RBC Heritage Picks & Predictions: Hideki Matsuyama Is Overdue For Another Victory

Credit:

Sam Greenwood, Getty Images. Pictured: Hideki Matsuyama

  • Jason Sobel previews the 2020 RBC Heritage, which starts this Thursday, complete with betting odds and analysis.
  • Sobel also makes his picks and predictions for Harbour Town, including why Hideki Matsuyama could make some noise.

The PGA TOUR’s first event back from the COVID-19 shutdown couldn’t have gone much better at Colonial CC — unless you’re Collin Morikawa, who missed a short putt in the playoff; or Xander Schauffele, who missed a similarly short putt on the penultimate hole; or Rory McIlroy, who posted a scorecard that looked like one of mine on the front-nine; or Bryson DeChambeau, who looked really hungry. (I joke about Bryson, but he’s going to be a monster this year in every sense of the word.)

Quite frankly, we collectively would’ve been just fine with four days of tournament golf on our TV screens and some player winning by five strokes in unmemorable, untheatrical fashion.

Instead, the Golf Gods treated us to an emotional thrill ride, one which either confirmed how much you love betting on the sport or left you longing for another three-month hiatus.


RBC HERITAGE PROMO! Win $100 if Rory McIlroy makes just ONE birdie all week


That, of course, won’t happen, as the traveling circus rolls on to Hilton Head and renowned Harbour Town Golf Links for this week’s RBC Heritage.

This is a place where course horses led us to picking the same players year after year – Davis Love III to win (he did it five times) or Luke Donald to come really close (five times, as well).

Over the past four years, though, nailing a winner has been as difficult here as any tourney on the schedule.

Branden Grace was 40-1 pre-tourney in 2016, but only owned one previous start here. The next year, Wesley Bryan was 60-1, though a tough call in his home state event. Two years ago, Satoshi Kodaira was a mind-boggling 250-1, and last year, C.T. Pan was 125-1.

All of which should have us at least thinking about a few longshots following a week during which the leaderboard was littered with studs. Plenty of ‘em are mentioned below, though my pick to win is a guy who’s due for a trophy. Let’s get right to it.

Outright Winner

One player to win the tournament.

Hideki Matsuyama (+4000)

If there’s an edge this week, it might come in fading the edge that everyone else thinks they have. With one tournament now under our belts in the TOUR’s return, expect the masses to zig toward those who have shown some recent form – i.e. those who competed last week.

I’d rather zag with my outright pick and take Matsuyama, one of the game’s best ball-strikers, a metric about which you’ll hear the importance ad nauseum this week.

Although there’s no real record of Hideki performing better after lengthy layoffs and he owns very little history at Harbour Town (MC six years ago in his only previous start), expect his deft iron play to offer a distinct advantage on this golf course.

It’s been nearly three full years since his last victory, which is simply too long for a player of this caliber. It’s going to happen soon and this feels like a proper week for it.

Pick: Hideki Matsuyama +4000

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Other OADers

Potential selections for one-and-done options.

Brian Harman (+10000)

After opening with a 65 last week, Harman couldn’t quite maintain the momentum for the following three rounds, but still finished a respectable T-23.

His results at Harbour Town, which he first played as a 17-year-old in 2004, have been a mixed bag over the years, but the little lefty certainly owns the right style of game to play this course well.

If anything, it’s been an inability to get off to a good start here – just two sub-par opening rounds in 10 starts – which has been his biggest issue, though fresh off a strong Thursday round last week, perhaps that will carry over to help him this time around.

Harris English (+15000)

Another former Georgia Bulldog on this list — and it’s no coincidence. A Pete Dye course with Bermuda greens so often plays into the hands of the Southern gentlemen of the TOUR and once again, we should expect to find a handful of players on the leaderboard who are most accustomed to playing this type of track.

English has really turned his game around in the past year, posting five top-10 finishes since last September.

Adam Hadwin (+12500)

I’ve listed more players than usual in this section, simply because there are more players I like who I couldn’t fit into specific categories.

Hadwin is a guy whose game has never quite matched up to this course – three results between 22nd and 48th, plus a MC in four starts – but it stands to reason that he should start playing this one better.

Denny McCarthy (+40000)

This guy is rapidly becoming known as one of the best putters around, which makes him a candidate in all formats, from a top-10/20 play to a low-priced DFS option.

The reason I listed him here is because, as so often noted, OAD pools are about strategy. If you’re near the top, you can afford to go chalky and stay there. If you’re near the bottom, though, you need to start being creative with your selections – and there’s little reason to believe McCarthy will be a popular pick amongst your group.

Closing rounds of 67-68-65 at Sea Island last fall should have you believing that this week is another good fit.

Top-Five

One player to finish top-five.

Lucas Glover (+1800 for top-5)

The former U.S. Open champion has enjoyed a career renaissance recently. A runner-up finish at the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Championship clinched his PGA TOUR card for the next season and he proceeded to finish 17th-or-better in 10 of his next 12 starts.

