2023 RBC Heritage First Round Leader Picks: Look for Sungjae Im to Get Rolling Early

The RBC Heritage is the natural follow-up event to the Masters and presents a very different test of golf than Augusta National’s. Harbour Town Golf Links is an older and far more technical setup that winds its way between older oak, pine and magnolia trees while also skirting alongside the ocean. The par 71 plays just over 7,100 yards and is not a course that can be overpowered by any means.

In fact, it is quite the opposite. Contenders at Harbour Town are nearly always the cream of the crop when it comes to short-to-mid iron play, scrambling and putting as all of the other facets of the game — besides off-the-tee play — get scrutinized more around the venue. From a first-round leader perspective, Cameron Smith and Cameron Young were the first-round leaders at this event the past two seasons and both were able to parlay a solid finish Augusta into a big first round at the Harbour Town. Names like Matt Every, Bud Cauley and Rory Sabbatini have also grabbed shares of the first-round lead over the last decade at this event so there is really no reason not to look for a couple of longshot bets as well.

With the weather once again a factor, we will look to OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to identify the best value options for first-round leader selections for the 2023 RBC Heritage.

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2023 RBC Heritage First Round Leader Bets

Four of the last five seasons have produced first-round leaders that came from the morning wave with three of those instances being solo first-round leaders that cashed some decent profits for bettors. With the early-morning temperatures being a touch warmer than the week prior and the chance for some softer greens early on (given the seaside humidity) leaning towards the morning wave on Thursday with our targets will be the focus.

Sahith Theegala First Round Leader (+6000) at BetMGM

Theegala produced in a spot where many players normally falter, shooting 5 under par in a group with experienced PGA winner Tony Finau last Sunday to secure a top-10 finish at the Masters. Over the past two seasons, both Cameron Smith and Cameron Young have used similar strong finishes at Augusta as momentum for great opening rounds at the RBC Heritage. Young (14th at Augusta in 2022) and Smith (10th at Augusta in 2021) both were unable to secure the win at this event but were able to cash in first-round leader tickets for bettors with solo first-round leads in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Theegala has had success in this part of the world before, as well, posting a runner-up finish at Sea Island this fall. He has shot 6 under or better in his opening round in five of his last 18 PGA Tour starts. At 60-1 or bigger and with a featured morning tee time, he makes for a sensible mid-tier bet to start first-round leader cards with this week.


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Sungjae Im First Round Leader (+4500) at DraftKings

Im will not be happy with his Masters performance, given he was never really in contention for the win, but that should not cancel out the fact that he battled hard on the weekend, shooting 5 under par through 36 holes on Saturday and Sunday. He has posted three finishes of 6th or better already and likely benefits from a much shorter setup this week where his elite short game and putting will have more impact. Im has certainly had plenty of past success on Pete Dye-designed venues, grabbing multiple top 12 finishes at the American Express (played on TPC Stadium). He has also placed 13th and 21st at Harbour Town the last two years, shooting rounds of 67 and 65 in the process. While he is teeing off in the afternoon and may face slightly worse conditions than the morning players, the consistency he has shown in 2023 makes him a worthwhile first-round target at +4500, regardless of his tee time.

2023 RBC Heritage First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Long-shot bets in the first-round leader market hit all the time on the PGA Tour. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

Maverick McNealy First Round Leader (+9000) at BetMGM

McNealy was and still is, on a nine-event made-cut streak on the PGA Tour, an accomplishment that should bode well for his confidence heading into the RBC Heritage. He has been a relatively fast starter at most points of his career and has shot 4 under par or better in four of his last 10 PGA starts. His track record at Harbour Town is also incredibly solid, as he has shot 5 under par or better in four of his last 12 competitive rounds on the course. McNealy’s no stranger to playing coastal golf out west and there is little surprise that he finds Harbour Town appealing given his Pebble Beach Pro-Am track record, an event where he has placed top 5 on numerous occasions. Armed with an early-morning start on Thursday — and great +9000 odds — taking a piece of McNealy to lead the field after the first round has plenty of appeal this week.

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Joel Dahmen First Round Leader (+9000) at BetMGM

As any Netflix junkie could say, the talent with Dahmen is there to dominate on courses like this week’s. He will certainly have a starting time advantage (given he is in the morning wave) and should also gain from the setup in play. Dahmen’s only PGA win came on another coastal course in Punta Cana, and he will be playing Harbour Town for the fourth time in his career in 2023, with two of his first three visits yielding top-20 placings. Dahmen’s yet to put in a monster week this season but he has been making cuts of late and importantly seems to have made progress with his ball-striking — which gained him over 4.5 strokes alone at the Valspar. With an early tee time on Thursday and odds that are still inflated at +9000, he is another sensible longshot bet to include for Thursday.

Russell Knox First Round Leader (+17500) at BetMGM

Knox has had a rough go of it of late but has started show a few positive signs that things are starting to turn around. He has shot 3 under par in two of his last five competitive rounds on the PGA and gained over a stroke on approach at Valero, despite missing the cut. Knox’s poor play off the tee will not hamper him as much at Harbour Town and it is a venue he has played well at before. A true lover of more technical courses where power off the tee becomes nearly irrelevant, he also finished second at this event in 2016 and has four top 20 finishes at Harbour Town in nine career attempts. It has been a few years since Knox has gone low on Harbour Town, but with +17500 odds and an early-morning tee time, he is the kind of experienced player to target at these levels.

Geoff Ulrich
Author

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