Jordan Spieth, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak, Tommy Fleetwood and defending champion Stewart Cink will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Draws and Fades.
DL3 scattered his Ws at Harbour Town over 17 editions (1987-2003) and in his 20s and 30s, but both Irwin (24) and Cink (22) stretched longer from the first to their last. What’s more, Irwin was 48 years old for his third; Cink was 47. That’s part of the magic of the place. It doesn’t discriminate against age.
Or relative lack of muscle off the tee.
Ranging just 7,191 yards and with 18 of some of the PGA TOUR’s smallest greens on average (at 3,700 square feet), the par 71 rewards the shot-makers among the ball-strikers. It’s not as much about finding fairways as it is paying off finding the most strategic angles on approach. But with bermuda rough, which is overseeded, extending just three-quarters of an inch high, accuracy off the tee is secondary to piling up greens in regulation. Because targets demand precision, hitting it close is the default of getting it on.
Cink ranked T57 in fairways hit last year, but he co-led the field in averaging 14 GIR per round. He also finished 11th in proximity, so it was no wonder why he paced the tournament in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
Cink also was T4 in scrambling en route to his four-stroke margin of victory. While the parlay of tidy into- and around-the-green work should be rewarded handsomely, the latter is the softest underbelly of Harbour Town. Small greens usually surrender high rates of salvaging pars after missing them in regulation. Furthermore, because the overseeded bermuda greens are ready to run up to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, which essentially is the TOUR norm, talents who don’t profile as superior putters can circle this week as an opportunity to make a dent.
The 2021 field averaged 70.332 on the scorecard. That’s second-lowest in recorded tournament history (1983-present) to the special June date of 2020 (when the course doesn’t require overseeding) and reflective of how a gathering worthy of a strength-of-field rating as determined by the Official World Golf Ranking of 481 can make a difference. (The SOF in 2020 was 712.) However, slightly higher scoring should be expected this week as the two easiest holes on the course are longer.
New tees at the par-5 second and fifth holes have extended the pair. No. 2 is 48 yards longer at 550 yards; No. 5 now tips at 569 yards after a 20-yard increase. Also, for the record, after the new expanded tee box at the par-3 17th introduced an additional 22 yards last year, even newer modifications bumped it up again, this time by two yards to 198.
The most challenging of the weather conditions will be the swirling winds that will blow a bit at least through the first two rounds and as energy threatens rain and storms that will linger into the weekend. Otherwise, comfortably cool air blankets the week as daytime highs extend into the mid-70s.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.