Harbour Town is a narrow, seaside course where accuracy is crucial, and winds will wreak havoc on the players. These greens are tiny, the fairways are narrow, and trees in front of greens block approach shots that are not coming from the correct angle. It's a typical strategist's track, with recent winners including Branden Grace, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Carl Pettersson, Brandt Snedeker, Graeme McDowell, and Boo Weekley. No bombers in that group. Typically, the greens here are fast and firm, which creates a lot of missed greens and emphasizes scrambling ability. I'm also going to factor in course history a little more this week because five players have won this event multiple times. It's a track where you have to miss in the right places, be comfortable with your sight lines, and stick to detailed plan of attack.
Driving accuracy may be the one accuracy stat to ignore because this is a less-than-driver course most of the way around. Players will be hitting a ton of fairways with irons and hybrids, so don't emphasize that as much. In terms of strokes gained statistics, strokes-gained approach and strokes gained around the green are the two I will weigh heaviest this week. I will also be looking at certain trends, such as players who gain strokes in the wind, on Bermuda greens, and on short courses. Looking at the Florida, Georgia, and Carolina residents who perform well on Bermuda greens, you'll see names like Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Harris English, Bill Haas, Lucas Glover, and Ben Martin. The other connection that I'll mention is that Harbour Town is a Pete Dye design. His unique course style caters towards a certain type of player, and many of these players are in the field this week: Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Bill Haas, Russell Knox, Marc Leishman, and Ben Martin.
1. MATT KUCHAR [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #21
Kuchar is coming off a fantastic 4th place finish at The Masters, highlighted by his hole-in-one on Sunday afternoon. Kuchar was consistent all week, and then ended with a flurry at Augusta. He comes to Harbour Town where he has some of the best course history in the field. The past three season, Kuchar has finished 9th, 5th, and 1st here, and hasn't missed in over a decade at Harbour Town. The course fits him to a tee, and we've seen Kuchar's dominance on other Pete Dye layouts.
2. KEVIN KISNER [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #36
Kisner has struggled the past two events, after a near miss at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Overall, his form is fantastic this season, and he comes to a course and a region where he's most comfortable. Kisner lives in South Carolina and is extremely confident on the coastal layout that Harbour Town offers. He finished 2nd here in 2015, and is near the top of the field in all of the ball striking metrics I'm targeting.
3. BILL HAAS [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #39
Haas has been in great form all year, and highlighted his season by finishing 3rd at the WGC-Match Play Championship. He made the cut last week at Augusta, but didn't fare well on Saturday. He comes back to Harbour Town where he has a pretty solid history, including a 14th place finish a year ago. He's very strong in weak fields, and has a great Pete Dye track record.
4. JASON DUFNER [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #70
Although his recent form is great, Dufner's poor Masters weekend and poor course history should be enough to keep his ownership down. Dufner has made seven straight cuts at Harbour Town, but only has one top-15 finish. He's a new man this year, and I suspect him to be firmly inside the top-10 on Sunday afternoon. Dufner ranks slightly above average in all the strokes gained statistics, but surprisingly has been best around and on the greens.
5. MARTIN KAYMER [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #44
I had a gut feeling about Justin Rose last week, and I have that same gut feeling about Martin Kaymer this week. Although he played a long and strenuous weekend at Augusta, Kaymer played fantastically, recording a 16th place finish. He's a world-class ball-striker who should thrive here. His chipping is a worry, but Kaymer should be able to putt from off these surfaces as he did en route to a U.S. Open win at Pinehurst. The Pete Dye connection is here as well, since Kaymer won the Players Championship. He's in great form, and has made the cut at Harbour Town both times he's played.