McCombs: 10 who can win the RBC Heritage -- I told you this wouldn't be easy

mmccombs@islandpacket.comApril 18, 2013 

Give me credit for one thing: Not quitting.

I pointed out last year that I really had no idea how you go about picking the winner of a professional golf tournament.

I also pointed out that those who had come before me in this job had pointed out that it's insane to try to pick the winner of a professional golf tournament.

Yet, here we are again.

Last year, I came up with what I thought was a good plan. My list was made up of three types of golfers and ties were broken with my gut:

  • Former champions in the field: The logic was if they'd won before, they can again. For the record, 13 of the previous 44 winners are repeat winners. And as the first winner, Arnold Palmer couldn't repeat.

  • The almosts: Guys who play Harbour Town well, but just haven't put it together yet.

  • The hot hands: Golfers, whose Harbour Town history aside, are playing well right now.

  • Not being what I'd call a golf expert, this seemed like a logical way to go.

    My results were mixed. Four of my 10 missed the cut -- Ricky Barnes, Stewart Cink, Ernie Els and Bill Haas.

    Three were in the middle of the pack -- Tommy Gainey tied for 52nd, Luke Donald for 37th and Mark Wilson for 24th.

    And three had good showings -- Brandt Snedeker tied for 17th, Jim Furyk for eighth and Boo Weekley for sixth.

    Seems like a pretty mixed bag. But I'm not discouraged. I'm going to stick to my system and pick 10 more guys for this year.

    Before we get to those 10, I'd like to point out that in the 10 years prior to my arrival, only three times did the person in this job actually have the winner among his picks.

    Jeff Kidd twice struck gold with a former champion in the field (Stewart Cink in 2004 and Boo Weekley in 2008), while Justin Jarrett hit the jackpot with Brandt Snedeker in 2011.

    Here is my second attempt at 10 who can win:

    STEWART CINK

    Heritage scoring average: 70.29

    Best finish: 1st (2000, 2004)

    2012 finish: Cut

    Why tartan suits him: Despite missing the cut for the second year in a row last year, Cink knows how to play Harbour Town. In 12 appearances, he has two wins and three other top-10 finishes. Among golfers with 10 or more Heritages played, Cink is fifth in scoring average.

    JASON DAY

    Heritage scoring average: 70.10

    Best finish: T-9th (2012)

    2012 finish: T-9th

    Why tartan suits him: After missing the cut in his 2008 Harbour Town debut, Day improved on his next two visits. He finished tied for 22nd in 2010 and then tied for ninth last season, proving the course is suited to him. Oh, and he's coming off a third-place showing in the Masters.

    LUKE DONALD

    Heritage scoring average: 70.25

    Best finish: 2nd (2009, 2011)

    2012 finish: T-37th

    Why tartan suits him: Before his 2011 playoff loss to Brandt Snedeker, Donald already had a second-place finish in 2009 and a third-place finish in 2010 under his belt, along with a record 11 straight rounds under par. But last year, with the No. 1 world ranking on the line and on his mind, Donald struggled early before steadying the ship to tie for 37th. Now that No. 1 is safely in the hands of that Woods fellow, there should be no pressure, clearing the way for Donald to get back to the top of the leaderboard.

    ERNIE ELS

    Heritage scoring average: 70.15

    Best finish: 2nd (2007)

    2012 finish: Cut

    Why tartan suits him: Els is still tied for fifth with seven top-10 finishes at the Heritage. His three top-three finishes show he knows how to get around Harbour Town. He missed the cut last year but he also missed the Masters the week before the RBC Heritage. This year, he played Augusta. I expect a return to form on Hilton Head Island.

    HARRIS ENGLISH

    Heritage scoring average: 70.00

    Best finish: T-8th (2012)

    2012 finish: T-8th

    Why tartan suits him: English finished in the top 10 in his first RBC Heritage last year, and he already has two top-10 finishes this season. English hasn't won yet, but there aren't many places better to get your first PGA Tour win. Just ask Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo and Davis Love III.

    JIM FURYK

    Heritage scoring average: 69.94

    Best finish: 1st (2010)

    2012 finish: T-8th

    Why tartan suits him: The guy with the funny swing is dead serious when he plays at Harbour Town. Since 2002, he's turned in seven top-10 finishes, including the 2010 title and back-to-back second-place finishes in 2005 and 2006. It would almost be a surprise if Furyk didn't win a second tartan jacket at some point.

    MATT KUCHAR

    Heritage scoring average: 70.71

    Best finish: T-7th (2008)

    2012 finish: T-44th

    Why tartan suits him: Kuchar has just two top-10 finishes in his nine Heritage appearances. But aside from Tiger Woods, there may be no golfer having a better season than Kuchar. He's made the cut in all eight tournaments he's played, has six top 25s, three top 10s and won the WGC Match-Play Championship. That has him in third in the FedEx standings behind Woods and Brandt Snedeker.

    CARL PETTERSSON

    Heritage scoring average: 70.50

    Best finish: 1st (2012)

    2012 finish: 1st

    Why tartan suits him: Pettersson has been a feast or famine golfer at Harbour Town. Among his 10 Heritage appearances are three missed cuts and three top 10s, including the 2012 win, and not much else of note. But 13 of 44 Heritage champions have won the tournament previously.

    BRANDT SNEDEKER

    Heritage scoring average: 70.88

    Best finish: 1st (2011)

    2012 finish: T-17th

    Why tartan suits him: Snedeker followed his 2011 win with a tie for 17th last year. Just like last year, he's healthy and playing well (second in the FedEx standings). He loves Harbour Town and he knows he can win here, which is half the battle.

    BOO WEEKLEY

    Heritage scoring average: 69.00

    Best finish: 1st (2007, 2008)

    2012 finish: T-6th

    Why tartan suits him: His scoring average of 69.00 is tied for second in Heritage history. His tie for 46th in 2011 is an aberration. He won in his first two Heritage appearances before turning in a tie for 13th and a tie for 12th. And last season, he rebounded for a tie for sixth. Weekley is dialed in when he plays at Harbour Town.

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