American Jim Furyk birdied the second playoff hole to defeat Kevin Kisner and claim his second RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Furyk and Kisner both posted 18-under-par 266 to reach the playoff. Troy Merritt, the 54-hole leader, finished alone in third two shots behind the playoff participants.
Furyk began Sunday morning T5 four shots behind Merritt before rattling off nine birdies to only one bogey to post a Sunday-best 63 and set the mark at 266. Kisner stuffed his approach on the 72nd hole to seven feet and coolly rolled in the birdie putt to force the playoff. Entering the playoff, Furyk had the decisive advantage as he had previously played in 11 of these, not mentioning his heads-up experience in Ryder and Presidents Cups. This was Kisner’s first playoff on TOUR but it was hard to tell as his approach on No. 18, the first playoff hole, was inside of 20 feet; Furyk retorted with an iron was inside of 10 feet. Kisner rammed his putt home but Furyk answered. On the second playoff hole, No. 17, Kisner again put the pressure on with his tee shot inside 20 feet. Again, Furyk got inside of him as his approach was just outside of 10 feet. Kisner’s putt stayed up while Furyk’s stayed true and the veteran of 561 events claimed his 17th title on the PGA TOUR.
Harbour Town Golf Links (HTGL) usually is one of the most difficult tests on TOUR because of the coastal location. This year the gusting winds were replaced with soft conditions that encouraged scoring. When the balls can’t run through the fairway and the greens are receptive, HTGL can be target golf at its finest. The course record was matched Friday by Troy Merritt (61), the same afternoon after Jordan Spieth went out with 62 in the morning. Furyk’s winning score of 63 was one of three under 65 for the final round. The tee times on Sunday were moved up to threesomes off both sides due to impending thunderstorms in the afternoon and that also helped keep rounds low. This edition of the RBC Heritage was not the fast and furious (course or wind conditions) that is usually seen this time of year.
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise
In a vacuum, Furyk was an absolute no-brainer this week as he was the event’s all-time money leader and has hit the top 10 in six of his last 10 events here. He’s also played this track for the last 10 years in a row so it’s on the schedule after Augusta. In those 10 years he’s made nine cuts and only put six rounds above par so the course checks off all of the boxes. Furyk also won the 2010 edition in a playoff of Brian Davis so he’s been there, done that.
Why This Performance Surprises
Furyk entered the week playing his 100th tournament without a victory. The last trophy he lifted was with a backwards cap on the green on No. 18 at East Lake after he won The TOUR Championship in 2010. He was also 3-8 in playoffs in his career.
The key reason for the surprise this week was his form entering and his form trying to close since Atlanta. His T40 at Valspar came on a course, similar to HTGL, which he had dominated recently. His T58 at Valero after back-to-back previous top 10s didn’t inspire confidence either. Last week he MC at Augusta for only the third time in 19 tries so his form was solidly in question. Since his victory at East Lake he has failed to close out the 54-hole lead nine times so Sundays haven’t been kind. His best Sunday round this year in six events was 69 and that’s the only round in the 60s so for him to ratchet it up for 63 was sensational. He flashed brilliance in his only top 10 this year at Pebble Beach with 64 on Thursday and 63 on Saturday but finished T7.
How Furyk Won This Week
He followed his game plan from 2014 but added 11 more birdies, not counting the two necessary ones in the playoff! Last year he made SIXTY pars, nine birdies and three bogeys. This year he only found time to square two bogeys versus his 20 birdies. Of those 20 birds, all of them were carded in the final 54 holes as he parred all 18 on Thursday. That’s hot. What’s even hotter is that 17 of those 20 birdies came in rounds two and four as he only carded three on Saturday. When the low number was needed on Sunday, he racked up nine of them in regulation and two more in the playoff. That’s not scar tissue; that’s clutch golf.
His ball-striking, which hasn’t been the problem, was on point again as he was T7 in fairways, T10 GIR and second strokes-gained: tee-to-green.
The club that has been holding him back has been the putter but this week he was 11th in SGP and he was a perfect five-for-five in sand saves.
