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2017 Stanley Cup playoffs coverage
It was last year when modifications to Harbour Town Golf Links were expected to draw attention, not this year. But as we all know, Mother Nature rules all. Nearly six months after the conclusion of the 2016 RBC Heritage, Hurricane Matthew bore through the Southeast. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was not spared. Winds gusts reaching 88 mph were recorded. As a result, more than 265 trees were removed from Pete Dye’s usually sleepy site along the Calibogue Sound. The second consecutive, albeit unintentional, course work was entirely a reaction to the storm. A couple dozen new trees were planted, some to retain the shot-shaping required to excel in the tournament, but it was a very different job compared to the new grass planted throughout the property in advance of last year’s edition. POWER RANKINGS: RBC Heritage RANK PLAYER COMMENT The 2014 champ added a solo fifth in 2015 and T9 last year. Five top 10s in 13 trips. Arrives this time on vapor trail of a T4 at Masters and exhilarating ace at 16 on Sunday. On patented heater. Chased the win in Houston with a personal-best T11 at the Masters. Six top 15s in last nine starts. Sits 20th in GIR and sixth in strokes gained: putting. Harbour Town is ideal for his profile as a small-baller. Lost in a playoff here in 2015. Perfect in eight starts in 2017 with three top 10s and another three top 25s. Save shoulder discomfort in Arizona, he’s been solid all season. Simply no weaknesses. Top 20s in last three starts; a quiet T18 at the Masters. Perfect here in last four starts. Second in all-time earnings here despite the absence of a win. However, not surprisingly given his short-game reputation, he’s a four-time runner-up. Also placed third twice. Hasn’t yet recorded a top 10 here in 12 tries, but last year’s T14 was a personal best. He’s 10-for-10 this season with seven top 20s. Ranks 19th in GIR and third in scrambling. The defending champion is already a horse for Harbour Town. He tied for seventh in his debut in 2015 and has an actual scoring average of 68.38 in eight rounds. Thoroughly enjoyed his Masters debut and placed T22. The Carolina native has a pair of T9s at Harbour Town since 2014. Ranks sixth in fairways hit and 31st in GIR. Front-loaded a T22 at the Masters with a field-low 65 in opening round. Five top 25s (including a pair of top fives) in last seven starts. Three top 15s at the RBC since 2012. Just off the radar since launching his U.S.-based schedule in Florida. Three top 20s in last five starts. Terrific putter. T23 at Harbour Town in 2014. Accuracy on approach is better than GIR frequency of late, but experience is strong. Four career top 10s; last two were when Harbour Town was exceptionally difficult (2012, 2016). Backed up breakthrough title at Copperhead with solo sixth at Bay Hill. Got married, and then placed T36 in Masters debut. Consistently strong putting throughout. He’s 2-for-2 at Harbour Town with a T23 in 2014, but he’s been dynamite for a year now. Also soars in on a career-best T16 at the Masters despite a roller-coaster of a week. Something will give but this is what the doctor ordered. Comes in scuffling in a big way, but he’s gone T9-T18-T2 in his three appearances at Harbour Town (2014-2016). The long hitter isn’t the square peg that you’d think in this tournament. Since 2014, he’s gone T12-T18-T6 with an actual scoring average of 69.67. Among other notables, Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include former RBC Heritage champions Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. Not unlike most golf courses, Harbour Town has little defense for the wind, but situated along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the challenge is a little more straightforward since there isn’t as much swirling as, say, the field experienced during the first two rounds of last week’s Masters at Augusta National, which is tucked into a inland hillside. Strong, steady breezes ballooned scoring in all four rounds of the RBC Heritage last year. The field of 132 averaged 72.285, second-highest in an 11-year span to only 2012 when the clip was just 0.003 strokes higher. Branden Grace’s 9-under 275 on the par 36-35=71 equaled the highest winning aggregate in that same stretch. Expect more of a field-friendly pace this week as seasonable conditions are expected throughout. This includes moderate winds at worst, daytime highs in the mid-70s and no rain. Statistically speaking, Harbour Town is a second-shot track, but everyone who has played the course will agree that positioning off the tee is just as vital as accuracy on approach. It’s just that at 7,099 yards and listing a TOUR-low average of 267.9 yards in distance of all drives, it’s a test for slashers of 3-woods and irons. Thanks in part to the wind, Harbour Town’s greens-in-regulation split of 54.90 percent was second-lowest of all courses last season. That’s not much of a deviation from its norm, but its proximity-to-the-hole average of 38 feet, one inch (T9) was measurably longer than usual. And that’s saying something given the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens are among the smallest of the season at just 3,700 square feet. As Tuesday’s Comfort Zone will illustrate, hitting GIR and a sharp short game will define the champion again this week. On an aside, with a scoring average of 3.441, the 14th hole was the hardest of the 201 par 3s played in all of 2015-16. Of the 417 scores recorded last year, there were 147 scores of bogeys or worse, including a whopping 60 doubles. ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week. MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Comfort Zone, Fantasy Insider WEDNESDAY: One & Done THURSDAY: Expert Picks (PGA TOUR Champions), Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO * – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.
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Jason Day – Rickie Fowler Justin Rose – Henrik Stenson Justin Thomas – Bud Cauley Bubba Watson – J.B. Holmes Patrick Reed – Patrick Cantlay Daniel Berger – Thomas Pieters Tyrrell Hatton – Jamie Donaldson Jimmy Walker – Sean O’Hair Russell Knox – Kevin Streelman Louis Oosthuizen – Branden Grace Brooks Koepka – Chase Koepka Charley Hoffman – Nick Watney Luke Donald – Jamie Lovemark Jason Dufner – Patton Kizzire Steve Stricker – Jerry Kelly Billy Horschel – Matt Every Smylie Kaufman – Harold Varner III John Peterson – Andrew Loupe Seung-Yul Noh – Byeong Hun An Kevin Kisner – Scott Brown Hudson Swafford – Harris English Chris Kirk – Brendon Todd David Hearn – Graham DeLaet Freddie Jacobson – Willy Wilcox Steve Marino – Will MacKenzie Michael Thompson – Tim Wilkinson Jason Bohn – Carl Pettersson K.J. Choi – Charlie Wi William McGirt – Robert Garrigus Steven Bowditch – Boo Weekley Tony Finau – Daniel Summerhays Fabian Gomez – Jhonattan Vegas Cody Gribble – Jim Herman J.J. Henry – Tom Hoge Mackenzie Hughes – Nick Taylor Si Woo Kim – Sung Kang Peter Malnati – Mark Wilson Ben Martin – Ben Crane Troy Merritt – Robert Streb Rod Pampling – John Senden Brian Stuard – Chris Stroud Russell Henley – Blayne Barber Zac Blair – C.T. Pan Brian Harman – Johnson Wagner *As of April 6, 2017