Like many of the big-name PGA Tour pros who missed the cut last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge, we need a mulligan.
And like the pros, we’ll head to the range (or maybe the bar) and try to smooth things out and look ahead at this week’s picks rather than looking back.
The Tour now tees it up at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C., for the RBC Heritage Classic and we’re thinking there will be a little more comfort among the players and caddies as they adjust to the new normal of PGA Tour life amid the coronavirus challenges.
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Once again, big names highlight the field (but still no Tiger Woods) as players look to move up in the FedEx Cup rankings. Don’t forget the playoffs start Aug. 17, just about two months from now. The action will get fast and furious in the race to get into one of the top 125 spots in the first round.
Now that we’re back in action and have got a week of play under our belt, what have we learned?
Quite a few players had noteworthy showings that had us perking up our ears. Players like Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele along with Jordan Spieth (remember him?) made an immediate impact coming back into action.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum as many big names like Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, just to name a few, struggled and missed the cut. Now they will be scrambling to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. And quickly.
We’ll focus on the positives of last week and mix that in with a look at how that will affect our betting plays this week.
Coming into this week with four rounds under their belt will definitely be a plus as we check out those who will be contenders and those who may have had a lightning-strike type of week. Sorry Daniel Berger.
That being said, this one’s still a tough one to handicap as we were going to lean heavily on Rory McIlroy. That lasted until he imploded last Sunday in his front nine at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
McIlroy has the best odds this week (or worst depending on your outlook) at 12-1. But with his horrible finish last week, we’re going to jump off the bandwagon for a bit and let him regroup especially as this is more of a shot-making layout rather than a bombs away track.
We’ve moved our top pick this week to the new Mr. Steady — Morikawa at 20-1. He still hasn’t missed a cut in his young PGA Tour career (21 in a row and chasing the record of 25 straight to start a career held by, of course, Woods) and lost in the playoff to Berger with a power lipout (one of two lipouts that will influence our picks this week).
He hasn’t played this event yet as he hadn’t turned pro when this tournament was held last April. Why not win it the first time he tees it up?
The time off looks to have helped Morikawa refocus. Prior to his playoff loss last week, he had been a mid-20s finisher in five of his previous seven starts before the pandemic shut things down. Then he comes back last week with four solid rounds and a little more bounce in his step.
Another player to put a few bucks on is Schauffele, also at 20-1. He was a power lip-out on a three-footer (on his 71st hole) from joining the playoff. His attitude in his interview after the final round was impressive and shows he can take the bad with the good and focus on what’s ahead.
Then there’s a long shot choice this week: Matt Kuchar at 40-1. Last year’s runnerup at the RBC event missed the cut last week, but it will give him a little extra time to hone his game. Plus he’s one of the RBC ambassadors. A win here in 2014 is a bonus.
One interesting stat to keep in mind before you head to the betting window: The last four champions of this event were first-time winners, including defending champ C.T. Pan, Satoshi Kodaira, Wesley Bryan and Branden Grace.