RBC Heritage 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

Brian Mull explains how Paul Casey could make for a great value pick this week at the RBC Heritage. Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour makes the short, familiar drive to Hilton Head Island for the first time in two years for the RBC Heritage. Of course the tournament was held last year, played in June as the second event after the three-month pause due to the pandemic. But it’s meant to follow the Masters, offering the field a completely different challenge on the course and a chill setting away from it.

Families on bicycles. Afternoon cocktails. Evening cruises. There’s a little something for everyone in Sea Pines but we’re focused on the par-71, 7,121-yard layout designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. Accuracy and short game are the key ingredients for success here. The forecast is excellent with typical Carolina springtime temperatures in the high 60s and upper 70s combined with 10-15 mph winds, blowing from a variety of directions and often intensifying in the afternoon. Double check the latest forecast before setting your fantasy roster or making a wager. It’s not uncommon for one of the two Thursday waves to have a scoring advantage. Also, those teeing off near the end of the wave can benefit because often the wind subsides late in the day.

RELATED: Harbour Town Golf Links course preview | The Caddie Line homepage

We’ve included quite a few players who played well last week at the Masters, which is dangerous, and omitted a couple of obvious choices. There’s nothing wrong with including Corey Conners or Will Zalatoris on your roster this week. You can make a strong case for either. But there’s a physical and mental aspect to this game and it’s worth contemplating whether either will have the energy to match their performance from last week.

The Bargain Bin

  • Tom Hoge, Russell Knox, Chez Reavie, Chase Seiffert, Kyle Stanley

The purse is $7.1 million. May you earn your own slice of the action, however you see fit. As always, good luck.

Golfer power rankings

25. Ian Poulter – Would really be something to see Poulter in plaid pants and a tartan jacket as the no-see-ums start nibbling on ankles by the Calibogue Sound … Now that you’ve recovered from the visual, the Englishman is a worthy selection this week. He’s second in SG: Approach and 20th in SG: Tee-to-Green. Five top 20s in last six appearances and has never missed the cut.

24. Lucas Glover – The Clemson product and South Carolina native will enjoy strong support in Hilton Head. Other than his notoriously poor putting, he’s well above average in every other significant statistical category this week, including 21st in proximity from 175-200 yards.

23. Brendon Todd – Augusta National is a difficult test for Todd, one of the Tour’s shorter hitters and best fairway finders. Still, he made the cut. Harbour Town should be easier to solve because it matches his skill set. Best putter in the field on Bermuda and strong chipper and pitcher.

22. Christiaan Bezeudenhouit – Watched him play several holes over multiple days at Augusta and it’s easy to understand why he’s enjoyed recent success in the States. Hasn’t missed a cut over here since the PGA Championship last August. Top five in the field around the green and putting on Bermuda.

21. Charley Hoffman – Obviously the runner-up performance two weeks ago in Texas was outstanding but his game has been trending upward most of the season and a ballstriker’s palace like Harbour Town should produce another strong effort. Has gained at least 4.8 strokes on approach in his last four tournaments.

20. Daniel Berger – Almost went back-to-back here last summer. Game isn’t as sharp this time around. Iron play has been mediocre of late. The good vibes of the lighthouse could be just what he needs to ignite another spring/summer run.

19. Doug Ghim – He slotted high in three different models we ran for this week’s tournament and other than his putting (126th in field on Bermuda) he’s in the top 40 in almost every other measurable ballstriking and short game category. Played three excellent rounds at the Players, another Pete Dye track that rewards accuracy and shotmaking. Harbour Town debut.

18. Tommy Fleetwood – Haven’t lost faith in Fleetwood just yet – as painful as it can be to back him sometimes. Strong record on shortish Pete Dye courses. Iron game has been well above average in his last four starts. Tied for 46th at the Masters and posted a T-25 in lone RBC Heritage appearance.

17. Sepp Straka – In the bottom 20 percent of the field in SG: Putting on Bermuda, but should have ample opportunities. He’s second in the field in proximity from 175-200 yards and also in the top 25 in SG: Tee-to-Green. Tied for 33rd in first RBC Heritage appearance last year.

