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Opinion & Analysis

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy: Golf’s new rivalry?

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When Jordan Spieth lost in a playoff last week at the Shell Houston Open–possibly in part due to an ill-timed camera shutter on the first extra hole–it appeared the public had been robbed of the most appealing story from the event before the year’s first major.

Oddly, though, Spieth’s loss was the Masters’ gain.

If the 21-year-old had been victorious in Houston, he would have moved to No. 2 in the world a week before the big event at Augusta. Instead, Spieth placed runner-up and put his energy into a dominant performance at the Masters, an otherworldly victorious showing that allowed him to storm into that No. 2 spot with a force of youthful promise that we haven’t seen so powerful, well, since Rory McIlroy four years ago.

And speaking of Rory, he’s No. 1 and now Spieth’s No. 2. For the first time in McIlroy’s place at the top, he has a younger counterpart one spot behind him.

Rory and Jordan. No. 1 and No. 2. A combined 46 years of age and approximately a billion seasons between them before we should anticipate decline courtesy of Father Time. Are we being handed golf’s new rivalry for the foreseeable future?

It’s a tantalizing vision after the week that just transpired at Augusta. Spieth shook off a disappointing final round last year at Augusta, returning in 2015 to the tune of 18-under, absolutely obliterating a course that had not yielded a 72-hole total better than 10-under since 2011.

On a layout that has long been cast as a bomber’s paradise, he dominated the field without impressive power. Spieth, in fact, ranked 44th in driving distance among the 55 weekend competitors!

And this performance only reinforced a recent trend, as the 21-year-old entered the event coming off finishes of first, second and tied for second, not to mention his two other victories late in the 2014 season.

As for McIlroy, his week wasn’t as impressive, but didn’t exactly make us question his talent. After faltering to at least one big round in every Masters since 2011, the Northern Irishman finally broke the curse, posting a 71-71-68-66 finishing in solo fourth and six shots short of the Career Grand Slam.

Those numbers don’t do his work justice either.

The 25-year-old was 3-over through 27 holes of the tournament and below the projected cut line, and summoned all of his power to produce a final 45 holes that he played in 15-under. In a way, it was reminiscent of what Tiger Woods did in 2007 at Augusta when he briefly flirted with the cutline only to storm back to second place by the end.

In any case, Spieth and McIlroy performed at a high level, and with both now major championship winners in their earlier 20s, it seems based off these recent events that the two are guaranteed to dominate the sport together and fight vigorously for that top post.

But let’s not be premature here.

Spieth’s week at Augusta was as magnificent as his score suggests, and in a way it is actually underrated. His four-stroke triumph appears in the record books as a worthy but less than dominant performance. That’s kind of misleading, considering Spieth did this wire-to-wire, which only adds to the difficulty, and considering this aspect of his four-shot 54 hole lead:

But whatever Spieth says, his month of brilliance has not been his norm, and will likely be an extended peak to his usual play. He could keep up his series of wins and runner-ups for another week or two, but after that he’s likely to revert closer to his (highly enviable) average in the short term. It’s easy to anoint during a player’s peak, less simple to do so when time has passed and the player has regressed to his norm.

There’s also the harrowing issue of length off the tee. As I noted, Spieth pummeled Augusta without using much driving power, instead relying more on an all-around effort that was most potent in his putter. To an extent this is Spieth’s norm. For the past two seasons, he was remarkably average in driving distance on the PGA Tour finishing 80th of 180 in the category in 2013 and 89th of 177 in 2014.

Spieth has made remarkable improvement in club head speed in 2015 and that has shot him up the list to 55th, and his place among the above-average lot in power may be his true spot. Even if that’s the case, Spieth is nowhere near McIlroy’s top five rate in power, and that portends trouble.

Rory certainly has his flaws, his putting can be suspect and his accuracy off the tee can sometimes go awry, but those are defects that can be mitigated through extensive practice. A lack of elite power, though, is unfixable. And barring another pair of significant jumps in club head speed, Spieth will be forever saddled with this disadvantage.

McIlroy, then, will always have the upper hand when it comes to the tools to dominate and possess more leeway to employ flaws while retaining top-of-the-world status. That’s the sizable advantage long hitters profit from.

