10 Players to Watch: RBC Heritage

  1. Brandt Snedeker, United States — Fighting back from injuries, Snedeker is third in the FedEx Cup standings thanks to five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. After he tied for third in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and lost to Fabian Gomez of Argentina in a playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii, he won the Farmers Insurance Open, tied for ninth in the WGC-Dell Match Play and tied for 10th last week in the Masters. He is making his 11th appearance in the RBC Heritage, which he won in 2011 for one of his eight victories on the PGA Tour. Snedeker closed with a 7-under-par 64 and beat Luke Donald of England with a par on the third playoff hole. His next-best result at Harbour Town was a tie for 16th in 2009.
  1. Jason Day, Australia — Following a tie for 10th as the favorite in the Masters, when he was steady but not spectacular, the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings has finished in the top 10 four times this year. He failed to break 70 at Augusta National after claiming back-to-back victories in his previous two starts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Match Play. Day hopes to challenge for a third victory this year when he plays for the fourth time at Harbour Town this week. Day’s best result on Hilton Head Island was a tie for ninth in 2009, when he was in the hunt after starting with 69-65 but slid back by playing the weekend in 71-72.
  1. Paul Casey, England — One of several Englishmen who challenged at the Masters before countryman Danny Willett claimed the title, Casey tied for fourth at Augusta after overcoming a stomach virus. He has three top-10 results in his past four starts on the PGA Tour. Casey is playing well after giving up his membership on the European Tour this season to concentrate on playing in the United States, having finished seventh in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and tied for ninth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Casey is making his fourth start at Harbour Town, having finished in the top 25 each previous time, posting a tie for 11th in 2009, a tie for 22nd in 2010 and a tie for 18th in 2014.
  1. Zach Johnson, United States — Johnson, who captured the Open Championship last year at St. Andrews, will try to bounce back from a missed cut in the Masters when he plays in the RBC Heritage for the 12th time. He came close to winning at Harbour Town on 2012, when he moved into contention by shooting 68-66 in the middle rounds before closing with a 1-under-par 70 to finish solo second, five strokes behind runaway winner Carl Pettersson of Sweden, who went to North Carolina State and still lives in the Carolinas. Johnson seemed to be heating up before the first major of the year with by finishing solo fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tying for ninth in the WGC-Dell Match Play before he shot 72-80–152 at Augusta.
  1. Matt Kuchar, United States — Kuchar is making his 13th appearances at Harbour Town. After mostly so-so results in the first 10, he shot 7-under-par 64 in the final round two years ago to win by one stroke over Luke Donald by holing a dramatic a bunker shot on the 18th hole in front of the iconic candy-striped lighthouse. That was the last of his seven victories on the PGA Tour. He finished fifth in his title defense last year, posting four scores in the 60s to wind up four shots out of the playoff in which Jim Furyk beat Kevin Kisner. Kuchar’s best result this year was a tie for eighth in the Northern Trust Open. He also tied for ninth in the WGC-Dell Match play before tying for 24th in the Masters.
  1. Matthew Fitzpatrick, England — The 21-year-old Fitzpatrick, who won the British Masters last year after winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur, was another of the Brits who played well in the Masters last week, recording a tie for seventh at Augusta National, his first top-10 finish in a major championship. He has shown an ability to stand out on the big stage, also tying for seventh in the WGC-HSBC Champions last November in China. Fitzpatrick, who had a short stint at Northwestern before deciding to turn pro, is playing in the RBC Heritage for the second time. Two years ago while still an amateur, he shot par or better in all four rounds and wound up in a tie for 23rd.
  1. Kevin Kisner, United States — Kisner lost three times in playoffs last year, including to Jim Furyk on the second extra hole in the RBC Heritage, before finally breaking through for his first victory on the PGA Tour in the RSM Classic last November in the early stages of the 2015-16 season. He has recorded three other top-10 finishes on the circuit this season, including second in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, solo ninth in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a tie for fifth at the Sony Open in Hawaii, before managing a tie for 37th in his first Masters. Last year at Harbour Town, he posted four scores in the 60s, including 7-under-par 64 in the final round, to get into the playoff with Furyk.
  1. Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland — McDowell will try to bounce back from three missed cuts in his last four outings, including the Masters, when he plays in the RBC Heritage for the sixth time. He claimed one of his three PGA Tour victories when he won at Harbour Town three years ago, opening with an even-par 71 before reeling off scores of 67-68-69, and then beat Webb Simpson with a par on the first playoff hole. McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, needs to regain his form from early this season, when he won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in a playoff over Russell Knox of Scotland and Jason Bohn, finished third in the RSM Classic and finished solo fifth in the Honda Classic.
  1. Billy Horschel, United States — Coming off a tie for 17th in the Masters, in which a second-round 77 took him out of contention, Horschel still is trying to regain the form that took him to victories in the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship in 2014 to wrap up the FedEx Cup. He also won the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans for the first of his three PGA Tour victories, but he hasn’t won since claiming the finale two years ago at East Lake in Atlanta. His best finishes this season were ties for eighth in both the Farmers Insurance Open and the Honda Classic. Horschel is playing in the RBC Heritage for the fourth time, with his best result a tie for ninth in 2013, when he shot 68-68 in the middle rounds.
  1. Bryson DeChambeau, United States — After a strong showing in the Masters, where he finished in a tie for 21st as low amateur, DeChambeau makes his pro debut this week in the RBC Heritage. He was only one stroke out of the lead at Augusta National before making a triple-bogey 7 on the last hole of the second round to finish the second of his three 72s, but his 77 the next day took him out of contention in his second major championship. He missed the cut in the U.S. Open last year. DeChambeau joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore as the only players to win the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year, accomplishing the feat in 2015, and he tied for second last November in the Australian Masters as an amateur behind Peter Senior.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom :LaMarre

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