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Heritage Preview: A Safe Harbour

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

As I tuned into the Masters coverage Sunday, I had a pretty good idea what I'd be writing about this week. Little did I know the theme of this opening would change several times over the following hours. It started with the obvious story line - Phil Mickelson going for No. 4 at Augusta. This is the kind of story that writes itself. Mickelson is beloved by golf fans and only a handful of people on the grounds Sunday were rooting for anyone other than Mickelson. That story quickly took a back seat, however, when Louis Oosthuizen holed an incredible shot from the fairway on No. 2 for only the fourth albatross in Masters history. At that point, everything changed. It was suddenly about Oosthuizen and whether that shot, which will be remembered forever, would actually be a factor in the end. The moment Oosthuizen's ball fell into the cup on the second hole, he took the lead, but the headliner was still within reach, until the story took another bizarre twist when Mickelson hit his tee shot on the fourth hole into the woods. A couple hacks out the woods later and Mickelson was never really a factor again. Instead, the story again turned back to Oosthuizen, who time and time again made par-saving putts to maintain his lead. Until the 72nd hole, that is, when par wasn't good enough. The final chapter on this Masters Sunday was all about Bubba Watson who lay in the weeds most of the day, but popped out just in time to creep into a playoff. When we look back on 2012 Masters, the story will be about Bubba Watson and his first major title, but that's only part of the story on what was one of the finest Masters finishes ever.

What the Masters means:

Bubba Watson: Welcome to the next level Bubba Watson. Watson had contended at a major before. In fact, he'd been part of a playoff before, so it was no surprise to see him in another one again last week Entering the week, he wasn't on many radars. That won't be the case anymore.

Tiger Woods: There are many ways to dissect what happened to Tiger last week, but the easiest and probably most appropriate is just to say, "that's golf." It's not supposed to be as easy as it was for a decade for Tiger, and now he's simply human like everyone else on the PGA TOUR.

Phil Mickelson: One shot. One shot ruined his entire week. Sure, he had his chances to make up for the ill-fated tee shot on the fourth hole, but if not for that shot, Mickelson would probably have been a part of the playoff, and who knows what we'd be talking about today.

This week:
RBC Heritage

Last Year:
Brandt Snedeker shot a final-round 64 on his way to a playoff victory over Luke Donald.

Players to Consider:

1. Aaron Baddeley

Baddeley won here in 2006, finished runner-up in 2008 and hasn't finished outside the top-25 since 2001. Baddeley's current form isn't great, but he has played well this season and always plays well here.

2. Jim Furyk

Furyk won here just two years ago and seems to be rounding into form with nothing worse than T11 in his previous three starts, including a loss in a playoff at the Transitions Championship a few weeks back.

3. Spencer Levin

Levin doesn't have the high finishes here you'd like to see, but he's been incredibly consistent in his three starts here with nothing worse than T14.

4. Kevin Na

Na hasn't missed the cut on the PGA TOUR since mid-January and finished in the top-10 here last year. He comes into this week off consecutive top-15 finishes on the PGA TOUR.

5. Luke Donald

You can't argue with Donald's results here over the past three years. He's finished no worse than T3 during that span and is obviously capable of winning this week. But Donald might be falling into the "too good to be true" category this week, and we know how that usually goes.

Players to Avoid:

1. Davis Love III

Love III once owned this event, but he's really struggled here the last two years, failing to crack the top 20 since 2005. It's a bit risky putting Love III on this list at Harbour Town, but he just hasn't shown much here since 2004.

2. Stewart Cink

Like Davis Love III, Cink had a long and successful stretch at this event in the late-90s through early-2000s, and also like Love, his game has fallen off dramatically the past couples years.

3. Jeff Maggert

Maggert had a nice run in Houston a couple weeks ago, but that was Houston and this is Hilton Head. His track record here is poor with only one made cut in his last four tries.

4. Charlie Wi

Wi has had no problem making the cut here the last three years. In fact, he's a perfect 3-for-3. But once on the weekend, he's really struggled. His best finish the last three years was T62 in 2009.

5. Zach Johnson

It's always risky putting Johnson on the "Avoid" list, and doing it two weeks in a row is unprecedented. But Johnson has only played well here once in seven tries and a good performance from him this week is unlikely.


This week:
RBC Heritage

Group A

1. Jim Furyk
2. Luke Donald

Group A is loaded this week, and though I feel comfortable with my picks, I'm a little uneasy about leaving Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar on the bench. That said, Donald and Furyk have the track records here and both played well in spots the last few weeks.

Group B

1. Bill Haas
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Rickie Fowler
4. Bo Van Pelt

Good news, bad news out of Group B this week. First the bad, none of my top-five is in Group B this week. Now the good; there are still plenty of good players to choose. At the top of the list is Brandt Snedeker, who won here last year. There's also Bill Haas, who's usually a productive player, even when he's not on top of his game. Bo Van Pelt carded the best round last Sunday at the Masters and has a top-three on his resume here. Fowler is not playing all that well entering this week and his track record here is not great, but I have a hunch he will play well this week.

Group C

1. Aaron Baddeley
2. Jason Dufner

Baddeley is a must this week, and Dufner comes in off a very nice showing at the Masters last week. Dufner also has a decent track record here with two top-25 finishes, including a top-15 last year.

Starters Round One

1. Luke Donald
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Bo Van Pelt
4. Aaron Baddeley

Outside of Group C, there wasn't really a clear choice for the starters in any of the groups. Donald has an outstanding track record, but it's not much better than Furyk's, if at all. Donald closed well last week at Augusta, however, and that gives him the edge. Group B was a complete crapshoot. I really could have gone with any of the four players, but I chose the defending champion and Bo Van Pelt, who's coming off an outstanding final round at Augusta. As mentioned, Baddeley seems like an easy pick to start in Group C because of his track record.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As is usually the case when the first-round starters are up in the air, the starting spots after Thursday are also hard to peg. Here's the plan, however. If Furyk starts well, I'll get him in the line-up Friday to free up the weekend. Group B is completely up for grabs. Whoever starts well Thursday will get the starting spots Friday. My best guess is Snedeker will get out of the gate well, along with Van Pelt, but Haas is no chump and Fowler has to break through at some point, so I'll be keeping a close eye on this group. Group C could prove difficult this week; even though Baddeley is the top pick in the group, Dufner is coming in off a good week at Augusta and has been pretty streaky since joining the PGA TOUR.