RBC Heritage predictions, modeling strategy: beats won

Scottie Scheffler is your 2022 Masters Champion and now the round of golf is traveling to South Carolina for the 2022 RBC Heritage at Harbor Town Golf Links.

A number of familiar names and faces from the Masters will make the short trip, including this week’s tournament favorite Justin Thomas (+1200). Other notable names include Cameron Smith and Collin Morikawa (+1400), while Dustin Johnson (+1600) and Patrick Cantlay (+1800) round out the top five on the outright odds board.

But before we dive into the different markets available for the event, here’s how I’ll approach the tournament from a model standpoint. Aside from the six statistical factors I consider, it’s also worth noting that I add two sorting factors: “fast” green speeds and course lengths under 7200 yards to specify my model.

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Statistical Factor #1 – Shots Won: Approach (20% Emphasis)

I can’t stress this enough – Harbor Town’s greens are tiny.

The average square footage of the 18 greens on the Pete Dye designed course is a tiny 3600 square feet. For comparison, the average green size on the PGA Tour calendar is almost 6600 square feet.

As a result, players must be hyper-precise in their approaches to each hole to maximize scoring opportunities. Also, there is a strong correlation between leading the field in SG: approach and end position. Three of the last four winners at this event have finished seventh or better in that category, while two of the last five have finished in the top two in that category.

For this reason, I place the most emphasis on this category, as I believe that players who have demonstrated success in this category have the best chance of winning. With that in mind, here are the top five players in this category over the last 36 rounds, with odds of BetMGM.

  1. Russell Henley (+3500)
  2. Webb Simpson (+3300)
  3. Justin Thomas (+1200)
  4. Harald Varner III (+5000)
  5. Lucas Glover (+12500)

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Statistical Factor #2 – Shots Won: Par 4 (19 percent emphasis)

The par-71 Harbor Town Golf Links is strewn with par 4s, including some very short holes that players should take advantage of.

In fact, there are three par 4s that are under 400 yards on the official scorecard, two of which are under 375 yards. Seven of the remaining eight par 4 holes reach less than 455 yards, so beating the field on those holes will be crucial this weekend.

Also, six of the 11 par 4s on this course rank among the easiest 10 holes so I would be very surprised if a player won this weekend without scoring well on those holes hence the high emphasis.

That said, here are the leaders in this category over the last 36 rounds with their betting odds provided by BetMGM

  1. Dustin Johnson (+1600)
  2. Sungjae Im (+3300)
  3. Webb Simpson (+3300)
  4. Daniel Berger (+2800)
  5. Kevin Na (+5000)
Berger hits a shot on the 16th hole on March 14, 2022
Berger hits a shot on the 16th hole on March 14, 2022

Statistical Factor #3 – Shots Won: Par 5 (18 percent emphasis)

There are only three par 5s at Harbor Town Golf Links, but failing to score on these holes will reduce players’ chances of winning.

Two consecutive winners on this course have received at least 40 percent of their final score from their scores on the par 5’s, all of which rank among the four easiest holes on the course.

Two holes — the second and fifth — also saw at least 2 percent eagle percent and at least 44 percent birdie percent last year. Therefore, par or worse on these holes can affect a player’s chances. Since history tells us that these holes are of extreme importance, I have no choice but to rate this statistic fairly high even though there are only three holes/round.

Here are the leaders in this category over the last 36 rounds and their odds:

  1. Misfit McNealy (+5000)
  2. Shane Lowry (+2200)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+1800)
  4. Kevin Streelman (+6600)
  5. Russell Henley (+3500)

Statistical Factor #4 – Three Putt Avoidance (15 Percent Emphasis)

The speed of the greens might trip some players up here, so I look for players who can not only be accurate when approaching the greens, but can also avoid a bogey when that happens.

Given that the winning numbers here have been quite high in recent years (-19 wins last year with a five-year average of -15.6), dropping shots could hurt a player’s chances. For example, last year’s winner, Stewart Cink, only carded bogey or worse on three holes all week. Webb Simpson, the 2020 winner, bogeyed or worse on just five holes.

Overall, winners here gain about 0.24 strokes/round in terms of three-putt avoidance, while a top 10 finisher gains only about 0.17 strokes/round. So while it’s not about the champion, a strong putter will come in handy in Harbor Town.

Here are the leaders in this category over the last 36 rounds and their betting odds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+10000)
  2. Russell Henley (+3500)
  3. Cameron Smith (+1400)
  4. Peter Malnati (+35000)
  5. Brian Gay (+35000)
Russell Henley
Russell Henley

Statistical Factor #5 – Fairways Won (15 Percent Emphasis)

Given the shortness of the course, the driving distance really doesn’t matter in Harbor Town.

Driving accuracy, on the other hand, is an important key figure. At an average PGA Tour event, the percentage for good driving accuracy is about 62 percent. Here the same percentage is 66 percent. While not the biggest discrepancy, there is a correlation between hitting the fairway and scoring well.

Also, in terms of fairways gained, winners gain approximately 0.474 shots/round on the field, while the same number sits at 0.398 shots/round for a top 10 finish. Again, I’m surprised if this stat determines the winner, but players should find it much easier to score when playing from the short grass.

Here are the leaders in this category over the last 36 rounds and their odds:

  1. Brendon Todd (+10000)
  2. Chez Reavie (+20000)
  3. Brian Stuard (+15000)
  4. Jim Furyk (+30000)
  5. Tyler Duncan (+30000)

Statistical Factor #6 – Shots Won: Around the Green (13 percent emphasis)

The reason for this low emphasis is that it goes against my leader factor, but I still think it’s somewhat important.

Because these greens are so small, players will miss a few here and there. And just like last week in Augusta, I want my model to identify players who can be creative with their short game and get out of trouble.

Overall, scrambling is more important here than at your average Tour event – the latter accounting for 57.7 percent, the former 61.9 percent – so there’s a small correlation to success.

Finally, two of the last three winners in that category for the week finished seventh or better. Here are the front runners in this category taking part in the event with betting odds:

  1. Shane Lowry (+2200)
  2. Mackenzie Hughes (+15000)
  3. Brian Harman (+5000)
  4. Brandt Snedeker (+12500)
  5. Jonathan Byrd (+40000) RBC Heritage predictions, modeling strategy: beats won


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