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Scouting the Routing: 2024 RBC Heritage

Patrick Cantlay - PGA DFS lineup picks daily fantasy golf

Things continue to move at a breakneck pace on the PGA Tour, as just four days after crowning our first Major Champion of 2024, $20 million is up for grabs in the sixth signature event of the year.

The battleground on which this lavish prize pool will be contested is one of the most iconic in the sport. Hilton Head Golf Links has played host to the RBC Heritage since 1969, and its iconic seaside design holds as essential a place in Pete Dye's catalog as TPC Sawgrass, Whistling Straits, or Kiawah Island. It's as close to a throwback week as you'll ever find on the PGA Tour, and if you're sick of the bomb-and-gouge approach taken by modern golfers, Harbour Town is the perfect venue.

This piece will serve to break down every key trend and statistic I'm weighing to project a player's viability in the outright market and set our readers up to make the crucial decisions necessary on pre-week betting boards. Without further ado, here is my comprehensive scouting report on Harbour Town Golf Links and the 2024 RBC Heritage!

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The Golf Course

Harbour Town Golf Links - Par 71; 7,213 yards

Past Champions

  • 2023 - Matt Fitzpatrick (-17) over Jordan Spieth (playoff)
  • 2022 - Jordan Spieth (-13) over Patrick Cantlay (playoff)
  • 2021 - Stewart Cink (-19) over Emiliano Grillo/Harold Varner III
  • 2020 - Webb Simpson (-22) over Abraham Ancer
  • 2019 - C.T. Pan (-12) over Matt Kuchar
  • 2018 - Satoshi Kodaira (-12) over Si Woo Kim (playoff)

Harbour Town by the Numbers (Off-The-Tee):

  • Average Fairway Width -- 32.4 yards; 16th narrowest on the PGA Tour
  • Average Driving Distance -- 275.1 yards; Second lowest on Tour
  • Driving Accuracy -- 61.4%; 14th highest on Tour
  • Missed Fairway Penalty -- 0.25; Second lowest on Tour
    • Rough Penalty -- 0.13; Second lowest on Tour
    • Non-Rough Penalty -- 0.35; Seventh lowest on Tour
    • Missed FW Penalty Fraction -- 3.5%; 16th lowest on Tour
  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee Difficulty: (-0.056); Second toughest on Tour

If you've been a frequent browser of my course previews, you'll have likely heard the words "short," "positional," and "club-down" more times than you can count. Venues like Sedgefield, Wai'alae, and Innisbrook often receive the label of the "positional track that largely takes driver out of players' hands," but perhaps nowhere on Tour is this set of descriptors more appropriate than at Harbour Town.

As evidenced by the second-lowest driving distance on the PGA Tour (275.1 yards), Pete Dye's combination of sharp doglegs and tight, tree-lined corridors makes it difficult for even the straightest drivers of the ball to take the aggressive route on many of these Par 4s. And with only three two-shotters on the property measuring over 460 yards, a player's driving strategy at Harbour Town often boils down to taking whatever club can carry you to the furthest point within the dogleg and accepting the mid-iron approach shot the designer intended you to have over 50 years ago.

This ultra-conservative off-the-tee test has resulted in a bevy of sub-par drivers making a career around these eclectic links. Since 2014, only two RBC Heritage Champions have gained more than two shots on the field off of the tee, and in 2017 and 2019, Wesley Bryan and C.T. Pan lost a combined 4.2 shots with their tee balls and went on to triumph. Elite driving is as deemphasized as you'll ever see on the PGA Tour and rates out well below the Tour average in predictiveness compared to the other three strokes gained metrics.

Despite this overall lack of year-to-year correlation between elite driving and success at Harbour Town, it will still be important to identify players who have at least some degree of aptitude on this particular style of driving track. I'll primarily be looking to historic off-the-tee splits at Harbour Town specifically, as well as a few other corollaries that feature a bevy of club-down opportunities and moderate penalty fractions (TPC Sawgrass, Colonial, TPC River Highlands, etc.).

