In his brilliant Golf Form publications golf pundit and tipster Keith Elliott devised the ‘Law of Hilton Head’ which states any player that contended in the US Masters should be opposed the following week. The theory gets its name from the regular host course at Harbour Town in Hilton Head in post-Masters week for the tournament known as the RBC Heritage.
The basis of this strategy is that the mental demands of trying to win the first major of the season are carried forward a week. This causes mental letdown as fatigue finally kicks in to replace the adrenaline associated with having a chance of winning one of the four most prestigious prizes in golf.
Despite some exceptions to the rule it remains a sound policy to lay any players who were in serious contention at Augusta for this event. With so many of the big names taking a week off after Augusta or coming into the event drained after a tough week it’s no surprise that players at big prices find their way into the pay-out places year after year.
The Heritage has been played at the same course since it was inaugurated in 1969, although it has had regular changes of sponsors in recent years. It is firmly established as the first event after the Masters and that affects the overall quality of the field.
Harbour Town is a good example of how courses don’t need to be long to present a difficult challenge. The tiny Bermuda greens are amongst the smallest on Tour and combined with narrow and tree-lined fairways help to make the track mainly a test of accuracy and sound iron play. All the par 3s are tricky and there’s just one par 5 on the back nine.
One significant trend is the proliferation of players near the top of the leader board after the first round having had a morning tee time in recent years. Accuracy is the most important skill so finding the small greens in the correct number of shots is important. Scrambling then becomes vital when any green is missed. Traditionally this has been a course specialist’s track, probably as the greens are so small in comparison to at other venues.
Bubba (Blubba) Watson won his second US Masters in three years on Sunday. He was a worthy winner but personally this was the most uninteresting major in many years. That is probably due to the fact so many of the star players, and sadly my tips, just did not figure. Tiger Woods, the world number one, missed the Masters for the first time since 1994.
Ian Poulter again underachieved in a major and his legacy might now be based on his impact in the Ryder Cup rather than individual tournaments. He said he could win if the played the par 5s well but that strikes me like saying Andy Murray would win the French Open if he beat Rafael Nadal. Rory McIlroy had to play with a marker on Saturday, a member of the club who outscored him.
The Law of Hilton Head will be particularly relevant in the context of Jordan Spieth. At aged 20 he would have been the youngest player to win the Masters which looked a possibility as he led during the final round. Spieth looks a certain future major champion based on his ability and sound temperament.
Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk are two experienced pros who will be looking to defy the theory at Hilton Head this week. In fact both players have games well suited to this week’s challenge but may struggle to overcome any hangover from Augusta. Zach Johnson had a poor Masters so might be in a better frame of mind this week.
Graeme McDowell is the defending champion and after a low-key Masters could win back-to-back Heritages. He is a player more about accuracy than distance with the temperament to handle the difficulty of hitting small greens. He won the US Open in 2010, the supreme test of accuracy and course management and will relish the demands of Hilton Head.
Luke Donald has a poor record in the majors, not enhanced by his missed cut last week. He looked to be arriving at Augusta in decent form and almost under the radar. However, he yet again failed to play at his best in a major but is another player with the game to figure in this week’s far less intense environment. Donald would be a typical winner of the Heritage which this week can see the famous law illustrated yet again.
On Par Profits