After the drama of Augusta, the PGA Tour decamps fractionally north to Hilton Head on the South Carolina shore-line, where the field competes for the somewhat less prestigious and substantially less attractive “Tartan Jacket”.
Big-hitters, physically and metaphorically, are thin on the ground and understandably so. This historic course is one of the shortest on tour, but also one of the narrowest. It features 10 dog-legs, overhanging trees, plentiful water hazards and greens that are on average half the size of standard PGA Tour courses.
It is a course that demands plotting carefully around, which in turn demands accuracy of execution. Naturally, for such a strategy-based course, experience plays a part, with a staggering one in three of the renewals of this tournament being won by a previous winner, as well as frequent repeat placings.
The defending champion is Branden Grace, but only two of those 14 repeat winners defended, and his form is a little cold. Jim Furyk is twice a winner and twice a runner-up and can go well, as might 2013 champ Graeme McDowell. The two recent winners to focus on are Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar. Of the two, Kuchar followed his win with two top 10s here, has been playing well, and finished the Masters with momentum without having endured the furnace of the top of the leaderboard. He looks a very worthy favourite.
A less obvious pick is 2000 and 2004 champ Stewart Cink. Cink seems to have been sunk for some time, but he has bobbed back to the surface this year with nine of his last 12 tour appearances featuring top 30 finishes. Now at a venue where his strong greens-in-regulation stats are essential, and with a wealth of course experience, he can reward long odds each way backers with Paddy Power’s seven places on offer.
Recommendations: Matt Kuchar, 16/1 to win, Betfred, & Stewart Cink, 80/1, each way, Paddy Power
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