While he hasn’t kept up with that torrid pace, a T-23 result last week should portend good things for this week, at an event where he tends to post some decent numbers, but has never really seriously contended. It feels like time for Glover to get himself into the mix on a Sunday afternoon and his ball-striking numbers suggest this could the time.

Pick: Lucas Glover top-5 finish (+1800)

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CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Top-10

One player to finish top-10.

Jim Furyk (+1200 for top-10)

Time is a flat circle. Furyk keeps on keeping on. Most players turn 50 – as Furyk did last month – and find it tough to keep up with the flatbellies on the big circuit. Same goes for most Ryder Cup captains, many of whom were never the same players after the rigors of leading a team.

And the truth is, all of this might ultimately lead to Furyk’s demise as a guy who can contend on this level, but he’s certainly got the right tournaments to play after this restart. A final-round 74 kept him from a solid final result last week, and this one should be a perfect fit for the two-time champion and all-time leading money-winner of this event.

Pick: Jim Furyk top-10 finish (+1200)

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Top-20

One player to finish top-20.

Matthew NeSmith (+650 for top-20)

A native of South Carolina, this might seem like a far-fetched pick to finish in the top-20, but NeSmith has become no stranger to this type of result. In fact, he owns five top-20 results in his last 12 starts, which suggests this price offers plenty of value.

Throw in the fact that he currently ranks 37th on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained on approach shots and this remains an appetizing play on a guy who will get overlooked by too many.

Pick: Matthew NeSmith top-20 finish (+650)

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CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

DFS Free Bingo Square

A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.

Webb Simpson (DK $9,000)

I’ll readily admit it: I got burned by Simpson last week, but at least there’s strength in numbers – so did nearly one-quarter of the lineups in DraftKings’ milly-maker contest.

As consistent as they come, Webb seemed like a sure thing to at least play well and reach the weekend, but an opening-round 3-over 73 proved too much to overcome.

Even so, through two rounds his strokes gained tee-to-green number was above average, which shows that he might not be as far off as his leaderboard placement suggested.

And then there’s this: In stroke-play tournament starts following his last three MCs (which were spread out over the past two years, by the way), Simpson finished 5-47-10.

For a guy with two top-10s and a half-dozen top-25s at the RBC Heritage in 11 career starts, there’s still a lot more to love than hate after last week’s disappointing performance.

DFS ‘Dog

A lower-priced option for DFS.

Bill Haas (DK $6,000)

Two years ago, Haas was a passenger in a fatal crash after leaving Riviera CC that killed the driver in his car. A former FedEx Cup champion and Presidents Cup hero, he understandably lost his game for a while in the aftermath, becoming an afterthought in the betting and fantasy world.

There’s reason to believe, however, that he could be on the verge of finding that form once again. The results haven’t quite been there, but he’s making a decent amount of cuts and slowly finding something.

At this price, simply finding the weekend should help your lineup – and that’s something he’s done at a decent ratio here, making the cut in seven of his 13 appearances (not including two WDs).

That T-7 from two years ago – less than two months after that car accident – looms large here, suggesting he could be a shrewd low-owned play. 

First-Round Leader

One player to post the low score Thursday.

Patrick Rodgers (+10000)

It’s taken perhaps longer than many would have expected after a stellar career at Stanford, but Rodgers is starting to become a player to watch on this level. He’s finished 38th-or-better in eight of 10 events during this calendar year, but it’s his starts which really bear watching.

He’s broken 70 in 11 of 18 opening rounds this season, including a 67 to kick off last week’s event. Last year, he lost in a playoff at the nearby RSM Classic, which certainly serves as a correlated course to Harbour Town, which he’ll play for the first time this week. All signs point to a solid one for Rodgers, though I’m more excited about how he starts rather than how he finishes.

Pick: Patrick Rodgers +10000

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CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Matchup Man

One player who should beat comparable players.

Bud Cauley

I wanted to get Cauley’s name into this preview, but wasn’t sure whether to list him as an OAD pick or a top-10/20 or a DFS selection. This category felt right, though, as he’s proven himself a consistent player, who should be able to beat plenty of similarly-priced guys this week.

With only three MCs in the past calendar year, Cauley is the type of guy I look for in matchups, as he rarely takes himself out of a wager by slamming the trunk on Friday afternoon. With four made cuts in his last five starts at this event, that should be the case once again this week.

The Big Fade

One top player to avoid at this tournament.

Sergio Garcia (+10000)

There’s no real data which suggests we should like Sergio this week, but I can see the idea percolating: Hey, he’s always been a great ball-striker and this is a great ball-striker’s course, so it stands to reason that he can find some form here — and it’s a huge number for him. All of which is fair, but I’m just not buying it right now. In his last dozen PGA TOUR starts, dating back more than a year, Garcia hasn’t finished better than T-37.

Sure, there’s been a win and plenty of other better results around the world, but there’s a definitive pattern lately on this side of the pond for Garcia, including an MC last week. He’s a fade for me until he starts proving otherwise.

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