fits nicely.
Poulter has shown an affinity for Harbour Town over the years, evidenced by his four consecutive top 15 finishes dating back to 2017. Normally, his lack of length off the tee leaves little room for error for the three-time winner on the PGA Tour, but not at this course, where his elite putting and ability to drive it straight are major advantages.
The 45-year-old has not won in some time, so a victory is a bit ambitious, but he should be in the mix from start to finish, which makes his top 5 and top 10 prices more than fair.