2023 RBC Heritage Picks, Odds: Sungjae Im, Russell Henley, More Predictions
Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Sungjae Im.
- Jason Sobel has laid out his betting picks for the 2023 RBC Heritage.
- Sobel has two outright bets to make, as well as props and a player to target in the matchup market.
- Check out Sobel's RBC Heritage picks below.
I finally made it home after a lively, yet exhausting, week at the Masters Tournament. It was so exhausting that I took a four-hour nap on Monday afternoon. If you’re filling your betting card at this week’s RBC Heritage with some of the four dozen players who made the quick trip from Augusta, let’s hope they did the same thing.
I’ll keep the intro shorter than usual this week, but I do want to address one story.
For years, the betting/DFS community has pleaded for the PGA Tour to issue pre-tournament injury reports. The request makes sense: For a league which has bought into this part of the industry, quite literally, with five official betting operators, this would provide some transparency for those investing in the product.
I don’t disagree with any of that.
I do, however, believe that there are logistical complications that might cause more problems than solutions.
Case in point: Last Tuesday, Will Zalatoris followed a practice round at the Masters with a brief interview session. The subject of his notoriously balky back was broached, and he offered, “I think now I can say I’m 100%,” noting that a stomach virus, which forced an in-tournament WD at the WGC-Match Play, had been more of a recent issue than his back injury.
That wasn’t just a throwaway line, either. He delved deeper into his comeback.
“My back doctor texted me this morning, and he said, ‘Hey, enjoy this week because this was the goal of coming back was to be back here, and you’ve played seven events. You’re way ahead of schedule,’” he explained. “Results regardless, I think it’s kind of a nice little reminder. If you asked me in October, this was probably 50-50 me playing here, and the fact I played seven events showed that I did the right things. I’ve had no pain over the last month.”
One day later, he withdrew from the tournament due to his back injury. Three days after that, he underwent season-ending microdiscectomy surgery.
Now, I want to be clear: I’m certainly not calling Zalatoris a liar. Maybe he felt great on Tuesday and something happened within the next 24 hours. Or maybe he was taking the old-school Tiger Woods approach, which states that even though this isn’t a contact sport, you should never show weakness to your opponents. Or maybe he was simply using the power of positive thinking – that if he kept saying he was healthy, then perhaps he’d actually become healthy.
When he announced the surgery on Monday, Zalatoris didn’t exactly sound like he’d made some rash decision.
“After careful consideration and seeking multiple medical opinions, I underwent a successful microdiscectomy on Saturday,” he said. “Playing and living in pain is not fun. I look forward to making a full recovery and seeing everyone in the fall.”
Again, none of this is meant to impugn Zalatoris, but it does take us back to the original point. Bettors and fantasy players can request injury reports from the PGA Tour, but those reports have to come from the players themselves, and if the players are only offering various degrees of truisms, then we’re constantly reading these reports with a suspicious eye.
And if that’s the case, then what’s the point in all of this in the first place?
We move on to this week’s event at Harbour Town, which has long served as the perfect antidote to the preceding pressure-packed major championship. However, now the RBC Heritage takes on a little more relevance and star power, as it takes on designated status with most of the PGA Tour’s top players.
I write “most” and not “all” because it was announced Monday that Rory McIlroy, on the heels of his missed cut at the Masters, has withdrawn from the field. Players are reportedly allowed to only skip one designated event to remain eligible for the Player Impact Program money, and McIlroy had already skipped the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Does this mean a player who already had one of the top-money spots locked up has essentially passed on the money? It’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer yet, but I do know that last year, McIlroy finished second in the season-long PIP and earned an extra $12 million.
I understand that professional golfers are different from the rest of us mere mortals, but that seems like a lot of cash to give up just so you don’t have to play what’s actually one of the more underrated, fun courses on the annual schedule.
Perhaps I’m just being naïve and Rory’s leadership tour for the mothership means he doesn’t have to play by the rules and can still collect a big check at the end. If there’s already a division between the haves and have-nots on the PGA Tour – and there is – this won’t do much to diffuse it.
Let’s get to the picks, starting with a little tip: While it might be tough to separate all these elite-level players, I’ll give more weight to those who usually play here anyway as opposed to those who are only here because they have to be.
