Expert Picks for The Heritage
The Tour continues to push on with one major in the bag and three more to go. This week they will set the professionals loose on the links of the historic Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina -- home of one of the most storied events on the Tour, The Heritage. One of three courses managed by the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, Harbour Town has been built on land originally chartered as the home of the oldest golf club in South Carolina and one of the oldest clubs in the United States, the South Carolina Golf Club, formulated and started by Scottish merchants in 1786. Harbour Town Golf Links was the product of Pete Dye, a well-known and respected golf course architect who asked Jack Nicklaus to help him along the way. The two joined heads and helped create this course the serves as a reflection of the area while offering some of the tougher challenges the game of golf has to offer, including extremely tight fairways and challenging greens considered as difficult to manage as any non-major track in the land. The professionals of the PGA started visiting the area to play what was then known simply as "The Heritage" on the Ocean Course in 1966, made famous by an exhibition match between Nicklaus and Bruce Devlin, both from the area. The Golden Bear's attachment to this venue has influenced many of the game's best to turn Harbour Town into an annual visit. Past winners include some of the more respected names in golf: Stewart Cink (a two-time winner), Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, Darren Clarke, Aaron Baddeley, Boo Weekley (also a two-time winner), Brian Gay, and defending champ Jim Furyk. This year's field may be the most competitive Hilton Head has seen in years, a list of committed combatants mixing the up-and-coming stars with several of golf's most respected talents. It's going to be another outstanding week of entertainment for golf fans and fantasy owners have more than a few choices to consider.
Jim Furyk [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #27
Furyk is not only the defending champ, but he has shown more proficient use of the clubs in the bag at Harbour Town than any golfer on the Tour. He's been in the hunt for multiple wins over recent seasons at this event and we expect he will rise again in 2011.
Luke Donald [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #73
We've reached a point where historical records mean nothing with Donald. He wasn't touting a stout resume at Augusta National when he joined the fight for a win at The Masters. This week he's one of few we trust to post four days of low numbers in Hilton Head.
We tend to steer away from Camilo when better options are available – and there are names below that prove this to be true this week. However, when it comes to the visit to Harbour Town, Villegas is always on our short list. He loves this track and consistently competes here.
Jason Day [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #1
Day proved he can go low on this Hilton Head track last season and while it stands as one of few top finishes he's earned at this event, that finish (plus his unquestionable momentum and the leap he's taken in ability over the last two years) puts him near the top of our ranks.
Rickie Fowler [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #10
Fowler played well at this event last season, his first trip to this (and all) PGA event. It may not be much in terms of history, but it is all we have in Fowler. When you consider his talent and ability to compete with the best, it's more than enough to justify a roster spot.
Matt Kuchar [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #19
Kuchar has struggled to find the top of the leaderboard during several visits to Harbour Town – including one of few disappoints earned last season – but his current level of ability and his rising stature as one of the best American golfers around all but demands he make the top ten.
Els has been around so long it might be fair to wonder if you can't find both good and bad in terms of historical performance at all of the long-standing PGA Tour venues. The same is true in Harbour Town and we've seen him swing toward wins already this season.
When you review the last five years of final results at The Heritage you find one name stands above the others in terms of an obvious connection between golfer and course. Weekley posted consecutive wins here just two years ago and he's finished strong when he hasn't taken the oversized check.
Ian Poulter [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #139
Poulter has fallen out of favor with most fantasy owners since he can't seem to get right and enjoy any level of consistent performance on the Tour this season. He's made stops in Hilton Head before, but this week we wonder if he isn't grinding to find a spot for inspiration.
Aaron Baddeley [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #148
We would have struggled to list Baddeley in the top ten of anything when the season started, but his play of late all but demands your attention after you throw his Hilton Head resume into view. He has always played well on this course and will again this season.
Francesco Molinari [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #40
Molinari continues to push for PGA Tour stardom while his brother continues to build on an already-established reputation of greatness in Europe. He is up and down and lacks the history we tend to target at events like this, but there is no denying he has the game to compete.
Van Pelt let us down last week, but we'll jump right back into the circle of support for the Texan as he travels east to hit a course he has enjoyed over recent campaigns. We must admit fear based on struggles through 2011, but there have been signs of progress.