Stewart Plaid 🚤


Oh Captain, my captain

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC

Do you want the good news, or the bad news? Here’s the bad news, Scottie Scheffler looks unstoppable and has nine wins, two PLAYERS Championships, and two green jackets in three years. The good news? All of those wins have come before the second week in April. That gives us all hope we can win a bet this summer against Scheffler! I’m not going to dwell on his performance, mainly because he will probably do the same thing this week at the RBC Heritage.

For the second year in a row, the best of the PGA TOUR are coming to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to compete for $20 million dollars. Scheffler was a rookie at Harbour Town Golf Links a year ago and finished eleventh gaining nine strokes on the field. So how will anyone beat him? Well, his wife is pregnant, and could make the call to the two-time Masters champion to end his recent run. Unfortunately, based upon the way 2024 is going, this baby is going to be born on an off week!

RBC Heritage starts in...

Count down to 2024-04-18T10:30:00.000Z

Plaid nation

No rest for the weary warriors from Augusta National. The PGA TOUR rolls out their fifth signature event. Approximately 69 golfers have registered and will play 72-holes of stroke play with no cut. Twenty million dollars on the line and $3.6 million for first place. The strategic Pete Dye design places a huge premium on accuracy; especially off the tee. Unlike the wider fairways of Magnolia Lane, HTGL is tree-lined, sand covered and characterized by low country waterways on almost every hole.

I can't say we will be completely dry this week, but the forecast is much better than Augusta. Temperatures will be warm resting in the low 80s until we feel a chance of rain on Sunday afternoon. We are out on an island, so wind comes with the territory. Thankfully, the breeze predicted is mild and should blow around 10 mph all four days. That’s a welcome reprieve from the wind tunnel we all experienced in Augusta. Of course, we are along the Atlantic coastline. The weather can change at a moment’s notice. So please make use of the link below before making any firm decisions.

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Course conditions

Harbour Town Golf Links

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Hilton Head Island, SC

Nine of the last 10 winners of the Heritage played in the Masters the previous week. Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick did last year, and with the field we have, that trend is certain to continue. Prior to being elevated, this event did see some serious long shots win over the last 10 years. The average pre-tournament winner's odds in that time frame were +9600. I’m pretty sure Scottie and signature status is certain to stop that trend.

  • The average winning score over the last five editions was 17 under par, over the last ten the average drops to 15under par.
  • In recent years, the cutline average is slightly under par at -0.6. If we look at the last decade, that average jumps to +1.3 over par.

· Many years this event was plagued by difficult wind and cold temperatures. This year looks mild and with a signature field I expect scoring to be prevalent.

Pete Dye's course measures 7,213 yards for the tournament. The Par 71 landscape is one of the tightest driving courses on TOUR. So much so, the field driving distance average is 15 yards less than the PGA TOUR average. Accuracy off the tee exceeds the TOUR standard and GIRs are hard to come by. We'll build a winning skill set in the outrights discussion, but overall power is not the priority at HTGL.

  • The greens are the second smallest on the PGA TOUR averaging just 3,700 square feet. That’s roughly half the size of the greens at ANGC.
    • The field hits them eight percent less than the Tour average (58% vs 66%).
  • Only 54 bunkers to contend with, but each of the eighteen green complexes has at least one.

The details are endless on this Dye design and that’s why it annually is one of the five most predictable courses on TOUR. A good microcosm of the challenge Harbour Town presents can be found on the Par 3's. Each one hovers in length around 200 yards. As a group, they all play to a stroke average over par. Add their stroke averages up, and the total is +0.48. HTGL forces you to hit good iron shots. Even when you do, they aren't always rewarded. Getting up and down around these greens is tough.

There are some great comparison courses to study this week and believe it or not, Scottie hasn’t won on all of them; yet. I love Valspar which has the same putting green surfaces and similar ball striking demands. Sea Island’s RSM classic and Sedgefield apply as well. I’d even throw in Wa’ailae CC. Pure positional golf where course management is the number one skill featured in the outrights section.

Read The Line recap 🗞️

Matt Fitzpatrick played well at the 2023 Masters finishing tenth. He rolled that momentum into a truly complementary performance at the Sea Pines resort. Fitzpatrick gained over 11 strokes T2G and that produced 20 sub-par scores. He survived the par 3s and gained significantly on the par 4s and 5s. That recipe is the best one for success.

Going low country

Harbour Town Golf Links will present this signature field of 69 players with a number of headwinds over 72-holes.