2023 RBC Heritage Picks
Outright Winner (short odds)
One player to win the tournament
Sungjae Im (+2800)
If there’s a benefit to having the RBC Heritage right after the Masters, it’s that this is a fairly predictive event, as we largely know what we’re chasing. Harbour Town plays just under 7,200 yards but feels even shorter, as some of the bigger hitters will rarely feel the need to pull driver out of the bag. That levels the playing field with some of the shorter hitters – not that there are many short hitters among the game’s best.
Im (sort of) qualifies for this profile, as his season-long driving distance of 297.5 is just 0.4 yards above the PGA Tour average. That, of course, doesn’t make him a short hitter, but he still pales in comparison to the likes of Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and McIlroy, each of whom rank among the top 20. He does everything else very well, though, ranking 62nd or better in every major strokes gained category.
And as my pod partner Ben Everill pointed out, he leads the PGA Tour in scoring average in relation to par from 175-200 yards, which is a popular distance for second shots at this course.
Then there’s the fact that Sungjae has been trending in the right direction for a while now. I still think his usual price in the marketplace leaves him a bit undervalued, which is probably just the byproduct of the fact that his two victories are fewer than most others in that second-tier odds range. More wins are coming soon, and it would hardly be a shock if one comes this week, at a place where he’s finished T21 and T13 the past two years.
Pick: Sungjae Im Outright
Outright Winner (Long odds)
One player to win the tournament
Harris English (+18000)
Six weeks ago, it appeared that English was turning the corner. A guy who won twice in the 2021 calendar year and later played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, he missed five months last year due to a rib injury and had seen inconsistent results ever since.
It looked like he’d turned a corner, though, with a T12 at the Genesis Invitational followed by a share of runner-up honors at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Since then, he hasn’t exactly been tearing it up, but I do like going after a proven winner at such a big number, especially on a course where he’s had a modicum of success in the past.
Pick: Harris English Outright
Potential selections for one-and-done pools
Scottie Scheffler (+800)
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I “waste” one of the game’s best players at a smaller event such as this? Well, it helps to understand that first-place money this week pays more than it did for last week’s Masters. As the payouts have changed on the PGA Tour, so, too, should our collective OAD strategies.
My guess is that most of your fellow poolsters are “saving” Scheffler for a bigger tourney, so this represents an opportunity to get a big-time talent as a contrarian play with low ownership percentage.
Justin Thomas (+2800)
Look, I hated everything about the way JT finished his second round last week at Augusta National. He’s mad, he’s frustrated, and honestly, he’s a little combustible right now.
All of that said, he totally resembles his buddy Jordan Spieth last year, who MC’d at the Masters and won at Harbour Town. At this number, he’s worth an outright sprinkle, as well.
Davis Riley (+18000)
Proceed with caution, guys. When last we saw Riley, he was busy shooting a million in the first round of the Valero Texas Open before withdrawing the next day. Before that, though, he’d finished in the top 30 in four of his last five starts. Perhaps the biggest attraction here is his price in the betting markets and his low ownership in OAD.
Two weeks ago, in an admittedly inferior field to this one, Riley was right around 30-1 pre-tournament. Finding him at a price six times bigger should feel like we just grabbed a treasure out of the bargain bin.
One player to finish top-five
Shane Lowry (+700 for top five)
Full disclosure: Originally I had Spieth, the defending champion, slotted for this space, but I couldn’t get past his admission of exhaustion at the end of the Masters.
Instead, I’ll gladly pivot to Lowry, who was one of my favorite plays at the Masters and performed admirably, if not extraordinarily, finishing in a share of 16th place. That’s now three results of 16th or better in his last six starts. With a pair of top-threes in five career starts at this event, there’s plenty of value on him to replicate that feat.
Pick: Shane Lowry Top Five
One player to finish in the top 10
Russell Henley (+475 for top 10)
I get it. I’m doing this wrong. You’re not supposed to chase a guy after an outlier week when his price gets shorter, but I can’t help myself here. After a T4 at the Masters, I think Henley is primed for another title contention at this one, despite posting just two top 10s in nine previous starts here.
