The Masters are done and dusted, where FRACAS pick Jon Rahm took home the Green Jacket. But focus now turns to Harbour Town Golf Links and our 2023 RBC Heritage picks.
The best golfers on the PGA Tour have put Augusta National in their rear-view mirror and headed to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Well, not all the best. Despite the RBC Heritage’s newly crowned status as a designated event, some of the world’s top 20 are going to miss out on teeing it up. Most notably, Rory McIlroy, who was once again devastated by failure at the Masters after missing the cut last week, has withdrawn from his second elevated event of the season, meaning he will be losing out on some PIP payments, as well as the chance of $3.6 million in prize money for topping the leaderboard.
After an epic final-round duel with LIV golfer Brooks Koepka at the Masters, Jon Rahm heads the field at the 7,191, par-71 Pete Dye designed Harbour Town Golf Links, where the emphasis is placed on shot making and location, rather than strength.
The challenges come from the start, with the par-5 second an early test where the long-hitters might be able to reach the green in two with some precision ball-striking, followed by another at the fifth where bunkers surround a sloping green that will challenge the putter. The name of the game this week then – well it’s much like MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays: score early, then keep it together the rest of the way, especially on the par 3 14th, which has been known to make or break rounds for top players with the highest double bogey or higher rate on the course.
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay were able to tame these challenges last year, before Spieth prevailed on the first playoff hole. But where are our best bets this time around? It’s time to turn to FRACAS.
Who Will Win the 2023 RBC Heritage? The FRACAS Golf Picks
After 100,000 simulations of the tournament, Jon Rahm sits atop our modeled win percentage.
Yes, I did just copy and paste that from last week’s Masters picks article. But it’s little surprise that the Spaniard, who tops our overall FRACAS rankings and the Official World Golf Rankings, is favoured to emerge victorious on a South Carolina course that is just begging for him to carve up, although his only previous visit saw him finish in a tie for 33rd in 2020. He will be joined in the opening rounds by defending champion Spieth and Adam Scott.
Those tricky early par 5s shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Rahm, who will be looking for his fourth win in his last seven starts on the PGA Tour. The question, rather, is what has he got left in the tank? An emotional victory at Augusta National following 29 holes of dueling with Koepka may have taken a lot out of his game. So let’s see who else is in the top 10 that make up our expert picks for the RBC Heritage.
If there’s one man who’s loved to play on a Pete Dye-designed course recently, it’s Scottie Scheffler. A winner at both the Austin Country Club and TPC Sawgrass in the last 15 months, a tied for 10th-place finish at Augusta shows his game is in the right place to succeed this week. His work on the trio of short par 3s could be the difference though – the only real blemish in his percentile on certain types of holes against the rest of the field. Scheffler goes off in the group ahead of Rahm alongside Webb Simpson and Cameron Young.
Can you call someone who is our third favorite a value play? We’re certainly putting that marker on Xander Schauffele, who you can find in the golf betting markets at around 25/1. And why not? A runner-up finish at the Players Championship was followed up by a topsy-turvy run into the top 10 at the Masters. The lack of long, difficult par 4s at Hilton Head Island means one of the flaws in his game is off the books, so perhaps it’s surprising his previous best finish at the event is 32nd. He goes off alongside Shane Lowry and Sahith Theegala in the opening round.
The 2023 RBC Heritage Predictions: FRACAS Value Picks
The rest of the top 10 is made up of the usual suspects of Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland (and his all so trending on social media shirts), Justin Thomas, Cameron Young and Max Homa before we get to the surprise package of the week. Being a strong player around the green if you fail to hit the putting surface at this course is key, and that opens up a door for Taylor Montgomery.
As a DFS play, or even on the open market, you can find RBC Heritage odds in the region of 91/1 for him to win, as well as good value in the placement markets too. A 19.8% chance of finishing in the top 10 is better than the likes of Russell Henley (5.9%) and former winner Matt Kuchar (5.0%), although Collin Morikawa, our 11th favorite overall, just does pip him (11.8%). Four of the last seven victors at the RBC Heritage notched their maiden win here – could it be a week to remember for Montgomery?
Lato Griffin wasn’t in action last week, but his performance last time out at the Valero Texas Open has certainly caught the attention of our model with that tie for 15th his best since returning from the back surgery that curtailed his 2022 season. OK, in his previous two entries to the event, he hasn’t made the cut. But with sportsbooks offering in the region of 8/1 for a top-20 finish, he should enjoy success on the six short, difficult par 4s so long as he can repeatedly find the fairways.
And if there’s one other player who’s going to pull you away from the start of the NBA playoffs this weekend, FRACAS has a feeling you’ll be rooting for Nick Hardy. Our model actually gives him a slightly better chance of finishing in the top 20 (4.3%) than Griffin (4.2%), with the sports betting markets offering longer odds to take advantage of. While he should enjoy gaining strokes on some of the courses more challenging holes, it might be a case of shutting your eyes when he’s on the 12th though. Pull through that unblemished and there’s no reason a top-20 finish couldn’t be on the cards.