The RBC Heritage: The post-Masters after-party that everyone enjoys (except the big-hitters)

The annual visit to Harbour Town Golf Links is a real treat – a quirky golf course, a relaxed vibe, a fun week.

With its blustery breezes, tree-lined fairways and small putting surfaces Harbour Town Golf Links is a very different test to last week's Major challenge at Augusta National.

It is also a less stressful week - one when those who contended in the first Major Championship of the year often kick back and relax.

There is a tartan jacket up for grabs on Sunday, but it is rare that golfers who were keenly chasing a green jacket get too involved in this second quest.

It represents an opportunity for players who fared okay last week and are therefore far from physically or mentally exhausted, but also for golfers who thrive on the different test.

Let's take a look at some key angles this week and who they might favour.

Favourites struggle

Since the glory days of Davis Love III, which ended in the early years of the 21st century, the highest-ranked and most-favoured players in the field have struggled at Harbour Town.

In fact, you'd say that, other than Webb Simpson's win in 2020, there hasn't been a top drawer champion in the last 18 years.

This April, Justin Thomas is seeking a third top 15 in his fourth visit but a first top five. Dustin Johnson is making a seventh start and is still looking to land a top 10. Cameron Smith is also in his seventh appearance and has a best finish of ninth.

Patrick Cantlay has a better record (four starts, twice third and also seventh), but he's struggled for form since losing a play-off in the WM Phoenix Open in February.

Shane Lowry remains in wonderful form (seven top 15s in his last eight strokeplay starts) and also has a third and ninth from his last three tournament appearances, but how fatigued will he be after his Augusta exertions?

Perhaps Collin Morikawa has the best credentials of the favourites. He finished seventh last year when also second at the 54-hole stage and he raced home last week for a top five finish.

He can spin off that because he ended on a high, was never in-contention, and will be thrilled that his long game is starting to perform again.

Horses for courses

Love III won five times at Harbour Town. Jim Furyk landed two wins and two seconds. Boo Weekley was a back-to-back champion. Webb Simpson won after suffering play-off agony. Luke Donald finished top three on no less than seven occasions.

In other words, this is a course that suits some players very nicely indeed. Who does that point to?

Daniel Berger has never missed a cut in four visits and was third in 2020.

Russell Knox is an interesting one. He was never outside the top 20 in his first four visits, including second in 2016, but he's not been in the top 30 in his last four.

Perhaps two names stand out, both of them veterans.

Webb Simpson is a golfer who throws good finishes at a tournament when he really loves it and this is no exception. He missed the cut on debut in 2009 but since then? 11 straight cuts made, eight top 20s, play-off defeat in 2013, and victory in 2020. He hasn't been outside the top 20 since 2016.

Matt Kuchar can actually improve on Simpson's numbers.

He also missed the cut on debut, in 2003, and is also flawless at making the weekend since. In his case, that is 17 on the bounce, 11 of them top 25s with six top 10s including victory in 2014 and second in 2019. He was also second last time out in the Texas Open.

Conditional play

When we think of venues that are close by the sea, demand accuracy, competence in the wind, a neat long game, good scrambling and smart putting on Bermuda greens, we think not only of here at Harbour Town, but also of Waialae (Sony Open), El Camaleon (Mayakoba Classic) and Sea Island (RSM Classic).

Perhaps also the likes of Innisbrook (Valspar Championship), PGA National (Honda Classic) and Port Royal (Bermuda Championship).

At first glance that spells great news for Patton Kizzire, who has won at both El Camaleon and Waialae. He was also tied fourth after 36 and 54 holes on his Harbour Town debut, but stumbled back to T14th and it remains his best finish in six visits.

A much stronger all-round is made by Kevin Kisner.

He's a four-time top five finisher at Waialae (including this year) and a five-time top seven finisher at Sea Island (including a win in 2015).

He was seventh at Harbour Town in 2018, T11th in 2017 and lost a play-off in 2015.

He also won Wyndham Championship last summer and is seeking to become the fifth player to win both titles. Another six players have finished top three at both venues. There's a strong link.

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