Harbour Town by the Numbers (Approach):

  • Green in Regulation Rate -- 59.9%; Seventh lowest on the PGA Tour
  • Strokes Gained: Approach Difficulty: (-0.028); Eighth toughest on Tour
  • Key Proximity Ranges:
    • 175-200 yards (accounts for 25.0% of historical approach shots)
    • 150-175 yards (22.7%)
    • 125-150 yards (17.8%)

With many players bottlenecked into similar landing areas off of the tee, the second shot takes on even more significance around Harbour Town compared to a typical week. The top five finishers at the Heritage have gained an average of 4.3 shots to the field with their iron play (37% of their total strokes), and six of the last seven champions in Hilton Head have gained at least 4.8 strokes on approach.

In terms of the key proximity ranges to monitor, Harbour Town is decidedly a short/middle iron course. Nearly 50% of historical approach shots have come from 150-200 yards, and a season-low 14% of second shots come from beyond 200 yards (less than half of what we saw last week).

As a result, I'll be narrowing much of my focus onto the most elite performers within this specific range of approach skills in addition to our typical iron metrics we lean on every week (SG: Approach, GIRs Gained, and Birdie Chances Created). Notably, each of the last four Heritage Champions came into the week riding some recent momentum with their iron play:

  • Matt Fitzpatrick had just recorded the best iron week of his season the prior week at Augusta (+4.16)
  • Jordan Spieth had gained 6.2 shots on Approach in his last PGA Tour start heading into the Heritage (2022 Valero Texas Open)
  • Stewart Cink was riding a run of five straight positive iron weeks heading into the 2021 Heritage (most notably gaining 3.92 strokes on Approach at the Masters and 7.1 the month before at PGA National).
  • Webb Simpson had to deal with a four-month layoff for COVID, but entering the pandemic, he was averaging 3.84 strokes gained per tournament with his irons over his last five starts.


Harbour Town by the Numbers (Around the Greens):

  • Scrambling Percentage -- 62.2%; 4.8% below Tour Average 
  • Sand Save Difficulty -- (+0.013); 16th easiest on Tour
  • Up-and-Down Difficulty (Fairway) -- (+0.036); Sixth easiest on Tour
  • Up-and-Down Difficulty (Rough) -- (+0.080); Fourth easiest on Tour
  • SG: Around the Green Difficulty: (+0.044); Fourth easiest on Tour

This week's broadcast factoid comes in the fact that Harbour Town features the second smallest green complexes on the PGA Tour (after Pebble Beach). However, with some of the easiest green complexes to scramble around (and a distinct lack of wind compared to Pebble), I won't be placing nearly the same amount of emphasis on the green play in Hilton Head.

In each of the last six Heritage iterations, we've seen multiple top five finishers attain that position despite rating out below average around the green, and since 2018, we've seen 2 players don the Tarton Jacket whilst ranking outside the top 40 in Scrambling.

While short-game stats do rank well below approach play and putting in terms of leaderboard correlation, there is one scrambling metric to be aware of when flushing out your player pool. Bunker play has been an extremely important indicator for success at Harbour Town, as four of the last five winners of the Heritage ranked inside the top 12 that week in Sand Saves, and since 2019, over 80% of top-ten finishers have rated out above the field average from the bunkers.

The fairway and rough cuts around Hilton Head are some of the more benign scrambling surfaces on the PGA Tour -- each ranking inside the bottom 10 in up-and-down difficulty in eight of the last nine seasons. Even famously poor chippers like Stewart Cink and Emiliano Grillo have found a degree of success here by utilizing putter from off of these greenside surrounds, so outside of a small weight on bunker play, I won't be focusing any added energy in projecting the best short-game commodities in this field. Instead, that added weight will be allocated to this preview's final facet.


Harbour Town by the Numbers (Putting):

  • Average Green Size: 3,700 sq. feet
  • Agronomy -- Poa Trivialis overseed
  • Stimpmeter: 11.5
  • 3-Putt Percentage: 2.1% (0.9% below Tour Average)
  • Strokes Gained: Putting Difficulty: (-0.003); 12th toughest on Tour

Once players find themselves safely aboard the second-smallest set of putting complexes on the PGA Tour, the task becomes a lot more familiar than the rather eclectic test we've outlined in the first three sections. At just 3,700 square feet on average (and not known for an excessive amount of slope or undulation), Hilton Head isn't a golf course where players will have to exhibit elite touch from long range with their putters.