16. Matt Fitzpatrick – Never looked comfortable at Augusta National and finished T-34. Has top 15s two of the last three years in RBC Heritage in part because not many roll it better on Bermuda greens.

15. Emiliano Grillo – Always in the upper crust of ballstrikers on the PGA Tour has made immense strides on the greens since he began working with putting coach Derek Uyeda. He’s top 10 in SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Approach on similar courses. Best finish is T-16 at RBC in three starts.

14. Branden Grace – Despite below average iron play in Texas still recorded a top 25, another promising sign the 2014 RBC Heritage champion is returning to his form of five or so years ago. It was his fourth top 26 in the last five starts.

13. Chris Kirk – Gained four shots on approach and six on the greens in a T-6 at the Valero and with better chipping – typically a strong suit – would have been in the mix for the title. Has seven top 25s in his last 10 starts since the RSM Classic in nearby Sea Island last fall.

12. Russell Henley – Another Georgia Bulldog who feels comfortable in Hilton Head, he should be well-rested. Hasn’t teed it up since finishing third at the Honda four weeks ago. Has one top 10 in seven Heritage appearances.

11. Si Woo Kim – Continues to rack up the top finishes (12th at the Masters). Missed the cut here in has last two appearances but game is much better now and he’s not that far removed from a runner-up and T-14 at Harbour Town. Gained 8.1 strokes on approach at TPC Sawgrass.

10. Tyrrell Hatton – T-18 at the Masters was his fourth top 20 in the last five U.S. starts. Tied for third in the RBC last year in his third appearance. His recent short game performance has been worse than the field average, which is troubling. Iron game is reliable (third in proximity 175-200 yards)

9. Michael Thompson – Loves the layout, finishing top 10 each of the last two years. Elite putter on Bermuda and enters in good form with three consecutive made cuts, including a top 20 at the Honda. Ranks 17th in the field in proximity from 175-200 yards.

8. Kevin Na – He’s second in our comprehensive model this week. Has four top 10s at the RBC Heritage since 2011 and is fresh off his best career finish at the Masters (T-12). Fatigue is a mild concern after four grueling rounds at Augusta National but his game and form makes this a good match.

7. Patrick Cantlay – Have no idea what happened to Cantlay last week in an opening round 79. Golf happens sometimes. Still, not wise to overlook him at Harbour Town where he’s a perfect 3-for-3 in top-10 finishes, including a pair of T-3s. Missed last year due to a positive COVID test. Too talented not to bounce back.

6. Dustin Johnson – Could tell early last week that Johnson’s irons weren’t sharp, still figured he’d find a way to play the weekend. Should reset in his home state tournament, although his proximity from 175-200 yards is troubling (92nd in the field).

5. Abraham Ancer – Shot 21 under and finished runner-up in the ideal scoring conditions at Harbour Town last June. Understandable. The course requires accurate driving and on-target irons. Ancer is third in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 36 rounds on Pete Dye courses.

4. Brian Harman – Again, some concern he’s exhausted after a week spent in contention at Augusta National. Then again, he’s on the best stretch of his career entering a tournament where he’s had success on a course that should suit his skill set of accurate driving, excellent short game and strong putting on Bermuda. Thrived on the two most recent Pete Dye tracks – TPC Sawgrass and Austin.

3. Webb Simpson – Has finished in the top 20 the last four years at RBC Heritage, winning last summer and was also the runner-up in 2014. Top 20 in the field in SG: Approach, thrives on Bermuda greens, possesses world-class touch and played 70 very good holes last week in Augusta (T-12th).

2. Collin Morikawa – Was top 3 in the field in birdies last week at Augusta National, just made too many mistakes to be a threat. Leads the field in proximity from 175-200 yards and is top 50 in SG: Around-the-Greens – not that he misses many.

1. Paul Casey – He’s fourth in the field in SG: Total over the last 36 rounds. Excels in the wind, which isn’t supposed to be excessive but will be a factor, especially on the final three holes. Finished with a flurry of birdies late Sunday to boost his confidence. Terrific value in this spot as well since he’s missed the cut in two of three RBC Heritage appearances.

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