  • Ten holes have a bogey rate over 15%, comparatively only seven have a birdie rate over that same 15%.
  • Greens are not only guarded by water and sand, but trees as well. Find the wrong side of the fairway and you can easily get blocked out.
  • Small greens are easily missed, and Dye's disaster laden green complexes are designed with deep bunkers and steep roll offs.
  • The fairways are not only tight, but they are also tree lined. They bend in both directions, and most of them have a penalty area to protect against.

Patience is rewarded at HTGL. Stick to your game plan and follow the successful skills of the last 10 winners and you will get fitted for a tartan jacket on Sunday afternoon. In the last decade, the winner gained an average of

  • Two strokes off the tee.
  • Six strokes on approach.
  • Three strokes around the green.
  • Four strokes putting.

Iron play always leads the way but pay attention to your outright selections and their short game. The bunkers here have steps to get in and out! Building a winner takes precise positional skills. Here's my list of the most valuable tartan traits.

  • Par 4 scoring - Eleven holes vary in length from 330 to 473 yards. Each one takes two good shots to score. One of the most proven indicators for success week after week, your winner in South Carolina will be near the top of this list by week's end.
  • Good drives gained - We all miss the fairway, but when you do are you still hitting the green. On a week where position off the tee is insanely important, this measurement reigns supreme.
  • Proximity to the hole - These guys hit a high rate of GIR's, but who hits it the closest? When the green size is this small, winning the proximity contest counts.
  • Birdie or better % - There's three par 5s and one reachable par 4. The winning score with decent weather will be in the high teens. Who can keep up? With $20 million in prize money, we need aggressive scorers.
  • SG:T2G - The catch all category. Who is hitting it the best from tee to the green. Well-rounded golfers contend here and OTT, APP, and ARG all count toward this value.

I'm interested in the best approach players with a mid-iron. Nearly 50% of approaches fall between 150-200 yards. Bogeys come easy at HTG, which competitors have the best bogey avoidance rate? Fitzpatrick won here last year by gaining more on the field avoiding bogeys than making birdies. Each of the par 5s fall between 550-600 yards. Finally, I'm counting around the green and scrambling skill. Guys who are great with a wedge, not only save par, but they make birdies as well.

I loved last year when a classic TOUR test received signature status. Seeing a major championship field take on one of the shortest tests on the PGA TOUR is so entertaining. I expect Scottie to be in the mix, but unlike last week even the shorter hitters can contend here. The card is balanced, and I especially like the ball strikers we have. Scheffler had an average approach week at Augusta. If that trend continues, these guys have a great chance to slip by him on Harbour Town’s links.

Outright Winners - RBC Heritage

Here comes the kid, Ludvig Åberg has seven straight top 25 finishes on the PGA TOUR.

  • Ludvig led the field T2G statistically at the Valero.
  • Then he led the field in putting at his very first Masters (and major)!
  • Åberg possesses a very under-appreciated short game. A key amongst the contenders he will use this week to win.

In four starts at the RBC Heritage, Tommy Fleetwood has three top 25s and a top 10.

  • Tenth at Genesis, seventh at Valero and third at Augusta National, Fleetwood's ball striking separates him on accuracy dependent tracks.
  • Tommy has a secret weapon for Harbour Town, the "mini-Driver." LINK
  • When it comes to win equity, Tommy has seven DP World Tour wins including one this past January.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


The first of five

Nelly Korda has won four events in a row and is by far the favorite to win The Chevron Championship. The first major championship of the LPGA season returns for a second year to the Club at Carlton Woods. Nestled in an affluent Houston housing community, we are back in The Woodlands, Texas. Korda’s consistent winning is the story of the week. Much like Scottie Scheffler, she just cannot be stopped. She won in January and then took seven weeks off. After the break she has now won three events in a row!

This championship is the old Dinah Shore which took place in Palm Springs for 51 years. By moving to Texas, everything got bigger. The women will be playing for a $5.2 million dollar purse and $780,000 for first! All of the top 25 in the Rolex Rankings are competing to stop Miss Korda and defending champion Lilia Vu.

Even though each woman will only be competing here for the second time, I am very familiar with this venue. The 2014 USGA Junior was played here. I was there with a student of mine and watched him lose to Will Zalatoris in the sweet sixteen. Zalatoris went on to win the national championship on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. Having walked the layout for six straight days watching elite players compete, I can convincingly say I know what it takes to contend on this Golden Bear design. Built in 2001 and renovated just this past year, the course overall lacks a true identity.

Chevron Championship starts in...

Count down to 2024-04-18T11:30:00.000Z

Much like many Jack designs, we have a bounty of bunkers and complicated putting surfaces. Throw in a scorecard over 6,800 yards and the players will wish they were back in Rancho Mirage, California jumping in Poppie's Pond.