So maybe there are some reasons to cool off on an incoming Spieth-McIlroy rivalry hype, but that doesn’t mean I believe it won’t come to fruition.

A golfer doesn’t have to be a power hitter to challenge for the top spot; it’s just unlikely, not unprecedented. In fact, Luke Donald, a far shorter hitter than Spieth, kept his reign as the game’s best player for basically a full year. While Spieth’s recent play is probable to be classified as a peak, there’s no reason to believe he won’t reach more peaks in the future or that his average weekly performance won’t improve as he continues to gain experience on the professional circuit.

Spieth also appears to have the confidence and mental acumen to bulldoze any perceived disadvantages.

And how do we even classify rivalry in golf anyway? The distance issue may just be a red herring, as some have classified Woods-Mickelson a true rivalry despite its clear lack of near-equals.

The idea of a Spieth-McIlroy battle seems a foregone conclusion in the afterglow of this year’s Masters.

But let’s hold off for a bit on a definitive answer. Maybe give some time to view subsequent performances rather than handing over full control to recency bias.

I’m optimistic that we will see a robust rivalry between these two young superstars in the time to come, I’m just not willing to stamp it into certainty yet.

Whatever the case, this is an exciting time in golf. Let’s not ruin it by rushing into conclusions.

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Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible. His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. JordanJordanJordan

    Apr 15, 2015 at 3:17 am

    A good story for the near future. A nice way to hype us any Europe VS USA stories. The US needed this win!

  2. brian

    Apr 13, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Way to soon to call it a rivalry.

    • Bobby

      Apr 14, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      Spieth is the real deal. Rory barely showed up this weekend. Not only that, Spieth is number 2 in the world. It’s a rivalry.

  3. bunty

    Apr 13, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Wont be much of a contest in hair growing in a few years time

    rory>spieth

  4. Jonny B

    Apr 13, 2015 at 9:16 am

    The “rivalry” won’t be created by the two players, it will be created by the media. It’s articles like these, and quips like the one from Jim Nance at the close of coverage yesterday that create them. I think the players (at least Rory and Spieth) have no interest in rivalries, they just try to be every single person they play against, not a specific one. So their rivals are actually all of their competitors, which makes any rivalry moot.

    Personally, I’d like to see some more trash talking and rivalry on the tour. It would have been refreshing to see Spieth take some digs at others after yesterday’s win, or even make some cocky remarks in general. I think that is missing from golf vs. other sports. Granted, it’s a gentleman’s game. But the humility and the political correctness of every winner week in and week out is why the viewership isn’t growing. People who don’t golf aren’t interested in watching it because it’s not entertaining. I don’t play football, or baseball, or basketball – but I watch because it is entertaining. There are plenty of heroes and villains in those sports, and true rivalries fueled by hatred of other teams and players. You just don’t have that in golf.

    Rory blasted Tiger yesterday by 7 strokes – wouldn’t it have been fun to hear him take some shots at Tiger’s “hurt hand” or something? Or when asked to comment on Jordan’s victory he would have said something like “come talk to me when he has 4 majors” or something like that.

    Wouldn’t it have been great if Jordan would have made some “Tiger who?” or “Rory who?” comment after a record win?

    • Fred

      Apr 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      That’s precisely the problem with many of the other sports. Too much drama. Why can’t you just enjoy the game and the excellence displayed by these great golfers? The need for drama queens and extra trash talk is very telling on your part. Go watch soap operas instead of sports. Nothing wrong with a bit of banter and going back and forth in a friendly and fun way, as I do with my friends. But come on man! People have in our modern day have lost touch. They feel this insatiable need to be “entertained” all the time. Just enjoy golf and enjoy life. Stop looking for drama. It doesn’t spice up life. It’s just needless and pointless.

    • Jafar

      Apr 15, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Golf is a good place to get away from “everyone”.

      More people should watch it because they enjoy and understand the game.

      That kind of mentality doesn’t help boxing and it didn’t help Seattle win a Super Bowl two years in a row.

      Trash talk is for people who are too scared to let their skills do the talking. And doing it right after winning guarantees your quick downfall to reality.

  5. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 13, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I don’t know that the #2 ranking point is germane to the question, is this a rivalry? It’s trivial.