Instead, I'll be focused on the best putters in the field from 5-15 feet, and unlike many weeks on Tour, the data set available simply by filtering for the last two months is a sufficient sample size to measure putting acumen on these greens. From PGA West to TPC Scottsdale, Sawgrass, Innisbrook, Memorial Park, and TPC San Antonio, poa overseeds are nothing new to PGA Tour players in 2024. I will be drawing much of my putting data from these short-term samples, as well as long-term splits at Harbour Town itself.


Key Stats Roundup (in order of importance):

  • Approach Play -- particular emphasis on proximity/strokes gained splits from 150-200 yard
  • Recent putting form on the countless Poa trivialis overseeds we've seen to this point in 2024:
    • TPC San Antonio, Memorial Park, Innisbrook, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale, PGA West
  • Historic Driving Acumen on similarly positional golf courses
    • Harbour Town, Colonial, TPC River Highlands, TPC Sawgrass, Sedgefield, Wai'alae, etc.
  • Sand Saves/Greenside Bunker Proximity


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The Sunday Shortlist

Before the odds come out on Monday morning, here are two to three names I’ve identified as significant targets upon my initial research.

Patrick Cantlay

It'd been a rough stretch of form for our 2021 FedEx Cup Champion since leaving his home state of California, as two starts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the PLAYERS Championship saw him lose a combined 9.9 shots to the field with his approach play en route to finishes of 68th and 36th. However, a pair of hole-outs around Augusta National bolstered Patrick Cantlay to his best iron week since a fourth-place finish at Riviera two months ago (+3.92), and provided a perfect lead-in act for one of Patrick's favorite setups on Tour.

Over six appearances on Hilton Head since 2017, Patrick Cantlay has recorded a staggering five finishes of seventh or better. In three of his last four starts, he entered the final round within two shots of the lead, and if not for a plugged lie in the first hole of a sudden-death playoff in 2022, he may well have conquered Jordan Spieth for his eighth PGA Tour Title.

Cantlay possesses all the traits necessary for success around these links: a great strategic mind for navigating this positional driving test (+0.71 Strokes Gained per Round Off-the-Tee at Heritage), an elite aptitude for peppering these difficult-to-hit green complexes (at or above the 90th Percentile in SG/Shot, Proximity to the Hole, and Poor Shot Avoidance from 150-200 yards), and a steadfast short game to save him when things do get out of position (3rd in Greenside Bunker Proximity; 8th in Sand Saves).

Cantlay's putter has also gained at least 4.5 strokes on Harbour Town's greens on three of six career starts, and he ranks inside the top 25 from both 5-10 and 10-15 feet thus far in 2024. It hasn't been an optimal start to the new season for Patty Ice, but I anticipate this being the perfect spot to get his feet officially underneath him. Any price in the 25-1 range would be very enticing -- even in this star-studded field.

Lucas Glover

Already a winner at two of the aforementioned "positional Bermudagrass" courses within the last eight months, Lucas Glover's game appears to be on the brink of contention once again. The former Clemson Tiger has gained a combined 9.3 strokes with his iron play over two starts at Valero/Augusta, and over his last 50 rounds, only Scottie Scheffler can claim to be a superior iron player from our key approach ranges -- as Lucas ranks 2nd in this field in Weighted Proximity and fifth in Strokes Gained per Shot.

Glover has also long possessed the elite driving accuracy required to gain strokes around Harbour Town's tricky layout routinely -- he ranks fifth in this field in Driving Accuracy this season, and in ten starts at the Heritage since 2014, Glover has gained an average of 0.59 strokes per round off of the tee.

In addition to his metronomic ball-striking, Glover is also surprisingly adept out of the sand: ranking 11th in this field in Sand Saves and fourth in Greenside Bunker Proximity thus far in 2024.

Obviously, the putter has been the entity most responsible for holding Glover back throughout his career, but the relatively benign greens at Harbour Town shouldn't provide nearly the same test as the brutally fast/undulating complexes that gave him fits earlier in the season at Riviera and Bay Hill. In fact, Lucas has managed to gain strokes putting in four of his last six starts on Hilton Head, and with the way his tee-to-green game is trending, it shouldn't take much assistance from the putter to find his name on the first page of the leaderboard. I'd be comfortable backing the veteran at any price >80-1.



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