After the primal scream again, just like East Lake, after his win, gamers, both season-long and weekly are doing the same. The season-long investor who decided that his almost $6 million salary was worth chasing is now back in the game but there’s plenty of work to do. The nay-sayers (Paul H.) will remind us it took 100 starts to get the next one. The weekly gamers, especially the course history buffs, will fuel their fire by pointing out that horses-for-courses are just that. The nay-sayers will point out he didn’t fire at Valspar or Valero so maybe it’s just courses that start with V he didn’t like this year!
I believe that right in the middle will be the answer. Furyk should be able to swing it more freely both mentally and physically going forward knowing that he’s still a player in the game. The second-guessing and wondering if he will again are now put to rest. He was fourth last year in the FedExCup standings with 11 top 10s so it wasn’t like he didn’t deliver. Interestingly enough he started last year T35-T23-T5-T62 before rattling off T23 or better over his final 17 starts. Gamers will need to keep an eye on the putter as that’s the club that is going to determine his success moving forward.
With This Win
Furyk becomes the fourth-winningest player under the age of 50 on TOUR with 17. He trails Tiger Woods, 79, Phil Mickelson, 42, and Ernie Els with 19. He also becomes the oldest winner on TOUR, 44, since Woody Austin, 49, won the 2013 Sanderson Farms Classic.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA continues its dominance this year. Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb, Ben Martin, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn (born in Korea; US citizen), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Matt Every, Walker again, J.B. Holmes, Spieth again and Furyk are the USA champs. Alex Cejka (Germany), Paddy Harrington (Ireland), Sangmoon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada) and Jason Day (Australia) are the five international winners in the first 23 events.
Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore, Walker and now Spieth have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker and Spieth are the only persons on BOTH sides of his list. Walker couldn’t close out at HTOC but came back and won the following week at Sony. Spieth, who was 0-4 with the 54-hole lead in his career on TOUR, couldn’t hold out at SHO before winning the Masters. Merritt, who sat on the 36-and-54-hole lead for the first time in his career, will gain some valuable experience after this week.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 23 events in 2015, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Koepka, Hahn and Cejka have made their breakthroughs. Kevin Kisner gave it a hell of shot this week but came up just short.
Boo Weekley remains the last player to win in their first attempt at HTGL. Louis Oosthuizen was T7 to lead that parade this year but he’s a major champion. Young Aussie Cameron Smith poked his head up again with T15. #Noted Weekly remains the last first-time winner on TOUR at this event with his win in 2007.
Furyk makes it six winners in their 40s but Hale Irwin, 48, still is the oldest to win it.
No winner has put all four rounds in the 60s since Furyk in 2010. This year half of the top 10 did and included P2, third, fifth, T7, T9 and T9. #wentlow
Furyk becomes the 10th multiple winner at this event. He’ll need three more to catch leader Davis Love III.
For the 22nd year in a row, the defending champion made the cut as Kuchar finished fifth.
Furyk missed the tournament record by two shots as Brian Gay inexplicably ran up 264 in 2009 to win by 10 shots. Remember, the average winning score over the last 10 years was around 13-under so the weather and course conditions were a major player this week.
Since 1983 only six winners at HTGL have NOT teed it up at Augusta. #Trend
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist. GET OFF MY VIAGRA.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 at SFC. Reed joined the party at a whopping 24 at HTOC followed by Koepka, 25 in Phoenix and Jason Day, 27, at Torrey Pines. Spieth, who turns 22 on 29 July, won at Valspar and Augusta kept the youngsters in the spotlight this week with his green jacket in tow. The youngsters have eight winners in 23 events this year.
Dustin Johnson (30), James Hahn (33), Brandt Snedeker (34), Bill Haas (32), Jimmy Walker TWICE (36), Charley Hoffman (37), Bubba Watson (36), Ryan Moore (31), Matt Every (31) and J.B. Holmes (32) are the prime time guys with silverware (30-39 years).
The old guys (40-and-over) are happy to welcome Furyk, 44, to Paddy Harrington and Alex Cejka as representatives in their smallish club in 2015.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week.
