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Preview: PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Open

Preview – PGA Tour – RBC Heritage – Harbour Town Golf Links – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina –

The PGA Tour returns to action this week at the RBC Heritage with a number of participants from the Masters teeing it up in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

There could be a Masters Hangover for some of the top players as in years past. The 144-player field includes Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar – both contending on the front-nine Sunday at Augusta. At No.6, Kuchar is the highest ranked player in the field.

Spieth comes in after a runner-up to Bubba Watson at Augusta national. The 20-year-old is a good fit for this layout in hopes to capturing his second career PGA Tour title.

Donald was World No. 1 here two years ago and now has slipped to 29th in the Official World Golf Ranking. The Englishman is also looking for his first victory at Harbour Town after several close encounters.

Historically, this event seems to pay off players with specific games and familiarity with the venue. Experience plays a role. At less than 7,000 yards, this par-71 Harbour Town Golf Links places a premium on accurate driving and iron play.

Small greens and bunkers are a signature of this Hilton Head Island gem – requiring champions to be adept at getting the ball up-and-down. The layout fits the likes of Davis Love III to a tee where he is a five-time champion. The 18th hole features a super-wide fairway and the iconic lighthouse in the distance.

The ability to either hit greens in regulation consistently or show a stellar scrambling game goes a long way at the Heritage.

Recently, compact players with smart, controlled games are winning like Brandt Snedeker (2011), Jim Furyk (2010) and Brian Gay, who won by 10 shots in 2009. Boo Weekley also won here back-to-back in 2007 and 2008.

2013 Recap:

  • Graeme McDowell (9-under) outlasted Webb Simpson in a playoff at Harbour Town. G-Mac carded a 69 in the final round. Donald finished two back in third place alongside Kevin Streelman. Jerry Kelly rounded out the Top 5.

FANTASY: Start Donald. He has strong finishes here from 2009 to 2011—including a runner-up, T-3 and solo second. He was just two shots out of the playoff last year. Furyk has six Top 10s here. After an emotional Masters Sunday, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out which players will suffer a competitive hangover and which ones continue their hot play. This is a different atmosphere, layout and tournament this week. Consider an international player like Stephen Gallacher, who has played a few weeks in the U.S. including the Masters. He won on the European Tour back in February.

BETTORS: At 14-to-1 at www.ladbrokes.com, Spieth  is the pre-tournament favorite. Playing with legends Watson and DL3 won’t intimidate Spieth, but it could distract him. Donald (18-1) is overdue for a solid week and this course fits his game. He led the tour in Scrambling at the Shell Houston Open. Furyk (18-1) is a past champion here. Johnson (22-1) has value as the No. 12 player in the world rankings. Kuchar keeps knocking on the door to win for a month straight. He’s worth a wager at 16-1 odds.

The Golf Channel has television coverage Thursday and Friday with CBS Sports picking up the weekend coverage.

Other Golf News:

  • Lee Westwood leads the European Tour’s Maybank Malaysian Open after a 7-under-65 in the opening round. Westwood, who finished with a Top 10 at the Masters, is a 9-1 favorite to win the title.
  • High winds in Hawaii challenged players at the LPGA Tour’s LPGA LOTTE Championship presented by J Golf. Three players including Se Ri Pak are tied at 4-under-68 for the lead. Golf Channel has television coverage week.
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his solo fourth-place finish at The Masters, makes his Champions Tour debut Friday at the Greater Gwinnett Championship in Georgia. He is the betting favorite at 5-1.