Now that we’ve had a few days to process an amazing Masters tournament with the Tiger comeback win for the ages and the ultimate redemption song, we turn our eyes to Harbour Town Golf Links down in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. This Pete Dye gem is nestled among the piney woods and marshland of Hilton Head, and features some of the most aesthetically pleasing holes you’ll see on the whole Tour.
There are plenty of Dye signatures here: sweeping doglegs framed by pine trees, and some of the smallest greens of any course out there, that even the most precise of players will miss in regulation.
Wind is always a factor here, as it sweeps through the course off the Atlantic Ocean, and coupled with the small greens you have a recipe for a tough old test of golf: winning scores here have been as low as -9 in the past couple of years.
Harbour Town Links plays to a shortish 7,100 yards for its Par 71, and only has three Par 5s with just one of those coming on the back nine. Scores on these could be crucial, as they offer the players good chances to score, because not many birdies are found here… the winning scores usually range from -8 to -13.
The fairways are of average width but the rough is penal, so this is a layout that favors more accurate drivers than bombers. And with Dye’s trademark small greens placing a huge emphasis on approach, don’t be surprised to see lots of irons hit off the tee this week.
With greens missed there will also be lots of scrambling and chipping to take care of, and these Bermuda greens run smooth and true so a hot hand with the putter will be a a key to success this weekend.
Must-Have #1: Byeong Hun An
If it feels like we have been using this South Korean alot this year, it’s because he has given us every reason to do so! He is having a career year so far. Since focusing on the PGA Tour starting in January, An has made 6/6 cuts domestically, with a formline reading an impressive: 7-26-10-36-45-20 over his last 6 starts.
After taking this week off for the Masters, he should be ready to tackle this stern test and with the way he’s been striking the ball lately, he should be primed to make some noise in South Carolina this weekend. He’s only made one start here last here, where he carded rounds of 73-67-66-69 en route to a T7 finish.
He ranks #1 this season on the entire PGA Tour in SG: Around the Green, which will be critical this week with the tiny greens here at Harbour Town. He ranks #2 in SG: Tee To Green, 11th in SG: Off The Tee, 25th on Tour in Approach, 23rd in Birdie Average, and 28th in SG: Total. The only thing holding him back has been his putting as he ranks 208th on Tour in SG: Putting. With his all-Around game in wonderful condition, if he could just get hot with the putter, it would be no surprise to see An slipping on the Tartan jacket at the end of the weekend.
Must-Have #2: Russell Knox
This marks the first time this year we have featured this veteran Scotsman, and it couldn’t come at a better course that suits his game. When it comes to windy, coastal, links-style golf, there are few in the world better than this man from Inverness.
He comes into this week having made 12 out out of his last 12 cuts, carding a formline of 40-24-35-51-39-14-10-43-18-43-14 in that span, and this week should be another where he should continue his success.
His game is built for courses exactly like this, as he ranks 14th on Tour in SG: Approach, 56th Around the Green, 30th in Tee To Green, and 49th in Greens In Regulation. He is not known as a prodigious driver of the ball, so at courses where irons are hit off the tee, and Approach is key: he fits that bill to a tee, no pun intended.
And it’s clear that he has taken a shine to this Pete Dye design; in his five turns around Harbour Town, he has finished T9, T18, T2, T11, and T40. So it is evident that he loves this brand of coastal links golf and we look for him to garnish another high finish this weekend!
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