2008 Verizon Heritage Classic Preview and Picks

2008 Verizon Heritage, April 17-20, Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head S.C.Golf Channel/CBS
by Matt of Predictem.com

The year’s first Major has passed and now the PGA travels to Hilton Head for the Verizon Heritage Classic. The Harbour Town Golf Links serves as host for the Tour stop that carries a $5.5 million dollar total purse with $990,000 to the winner. Boo Weekley looks to defend his ’07 title and much of the rest of the field looks for better results after a tough Masters week. The Golf Channel brings you the early round action with CBS carrying the weekend rounds.

While Harbour Town is not the tradition filled track that Augusta is, she still has her share of charm and challenge and is among the Tour players favorite courses. The Pete Dye design plays par-71 and measures 6,973 yards for the event. A key hole on the front nine is the par-4 eighth. At 470 yards, the toughest hole on the course demands length off the tee as well as a well placed shot to avoid both the water and trees that line the dogleg. The signature hole is certainly the 18th. The 452 yard, par-4, “lighthouse” hole invites players to bail out from trouble only to find severe mounding in the so called safe area. Look for players with solid scoring stats (GIR/Putt Avg) to have success this week.

Many of the games top players are taking the week off per usual following a Major. Tiger, Phil and Vijay are all absent, leaving the tournament trophy up for grabs. As a note, we will not be seeing Tiger for 4 to 6 weeks as he underwent successful arthroscopic left knee surgury on Tuesday.

With the slightly weaker field, Ernie Els has been installed as the favorite at the golf sportsbooks. He is currently going at 12 to 1 for the win and 5 to 2 for a top-5 finish at Bodog. Els has struggled of late, with 2 missed cuts and a 75th since his win at the Honda earlier in the year. Ernie is averaging over 70 in all rounds and ranks outside the top-100 in driving accuracy, greens hit, and putts per round. All that said, Els was second here in ’07 and his 74/74 at Augusta was certainly far from a true failure. With no Tiger and Phil to press him, Ernie knows he has a good a shot as any.

Stewart Cink is 14 to 1 to win; 5 to 2 for a top-5. Cink has a win here in ’04, when the stop was the MCI Heritage and has been going well this year with 4 top-10 finishes in 8 starts, including a T3 at the Masters. Cink has the accuracy to get it done, ranking 7th in GIR and owns the 11th best Tour scoring average at 69.99. Cink is my pick for the win this week and I would bet him with confidence in Thurs/Fri matches as he owns the 4th best pre-cut scoring average.

Jim Furyk is another good bet this week at 16 to 1 and 11 to 4 for the top-5 bet. Furyk has been uneven this year with only 2 top 10’s in 10 events, but played well last week before a final round 77 at Augusta. He is ranked 17th in terms of greens hit and is solid all-around, ranking inside the top-80 in most key stats. Furyk is coming off second place finishes here in ’05 and ’06 and certainly can’t be overlooked.

Justin Rose is up next at 22 to 1 to win; 4 to 1 for a top-5. Rose was poised for a great Masters after an opening 68, but slipped on Friday with a 78 and eventually finished T36. Rose has contended here before, notching a solo 7th in ’05 and ranks 26th in scoring average at 70.26. Getting to the Saturday in good shape is key for Justin as his scoring average improves over the weekend.

Another at 22 to 1 and 4 to 1 is Aaron Baddeley. Badds is the Tour’s 3rd best putter in terms of per hole average, helping him to 4 birdies a round, which ranks 5th. Baddeley was a winner here in ’06 and had a solid T10 last year. A MC at last week’s Masters is better than face value with respectable rounds of 75 and 73.

Zach Johnson follows at 25 to 1 to win and 4 to 1 to take a top-5 spot. Johnson has yet to miss a cut in 9 starts and is coming off a solid Masters defense where a final round 77 sent him to a T20. Johnson is accurate in all phases, ranking 33rd in GIR and 12th in fairways hit, both will play well this week as they did last year en route to a solo 6th.

Brandt Snedeker is next up at 33 to 1 and 11 to 2. Brandt just logged his best finish in a Major with his T3 at the Masters, but it remains to be seen if that grind took too much out of him. Snedeker has 4 top-10 finishes this year on the strentgh of his 34th ranked putter and a complete stat sheet that has him 28th in all around rank. 16th here in ’07, Snedeker will need to improve on his 179th total driving stat to contend with regularity.

Finally, the defending champion, Boo Weekley is 40 to 1 to repeat, and 13 to 2 to notch a top-5. Weekley has made 9 of 11 cuts this season with 7 top-25’s, but has yet to put all four days together to seriously contend. Weekley is another who struggled at Augusta on Sunday, posting a 77 and a T20 finish after a Saturday 68. Boo’s game is suited for Harbour Town, he ranks 8th in total driving and 28th in GIR. Bet away on a Saturday match, Weekley averages 68.3 for round 3.

Matchup Picks:

Jim Furyk v. Stewart Cink
I could hardly pick Furyk here after picking Cink to win the Tournament, although I think both players will fare well. Cink has the edge in GIR and scoring and is the Tour’s 3rd ranked All-Around Player. Cink has the lead in top-10’s as well.

Justin Rose v. Aaron Baddeley
I like Baddeley here as a former champ against Rose and his 71st and 47th place finishes in ’06 and ’07. Baddeley is among the best on Tour in birdies per round and is lethal with the putter. Rose has the goods, but hasn’t put it together yet, breaking 70 in only 3 of his last 18 rounds.

For the Win:

Short Favorite: Stewart Cink - 14 to 1

Middle of the Road: Aaron Baddeley - 22 to 1

Longshot: Boo Weekley - 40 to 1