Kevin Kisner: The South Carolina native entered the week at No. 257 in the OWGR and had played two of six rounds here at par or better in two attempts on this track. His last top 10 was T4 last fall just down the Intercostal Waterway at McGladrey so he’s now a qualified region rat! Since that T4 the former Georgia Bulldog has teed it up 11 times and the results haven’t caught gamers’ eyes. He has one WD, five MCs and one finish inside T49 and that was T26 at Valero. This week he fired his low round of the year, 64, at the best time possible to get into the playoff, his first ever. That experience won’t hurt down the road as his ball-striking continues to improve on an already sharp short game. This week it was the ball-striking that was the difference as he was third in fairways and T8 GIR to lead the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He only made three bogeys on the week while ranking 25th in SGP. This was career start No. 90 and his sixth top 10 yet best finish ever. His P2 takes him over the $1 million mark for the first time in four years on TOUR so he’s covered for 2016. He shown his worth in this part of the country and the next step is getting his game to travel. He’s No. 133 in the all-around ranking so I’ll maintain a wait-and-see in the week-to-week events; Season-long gamers are already reaping the benefits based on two finishes.
Troy Merritt: I suggested that Valspar and HTGL could pose a correlation this week because of the difficult driving conditions. Merritt added credibility to that theory as his best finish in 13 prior events this season was solo sixth at Innisbrook. He led after 36 and 54 holes for the first time in his career and that was backed by a course-record-tying 61 on Friday. Like Kisner he stuck all four rounds in the 60s for the week. He only made two bogeys but it was the two doubles (one from the fairway) that he’ll look back on for guidance. He entered the week fourth on TOUR in SGP and 155th SGT-T-G. This week he was fifth in GIR and third SGTTG. He was ninth in putts per GIR so that didn’t hurt either. This was his 86th start and fourth top 10. This is also his second one in his last four events so his confidence and checkbook should be ballooning. His best finish is second and that was FESJC last May. #noted
Brendon Todd: Make it six of his last seven T30 or better on TOUR with his only MC last week at Augusta. He’s now played 10 rounds here and six of them are par or better including his final three this week (66-63-67). He was T1 in birdies with 23 and his all-around solid game was on display as he finished fourth. He was 10th in both SGTTG and SGP. This was his second top 10 of 2015 and he’s made 10 of 12 cuts as he tries to back up his breakout season of 2014. His 63 on Saturday was his low round of the year and T3 lowest of the week (Merritt 61, Spieth 62).
Matt Kuchar: With three lip-outs on Sunday Kuchar didn’t have the luck on his side to try and win back-to-back titles. He did exactly what gamers hoped a defending champion to do and that was to provide stability to the weekly lineup and solo fifth qualifies. This was his first back-to-back finish in the top 10 in 12 starts at HTGL and his first trip to the top 10 since Humana. His ball-striking didn’t register in the top 20 but it was nice to see his putter return to form as he was fifth in SGP and seventh in putts per GIR.
Sean O’Hair: The man who lost in a playoff to Spieth at Valspar finds himself back in the top 10 again this week with solo sixth. I’m seeing a bit of a trend here with the Valspar-HTGL connection again this year. O’Hair began the day T20 but his 64 moved him into the top 10. In six previous events here he MC four times and posted solo seventh and solo 68th. Like Merritt, he stacks up another top 10 in his last four starts on TOUR. Unlike Merritt, he used his normally trusty putter to butter his bread this week as he hit it all over the shop. He was fourth in SGP and second in putts per GIR. I’ll take the guy who did what he does best down the road instead of the anomaly. With almost $1 million in the bank, O’Hair knows he’s keeping his card for next year. I like that moving forward as he’s won before and knows what it takes to be in the hunt.
Louis Oosthuizen: I was one of many who wrote off the first-timer here and will pay the price. In seven events this season when he hasn’t WD prior, he’s now made five weekends. All of those are T25 and three are in the top 10 including T7 this week. The 2010 Open Champion at St. Andrews was T62 in fairways but T6 GIR for the week. He made 19 birdies and an eagle on the week. Not bad for the first time playing here. As usually the case, his health is the most important part of his sweet-swinging game and there are currently no issues on the table. There’s plenty of risk but there has also been plenty of reward lately.