    The answer to the headline question is no, but feel free to disagree. Every golfer on every professional tour rivals her/his colleagues, so saying that any one-on-one is more important. To the best of my knowledge, Rory and Jordan have not gone head-to-head down the stretch in any professional tournament, nor has either expressed any outward dislike for the other.

    Sergio attempted to create a rivalry with Tiger in the late 1990s, but that failed due to the Spaniard’s performance. The media loves to create rivalries, as the mere headline tantalizes and creates argumentative discourse. I have no reason to elevate Jordan Spieth above any other, one-time major winner. He’s not even Dave Marr yet.

    • Rich

      Apr 13, 2015 at 9:52 am

      The media criticising the media. That’s funny.

  6. dapadre

    Apr 13, 2015 at 4:08 am

    This Masters brought forth and confirmed the following point for me:

    Golf has a new darling and Im a fan. Like how this kid carries himself in all areas.

    This is not a fluke. His record speaks for itself even before the Masters. Look at his top 10 finishes and other stats and well as wins or near wins. Keep in mind he tore up the Masters after its was Tiger-Proof.

    Distance is WAY overrated. If you can reach Par 5’s in two, whats the issue. Spieth is not a long hitter, TAKEN. but he is NOT short. His iron play and putting is lights out. The scary thing is that this is not the first time he has shown these qualities (strong iron play an putting). What many also fail to realize is that he is not that accurate off the tee. During the Masters he was better than usual, but even when is not he is in contention and that is scary. A player who is always in contention is going to do well.

    That Chamblee is a moron and clearly DOESNT know what he is talking about and his tirade on Tiger is strictly personal. Saw no YIPS from Tiger and for a guy who hasnt competed in while did quite well. His partner in crime Haney is Buthurt.

    That golf is Tee to Green, period.

  7. Nathan

    Apr 13, 2015 at 12:39 am

    I knew who wrote this story just by reading the heading.

    • Kevin Casey

      Apr 13, 2015 at 1:09 am

      I’m going to be optimistic and take that as a compliment. So, thank you, Nathan!

      • Scooter McGavin

        Apr 13, 2015 at 6:41 am

        You shouldn’t take it as a compliment.

        • Jack

          Apr 15, 2015 at 5:51 am

          He’s a college student. The whole world is ahead of him.

  8. MHendon

    Apr 12, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I’ll take clutch putting, well above avg iron play, and avg distance off the tee over streaky putting, above avg iron play, and well above avg distance off the tee any day. In other words its about the putting. I think people confuse Tigers greatness with his distance but really it was his putting. Jordan reminded me of him on the greens today.

    • Kevin Casey

      Apr 12, 2015 at 11:16 pm

      I can see where you’re coming from there. And I don’t think it’s nearly out of the question that Spieth could be as good as or better than McIlroy. It’s just that the greatest players of all time (which McIlroy will be in if he continues on this trajectory) have a high majority of really long hitters.

      It goes to show that not having elite power makes it a lot more difficult to be an all time great. But certainly not impossible! And it’s a lot more impressive to see a guy without elite power on that list, because he has a clear disadvantage that he legitimately cannot fix.

      Spieth dominating a course that really favors big hitters is certainly a good sign for him, I’m just saying that the distance gap between him and McIlroy could be a looming issue. That extra power allows Rory to be less than stellar in other categories and still be at the top, whereas Spieth doesn’t have near as much margin for error here.

      You mention Tiger, and there’s no doubt putting has played a large role in his success. But his power certainly has also. It’s allowed him to dominate despite being absolutely abysmal when it comes to accuracy off the tee.

      I really like Spieth and certainly see a bright future ahead. I’d say he has a more polished game than McIlroy, and if anybody could make that distance gap a moot point, Spieth is near the top of the list.

      Just a looming issue, though, that I’m unsure of. We’ll have a better answer there a few years from now.

      • Jack

        Apr 15, 2015 at 5:57 am

        Spieth has been playing well for a while now, but his putter was just on fire it seemed this tournament. If he somehow maintains it, then he’s going to be a great. Tiger at his prime was awesome with his putter. Doesn’t matter if you drive it really long and then lob it, or drive it fairly long and then PW it. You’re going to score with a great putter.

        He killed it on Par 5’s, and if you can do that, then driving distance is enough. He struggled with it last year, and was pretty decent the year before that.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1

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Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement

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In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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