  • The course measures 6,824 yards and plays to a par 72.
  • The average par 4 length is 405 yards!
  • There's nine holes where water comes into play and 62 bunkers.

The overall length of this place will favor Nelly for two reasons. First, the course is just long. Second, this is a huge housing community and an immense property. The distance players must travel from hole to hole adds up. I know all of these women are in great shape, but this week is an endurance test, and some players (Nelly in particular) are in tremendous shape.

When I was here for the US Junior it was July and unbearably hot. The weather and agronomy this week will be somewhat similar.

  • Temperatures are predicted to be quite warm until Sunday with highs in the 80s.
  • A front is predicted to move through on Saturday afternoon and early on Sunday. In total, over an inch of rain is predicted. The long gets longer!
  • Again, this is a massive tree lined parkland golf course. Winds can swirl and will be blowing over the weekend in the high teens with gusts over 20 mph.

I doubt the wind conditions will reach Augusta strength (that was wild), but it will be a challenging weekend. The LPGA’s best have a year of experience and I expect to see a similar leaderboard. Nelly Korda finished third and just outside the 2023 playoff. I 100% expect her to in position to win number five. If you plan to challenge her, you better be able to do the following.

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Course conditions

Club at Carlton Woods (Nicklaus)

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The Woodlands, TX

Who's going swimming?

The major problem with beating Nelly this week is that she does everything well you need to win at Carlton Woods. That’s why she was on our card last year and finished third. The course is just a great well-rounded test. Where it lacks a bunker or two, you'll find water. The green complexes are overly complicated, and the LPGA can stretch this contest to whatever yardage they want.

  • I walked Carlton Woods for a week and watched competitors play both stroke and match play formats. It really didn't matter which style they played, they all needed to do the following to compete and win.
  • The driver will to be a weapon for our winner. There are 28 fairway bunkers and water, but great drivers have enough control to avoid that kind of trouble. Plus, we have 35 acres of fairway and that’s plenty.
  • Fifty percent of approach shots will come in from over 150 yards. When you consider most of the greens are pushed up and surrounded by bunkers and swales, a great iron game is required. You cannot miss many greens here and contend. The average green is 6,800 sq/ft. That's large enough to land on and Jack really penalizes you if you miss.
  • Nicklaus loves his bunkers. There's a couple on this property that are bigger than a par 3. Don't let 62 total bunkers fool you, they feel like they are everywhere. Solid strikes from fairway bunkers and great greenside play will count.
  • I'm not sure why, but Jack loves to create really challenging putting surfaces. The greens at Carlton Woods are no exception. Those long approaches will roll into areas where two putting will be difficult. Combine that with major championship pressure, and I want players who have proven they can putt.
  • Par 4 and par 5 scoring are very important. Any woman who can play these par 4s even or a couple under will win. Since this collection of 4s is so hard, our winner must take advantage of the par 5s. Sounds simple, but it's going to take some serious scoring skill from inside 100 yards to do it. Scrambling for pars on the 4s and making birdies on the 5s takes great wedge work, I want skillful short game scorers.

Looking back at the top 10 from a year ago, a strong focus on GIRs is important. Those 10 ladies hit 68% of their greens. They also scored an average of 18 birdies over 72 holes. If the weather forecast holds true, give yourself a goal of 20 sub-par scores and I bet you will be in the pond on 18 when it is all said and done. I emphasized this in the last bullet and contenders from 2023 back it up. Scrambling is key in a major championship. Short games save rounds. Miss Korda won’t make many mistakes and if she dos, her around the green acumen is ranked second on tour.

That’s her secret weapon to winning four in a row. She currently has no weaknesses. Sharpen the skills I listed and let the shaft out. It’s time to perform and find a way to get it done in Texas. We all like Nelly to win, but to bet her we will need to limit our card and get creative.

Outright winners - Chevron Championship

Patty Tavatanakit has two wins this season and can challenge Korda for this title.

  • Patty is powerful, she is rankled fifth OTT and sixth T2G.
  • Tavatanakit's secret weapon is similar to Nelly, she can score with her short game and putter.
  • She's ranked fifth in birdies, and fourth in par 5 scoring. To keep up with Korda she'll need both.

Much like Tavatanakit, Yuka Saso is a major winner with a fantastic complement of power and grace.

  • Saso is a top 15 player in OTT and T2G statistics.
  • Her par 4 scoring ability drives her top 15 her top scoring average on the LPGA.
  • Hull is a superstar player getting ready for major season. She has finished top 10 in two of three starts this year.
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