This week, we check out one of the toughest golf tournaments for the PGA Tour pros to play — an event immediately after a high-profile, stress-inducing, star-studded masterpiece like the Masters.
The question is simple: Can players get fired up for an event like this week’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C? Or will there be a letdown after all the hype and fanfare (excuse us, patron-fare) at Augusta National?
After all, it’s easy to look past this event after the dramatic finish at the Masters with Tiger Woods winning that 15th major. And the field this week includes just 17 of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup points race.
But fear not. There are still plenty of big names here, including Dustin Johnson (8-1 this week) and Matt Kuchar (20-1). Both fared very well at Augusta but now comes that potential letdown after spending so much time and energy gearing up for the Masters and lurking near the top of the leaderboard all week.
But they likely won’t win this week. That honor will go to Xander Schauffele at 18-1.
You’ve heard the name before but it’s definitely not a name that has instilled fear in the field or confidence from bettors.
Until this year. He more than held his own at the Masters after a disappointing opening round of 1-over-par 73 that left him seven shots off the lead as he rallied for a T2 finish.
Schauffele has seemed to be under everyone’s radar all year long despite the fact he’s now second in the FedEx Cup rankings, right behind Kuchar and just in front of Rory McIlroy. He’s won twice during the wraparound season (Tournament of Champions in Maui and the WGC-HSBC event) so he’s no stranger to the spotlight.
But this event, unlike the Masters, doesn’t have the brightness of that ‘major’ spotlight.
This was just his second shot at the Masters and he improved from a T50 in 2018 to a T2 this year. Then last year he was T32 at the RBC Heritage in his first time playing that event. So if we give him the benefit of the doubt he improves each time he sees a course, it only makes sense that he could/should battle for his fifth career PGA Tour win.
But, we also can’t count out those big-name stars Kuchar and Johnson.
Kuchar is playing as well as anyone anywhere and should continue that stellar play this week. He’s right at home on the course, with top-10 finishes in three of the last four outings here (he was 23rd last year, his only stumble). He has been banking money and FedEx Cup points this year like they are going out of style. This week should bring more of the same.
Johnson had four straight top-10 finishes in stroke-play events (he didn’t make it out of his group in the WGC Match Play event but prior to that won at the WGC Mexico) and then hovered around the lead at the Masters. He’s like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going.
And finally we’ve got a semi-longshot. Kevin Kisner (25-1) won the WGC Match Play title a few weeks ago and is right at home here, literally. He was born up the road in Aiken, S.C., and has been in the top 11 in three of the past four events here starting with a playoff loss to Jim Furyk in 2015.
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