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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Kisner can set sail to the top of Harbour Town leaderboard

Local man full of control and putting touch

Kevin Kisner plays a shot from a bunker during the Arnold Palmer Invitational
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Sky Sports 4, 8pm Thursday
Event starts midday

Palmer's top tip
Kevin Kisner 25-1
Three players who made the cut at The Masters without contending can battle it out for the Heritage title at the wonderful Harbour Town Links this week.

The Heritage moved to a post-Masters position on the US Tour schedule in 1983 and since then only six players have won the tournament without spending the previous week at Augusta.

The ideal Heritage warm-up appears to be competing in the Masters without getting into the thick of things.

Kevin Kisner was disappointed with his share of 43rd place in the Masters – he said his target was the Green Jacket – and this cocksure local man will have the same attitude at the Heritage. And he will know that the course suits him much better than Augusta.

Harbour Town Links is made for players like Kisner, who are precise from tee to green, and scramble well. The 33-year-old, who was born in South Carolina and still lives there, has described Harbour Town as one of his favourite courses and a venue where he feels he can win multiple times.

Those words were backed up by a fantastic effort in 2015, when he fired a final-round 64 to force a Heritage playoff with Jim Furyk, eventually being denied a maiden US Tour title by a Furyk birdie on the second extra hole.

Kisner got off the mark seven months later with a six-shot RSM Classic success on a course which bears similarities to Harbour Town, reaching a career-high of 14th in the world rankings with another bright performance by the sea (fifth in the Sony Open) at the start of the following year.

The remainder of 2016 was nothing to write home about – Kisner rested on his laurels – but he has started this year in determined fashion.

Fourth place in the Sony was followed by tenth at Pebble Beach and 11th in Mexico, then Arnold Palmer Invitational glory was at his mercy next time out.

Kisner swaggered up the 12th fairway in the final round of the Arnold Palmer leading by four shots, but a pulled approach shot changed the direction of the tournament.

Kisner suffered some bad breaks coming home, was pipped by a fast-finishing Marc Leishman, and had to settle for second place. He did not do a lot wrong and can register an overdue second Tour triumph on Sunday.

Next best
Matthew Fitzpatrick 35-1
Sheffield lad Matthew Fitzpatrick has seen plenty of wonderful golf courses in his short yet glorious career, but the Harbour Town Links tops his list.

He says Harbour Town is his favourite place on the planet and he adores the Links. That passion for the track should translate to a strong performance over the next four days.

Fitzpatrick signed for a Nick Faldo-like scorecard on his Heritage debut in 2014, making 18 consecutive pars in his final round.

Three rounds of par and a third-round 69 left him in 23rd spot. On his return last year, he missed the cut by a shot, perhaps jaded from finishing seventh at Augusta the previous week.

Fitzpatrick's skills-set is perfect for Harbour Town and a mid-division Masters effort leaves plenty of fire in the belly.

The sweet-swinging 22-year-old has been playing nicely for most of this year and could be rewarded with a US Tour breakthrough.

Other selection
Russell Henley 25-1
Complete a three-pronged attack with Houston Open champion Russell Henley, who finished 11th in the Masters on Sunday.

This fine talent turns 28 today with three Tour victories and three US Tour victories under his belt. A fourth top-flight trophy on Sunday is entirely feasible.

Henley has lived in South Carolina since 2012, so knows Harbour Town well, and he finished sixth on his Heritage debut in 2013.

Having sprinted away from the field in Houston the week before last with a putting masterclass, there must be every chance of a follow-up success in his adopted home state.

Henley is absolutely loving his Titleist equipment, having switched from Nike over New Year.

Others to note
Martin Kaymer
The dual Major champion is a hugely tempting option after final-round fireworks secured by far his best Masters finish on Sunday. He won the 2014 US Open in North Carolina.

Pat Perez
The resurgent 41-year-old has performed well at Harbour Town in the distant past and must be considered after his rapid recent rise up the world rankings (from 333rd to 57th in 12 events).

Bill Haas
The former FedEx Cup champion was born in North Carolina and lives in the South. He is enjoying a decent 2017 campaign, including third place in the WGC-Match Play.

Brandt Snedeker
The 2011 Heritage champion has failed to impress at Harbour Town since (17-59-74-26-MC). The Ryder Cup star is impossible to discount, but has been generally unconvincing in recent weeks.

Cameron Smith
The Australian youngster is well suited to Harbour Town and finished 15th on his only previous appearance. Has gone slightly off the boil, but may be worth chancing at 140-1.

Matt Kuchar
The cheerful plodder thrilled the Augusta patrons with a hole-in-one at the 16th hole on Sunday, finishing tied for fourth. Winless on the US Tour since 2014 Heritage success.

Staking plan
K Kisner
2.5pts each-way 28-1 general
M Fitzpatrick
2pts each-way 35-1 Betfred
R Henley
2pts each-way 25-1 general

The Heritage

Course Harbour Town Links, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Prize money $6.5m ($1.062m to the winner).
Length 7,099 yards Par 71 Field 132

Course records – 72 holes 264 Brian Gay (2009) 18 holes 61 David Frost (1994).

Course winners taking part Davis Love (five times), Stewart Cink (twice), Aaron Baddeley, Boo Weekley (twice), Jim Furyk (twice), Brandt Snedeker, Carl Pettersson, Graeme McDowell, Matt Kuchar, Branden Grace

Time difference South Carolina is five hours behind the UK and Ireland.

Last week – The Masters 1 S Garcia (45-1), 2 J Rose (30-1), 3 C Schwartzel (100-1), T4 M Kuchar (100-1), T Pieters (100-1), 6 P Casey (50-1), T7 K Chappell (300-1), R McIlroy (9-1).

Course overview The Harbour Town Links is a classic Pete Dye-designed track, which was created in 1969 and revised in 2000, and has a history of producing great champions.

Arnold Palmer, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman, Payne Stewart and Nick Price have all triumphed on this tricky, seaside track.

Despite its lack of yardage, the Links is a difficult assignment, with 49 bunkers and 12 water hazards.

There are only three par-fives (the 502-yard second, the 540-yard fifth and the 588-yard 15th) and they are the easiest holes on the course.

The 332-yard par-four ninth is another pick-up hole, but players will score well only with straight hitting to tight targets and good scrambling around the smallest greens on the circuit.

Trees and strategically placed bunkers demand precision hitting and the 472-yard 18th is one of the toughest finishing holes in the business. The fourth and eighth holes are historically the most difficult of all.

Story of last year A final-round 66 saw Branden Grace overcome a three-shot deficit to claim his maiden US Tour title, the South African edging regular Heritage bridesmaid Luke Donald.

Weather forecast Sunny with light breezes throughout

Type of player suited to challenge Straight hitting from the tee to thin fairways and then on to the tiny greens is essential for success at Harbour Town.

It is a shotmaker's paradise – many of the best ball-strikers who have ever lived have held silverware aloft there. A hurricane in October felled trees and provided more room to manoeuvre.

Key attribute Accuracy

Harbour Town Links is made for players like Kisner, who are precise from tee to green, and scramble well
E.W. Terms
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