At some point, we at Action Network are going to develop a Luck Ranking for golf, just like we do for the NFL. When we do, I have a feeling Henley will be near the bottom of the list; essentially, that means his performance has outweighed his results over the past few years. We could be right in the middle of that positive regression taking place now.
Pick: Russell Henley Top 10
One player to finish in the top 20
Matt Kuchar (+220 for top 20)
I fully expect Kuchar to be one of the most popular plays this week – and for good reason. In 19 career starts here, he has a win, a second place, a third place, seven top 10s, 12 top 25s and 18 made cuts. (His only MC came in his first start here 20 years ago.) Throw in the fact that he has top 10s in three of his five most recent starts, and Kuch is a smart play for props and DFS lineups, while worth some consideration for an outright, as well.
Pick: Matt Kuchar Top 20
One player to finish in the top 30
Ben Martin (+230 for top 30)
Two weeks ago, I listed Ben Martin as my favorite long-shot outright at the Valero Texas Open and while he didn’t cash those tickets, he did finish T10.
In his last six starts, Martin hasn’t missed a cut and has four finishes of 13th or better. I love everything about his game right now and while I’ve stuck him in an admittedly conservative top-30 spot, I don’t mind playing him to finish in the top five or 10, and he’s a very viable DFS play at $7,100 on DraftKings.
One player to finish in the top 40
Alex Smalley (+220 for top 40)
Things have gotten just a bit awry for Alex Smalley lately, with only one top-40 in his last six starts. Over the course of the season, though, he’s shown a solid floor, posting 11 made cuts in 16 starts, which includes seven top-40s.
If you’d rather chase a bigger number, Greyson Sigg and Matthew NeSmith have each struggled lately, as well, but could have value on this course.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
Matt Fitzpatrick (DraftKings $8,400)
Over the years, Fitz has referred to Harbour Town as his favorite course, though we wouldn’t blame him for moving The Country Club ahead in that ranking after last year’s U.S. Open triumph. While I’m always wary of the sleeping-in-his-own-bed narrative, I do buy into the playing-his-favorite-course narrative.
Whenever we’re playing Fitzpatrick, we’re hoping for difficult conditions because he can grind out pars in bunches, but he’s been known to go low here, with nine of his 26 career rounds at 68 or better.
A medium-priced option for DFS lineups
Sahith Theegala (DraftKings $8,000)
Theegala’s offensive firepower was on display last week, punctuated by a Tiger-like chip-in on 16 in the final round. There’s certainly a large ceiling-floor range in his week-to-week performance right now, but I’m banking on him bringing some momentum to Hilton Head. He’s a solid piece for a balanced lineup strategy this week.
A lower-priced option for DFS lineups
Adam Hadwin (DraftKings $7,300)
I wanted to go with Hadwin’s countryman Nick Taylor here, as the latter has been better this year, but Taylor owns a fairly terrible record at this event. Instead, let’s go with the usually-steady Hadwin, who’s actually shown a little more variance as of late, with three top 20s and two MCs this year. His record here isn’t anything special, though he does own three top 30s in seven starts, which would be enough to pay off this price.
One player to post the lowest score Thursday.
Denny McCarthy (+9000)
Call me a creature of habit, but McCarthy is a guy I’ll chase in the FRL markets at least a half-dozen times throughout the season. He’s yet to win on the PGA Tour, so four-round investments might have a limited ceiling, but as one of the game’s best putters, he makes for an inspired single-round investment as a 64 waiting to happen on any given day.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Ben Griffin (+18000)
As I often write in this section, my favorite matchup plays are the ones which give us two chances to win – on Friday and Sunday. Sure, a high-ceiling/high-floor option makes sense in, well, every bet we make, but I especially like those margins for H2H bets. In 17 starts this season, Griffin has only missed three cuts while also providing some upside, finishing in the top 25 a half-dozen times already.
Also Receiving Votes
Other players who should provide value
Collin Morikawa (+1800), Tom Kim (+4500), Corey Conners (+5500), Webb Simpson (+9000), Ryan Fox (+13000), Cam Davis (+13000), Aaron Rai (+18000), Davis Thompson (+18000), Adam Svensson (+18000), Adam Schenk (+30000), David Lipsky (+40000), Doc Redman (+80000)
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