As this week progresses we find ourselves slowly coming down off of the buzz obtained over the weekend at Augusta National. Sergio and Rose put on a great show Sunday providing the high stakes drama we’ve grown accustomed to during the Masters. Although this week’s award is a champion’s jacket as well, it is one that holds far less prestige and that is much more brazen in style.
Last year Branden Grace donned the loud red and blue plaid jacket after overcoming a three shot deficit on Sunday. Grace’s first career PGA Tour victory ended up as a two shot margin over Luke Donald and Russell Knox. The victory came the week after Grace missed the cut at the Masters, making it the second consecutive year the victor didn’t play the weekend in Augusta (Jim Furyk).
The field of 132 golfers contains 19 of the World’s top 50 with the top 70 and ties playing Saturday and Sunday.
Perhaps most recognizable by its iconic red and white lighthouse that sits behind the 18th green, Harbour Town Golf Links provides one of the most difficult tests of the entire PGA Tour season. Harbour Town finished last year as the eighth most difficult course on Tour with a scoring average 1.285 strokes over par. The biggest tests on the course are the par-3 14th and the par-4 18th; both holes finished inside the top 11 on Tour in terms of scoring average.
The Pete Dye design is exceptionally short by Tour standards measuring at only 7,099 yards. Due to the pinpoint precision required off the tee here, many golfers elect to hit less that driver; not a single hole on the course has a field average Driving Distance over 280 yards.
If fortunate enough to find themselves with an approach shot not obstructed by the many pine and oak trees, golfers will then be faced with the task of landing the ball on the smallest greens of the season. The 3700 sq. ft. greens yield some of the lowest Green In Regulation numbers of the year; 11 holes are under 60% GIR, five of which are under 50%. The greens are made up of TifEagle Bermuda and run at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter making them slower than the Tour average.
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Good Drive %
- Birdie or Better %
Strokes Gained: Approach
With the majority of the success here being found by landing on these small undulated greens, targeting golfers who are strong on approach is an obvious choice. Over 52% of approach shots have come from 150-200 yards the last 11 years so strong mid to short iron players will be the ones who find themselves near the top of the leaderboard.
A field average of around 57% GIR implies that even on your best day, you’re going to miss some greens. 15/18 holes on the course averaged over par last year so golfers with the ability to get up and down and save par will separate themselves from the pack.
Good Drive %
As we keep rolling through some of these tighter courses, Good Drive Percentage stays relevant. Good Drive Percentage is a good measurement for ball position as it takes into account greens or fringe in regulation whether the drive was in the fairway or not. Much like Augusta last week missing the fairway won’t be awful but blocking out your shot to the green could lead to big numbers.
Birdie or Better %
Grace and runner-up Russell Knox finished tied for the most birdies here last year with 18 or 25% BoB while the field average was only 16.4%. Maximizing on the scoring opportunities Harbour Town has to offer will be pivotal.
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