Branden Grace: Another first timer, another South African, another top 10 on the week as he also finished T7. He entered our radar in 2015 at Doral in his run-up to Augusta. He finished 54th. His T62 at Bay Hill, T30 at Valero and MC last week at the Masters hardly pointed me in his direction. He didn’t have a round of 60 on his card this season before closing 67-66-69 this week. Ok, then.
Morgan Hoffmann: Wrong Hoffman in the top 10 this week for OAD players and current form players. Welcome to fantasy golf! The 36-hole leader at API finished solo fourth and then was T28 on his Augusta debut so current form would have been an angle here he adds T9 to a very steady three tournament run. His run of form stretches back to Riviera where he was T22 and T17 at Doral. He had two top 10s in 2014 in 32 events. He has two this year in 12. #ArrowUpDawg
Bo Van Pelt: He adds his name to the list of veteran players that found the cure that ailed them this week. After three T13 or better including two top 10s from 2007-2010, BVP had MC-MC-T71-T48 in his last four at HTGL entering the week. His T9 this week is his first since JDC last July. This was his third top 10 in three years after he racked up 10 in 2012. Welcome back, BVP!
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Jordan Spieth: What a chop. He opened with 74 and finished T11. Some champion of the first major!
Patrick Reed: All good things come to an end as Reed MC for the first time since The Open last summer, a run of 18 events. It’s time to start a new streak.
Charley Hoffman: Even par was T31 here last year. This year it was T64. Hoffman’s only round over par was Sunday’s 72. His string of T11-T11-T9 ends with my OAD winning $12,508.
Ian Poulter: He made 20 birdies this week and finished T18 so another very steady week for the Englishman. He only made five bogeys on the week but added two doubles and a triple. All four rounds were 70 or less so his very solid 2015 rolls on. This was his best finish in five at HTGL and has played all five weekends.
Zach Johnson: His form suggested a turnaround after his 68-68 weekend at Augusta but he missed the weekend after 73-75 this week. He hit less than 50% of GIR and made three birdies. I went back to 2010 and couldn’t find a LISTED tournament that showed him missing more than half of his GIR for a week. Hey, if you’re gonna bomb out, BOMB OUT. Sigh.
Matt Kuchar: Solo fifth, see above.
Russell Henley: His streak of 15 tournaments in a row crashed out as well after he hit less than 50% of GIR like Johnson. He continues his all-or-nothing in his early years at HTGL (T6-MC-MC).
Daniel Summerhays: His T60 makes it seven straight cuts so his solid play continues. He posted three rounds under par for the first time in four starts and this was his first time with more than one.
Webb Simpson: His ball-striking and par-five dominance were on point but it’s the putter again that’s the club in the bag causing problems. After T7 at Doral he’s backed that with T43-T28 and T51 this week.
Pat Perez: His T26 in his worst finish in four at HTGL after T18 the last two years and T6 in 2011. A very solid week with all four rounds at par or better but his 70 on Sunday stalled him out on a day when scoring was on the cards.
Jason Kokrak: His 72-70 got him to the weekend and his bogey-free 65 plus his 69 Saturday moved him to T18. His 2015 turned around at Valspar with T7 and four of his last five finishes have been T18 or better. Steady as she goes.
Kevin Streelman: I knew this pick was toast after he posted a picture on Twitter of his daughter passed out in the car. Something like “this is how we all feel after last week”. He entered Sunday T20 but 75 proved his prophecy to be correct. He finished T55. He’s played five of the last six tournaments on TOUR and has played the weekend in all of them.
Brendon de Jonge: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: de Jonge begins Sunday in the top 10, ends day outside of it. He was T7 in fairways and T54 GIR yet T18 in a vacuum is a very solid payday.
Brandt Snedeker: He’ll look back on his opening round 77 and wonder what that was about as he played the rest of the week 13-under. He fired 64 on Friday to make the cut and I like that after a tough week at Augusta. He was T26 after 67-69 on the weekend and was SECOND in SGP. Don’t ask how many GIR he hit… (T69).
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at Zurich Classic plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.