The Law of Hilton Head applies this week and states that any player that was in contention at the US Masters must be opposed in the following week. The RBC Heritage has a regular date in the calendar in the week after the first major of the season. The players that are prominent in the betting played at Augusta National last Sunday so there could be some value in backing players at big odds. Luke Donald is a former world number one with an excellent bank of course form.
The tournament was known as the Heritage Classic for many years and it’s now sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada. It was first played in 1969 and the host course has always been Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head. The mid-April date means the field is generally moderate because the better players rest in the week after a major. World number one Dustin Johnson is an exception but he didn’t feel the heat of contending over the last round of a major at the Masters.
The course is relatively short and measures less than 7,100 yards and has a par of 71, made up of nines of 36 and 35. There are the usual quota of par 3s and par 4s but only one par 5 on the back nine. The venue is primarily a test of accuracy with some of the smallest greens on tour placing a premium on sound iron play. As a seaside location it is exposed if the wind is blowing when scores increase.
The Heritage is one of five PGA tournaments that has invitational status. There is reduced field of 132 players and no qualifying. The top 50 players in the world ranking get an optional place invite and PGA tournament winners are also invited. Ian Poulter won the Houston Open two weeks ago and now has full exempt status until the end of the 2020 season and has taken up his place. After some injury problems Poulter is now in the great position of picking and choosing where he plays for the best part of three years.
Masters contenders should be opposed due to the significant demands, especially mentally, of being in serious contention in the season’s first major. Mental letdown and reduced concentration can then apply. Harbour Town is very different to Augusta. In the US Masters the players face large, lightning-fast greens whereas in the Heritage the greens are less contoured, not as quick and much smaller. Donald never really got to grips with Augusta but he has been second five times at Hilton Head.
Donald’s rise to the summit of the world game was based on sound course management and excellent putting. At his best he was a leading contender for the majors but has never figured in the four tournaments that matter most. Donald has played in 54 majors and recorded just five top fives which is a poor record from somebody who was ranked the best player in the world. In 2011 Donald was the number one player on the PGA and European Tours and that was a first.
Despite winning 17 professional tournaments Donald has slumped to 196 in the world rankings. He has received an invitation based on his tournament form and not anything he has achieved over the last few years. Even during his slump Donald has been the runner-up for the last two years in the Heritage. Donald’s Ryder Cup team mate, Poulter, gave his career a tremendous boost by winning the Houston Open and Donald would do the same thing if he won the RBC Heritage this week.