It is the last full points PGA Tour event of the year, as the players head to St. Simons Island, Georgia for the RSM Classic. A relatively new event, the inaugural staging was held in 2010 and was formerly known as the McGladrey Classic, before a sponsor change led to it becoming the RSM Classic.
Not only did the title sponsor change in 2015, the format did too as the first 36 holes are now held over two courses, the Seaside Course and the Plantation Course. The weekend will then be contested by those that make the cut, at the Seaside Course, which was the sole venue for the first five renewals.
Austin Cook broke through here 12 months ago beating another player who was chasing his first victory, JJ Spaun. Both players return this week with the latter in great form of late, with his T3 finish last week his third-straight top-15 finish.
It is Webb Simpson however who headlines what can only be considered a relatively weak field here this week. Given the time of year it is no great surprise this event fails to attract the biggest stars, but there will be some intrigue around rookie sensation Cameron Champ who won the Sanderson Farms Championship three weeks ago, and went close again last week before ultimately finishing 10th.
Former winners; Kevin Kisner, Chris Kirk, Robert Streb, Ben Crane and Tommy Gainey also all tee it up here.
The Courses and what it will take to win
Sea Island GC
Plantation Course, 7,058 Yards 72
Seaside Course, 7,005 Yards Par 70
Before the changes were made to the format, this was always a tightly contested event, with two of the first five renewals needing a play-off to decide the winner, whilst the other three were won by a single stroke.
Since 2015, when the two-course format came into effect this has changed. In 2015 Kevin Kisner won the event by six strokes from Kevin Chappell whose 16-under-par score would have been enough to win four of the first five editions and get him into a play-off in the other. Mac Hughes then won the 2016 renewal with a more modest 16-under-par score, coming out on top in a five-man play-off which was much more akin to the early staging’s of this event. Austin Cook however followed more in Kisner’s footsteps last season, shooting 21-under-par to beat JJ Spaun by 4 strokes.
Cook was the fourth-straight player to find a maiden PGA Tour victory at this event and fifth overall, so this is clearly an event that provides an opportunity for those seeking their first victory. This will largely be down to the weaker fields, an increased amount of players teeing it up that are winless, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
So how do these players actually go about getting the job done here?
This event favours accuracy over length off the tee here, which makes sense given the yardage here. Hitting plenty of greens will of course help, but scrambling well and putting well are the main requisites.
No full-time resident here at St.Simons/Sea Island has won this event, but players with local ties have. Both Chris Kirk and Kevin Kisner played their college golf at the University of Georgia and Heath Slocum resides in Georgia, so locals are worth paying attention to.
Those that were born, educated or reside in other Southern states such as; Alabama, Arkansas, Central Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Eastern Texas and South Carolina are also worth a look. Austin Cook was born and educated in Arkansas and Tommy Gainey was also born in South Carolina, so it pays to look at these Southern guys.
In terms of course correlations, three Par 70’s that feature Bermuda grass, Waialae CC (Sony Open), Colonial (Dean & Deluca) and TPC Southwind (FedEx St.Jude) all stand up well. Chris Kirk has won here and at the Dean & Deluca, as has Kevin Kisner. Camilo Villegas also won both here and PGA National (Honda Classic) which makes sense given the chance of wind affecting play. Form at nearby Harbour Town (RBC Heritage) is also worth a glance.
Kevin Kisner 35/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w:
Kevin Kisner has played all but one renewal of this event and the former Georgia Bulldog has loved playing here in recent years.
In his last four starts here, Kisner has a win and two 4th place finishes against one missed cut and he can put together another good week here, at what looks to be a big price in this field.
Since finishing T2 at the Open Championship and T12 at the PGA Championship, Kisner has not shown an awful lot of form, most recently missing the cut last week in Mexico, but he doesn’t need to be at his best to contend here.
When 4th here in 2014, Kisner had finished 56th, 21st and MC in his last three starts and in 2017 Kisner was playing for the first time in 8 weeks. His last start prior to his 4th here last year saw him finish 3rd at the Tour Championship, but he had not played well before that.
Simply put, Kisner loves this course, loves playing in his home state of Georgia and can play better than his odds suggest this week, despite some disappointing recent form.
Luke List 40/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
In two starts here, Luke list has finished MC-13 and he can improve on that this week as his game looks tailor-made for this course.
Back in 2012, List who gained his education at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee won a Web.com event here in Georgia and a week later should have won again in the same state. He bogeyed the 72nd hole and Hudson Swafford birdied to snatch victory from his grasp.
It’s his form at the correlating courses that makes List an intriguing option this week though. In 2018, List enjoyed the best run of his career and posted his two best PGA Tour finishes. A 2nd at the Honda Classic, where he lost in a play-off to Justin Thomas, and a 3rd at the RBC Heritage suggest he likes similar tests to this one.
That 2nd at PGA National earlier in the year was also List’s second top-10 at the Honda and he finished T13 at the Sony Open in the past as well, another correlating course.
List has got this season off to a promising start, as he was one of the four players to miss out on the play-off at the Safeway Open by a single stroke, instead settling for a T4 finish.
An improving player, List is looking for a breakthrough victory, which may just come at a course that is known for giving players just that. A good putting week may be enough to see him over the line and there’s plenty of appeal about him at 40/1, in a state where he’s tasted success, albeit at a lower level before.
Sam Burns 100/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
Southern ties (Louisiana born and educated), a winner in Georgia on the Web.com this year and an impressive performance as a debutant at the Honda Classic (T8), Sam Burns should feel more than comfortable here at the Sea Island resort.
After some impressive performances on the PGA Tour earlier this year, Burns garnered a lot of attention, especially when playing well in the company of Tiger Woods at PGA National.
He returned to the Web.com Tour and got his win at the Savannah Golf Championship, which helped him earn his PGA Tour card for this season. He ended the Web.com season with two missed cuts and a withdrawal, not the ideal preparation for his first full season on the PGA Tour.
The poor run continued as Burns missed the cut at the Safeway Open to start the new season, but a week later he finished T3 at the Sanderson Farms Championship to remind us of his potential. Two missed cuts have followed to suggest he’s got plenty to figure out, but I think he’s worth chancing here.
This is a happy hunting ground for those looking for their first PGA Tour victory, and Burns has the sort of short game that suits this test.
Bermuda grass is certainly Burns’ preferred surface with his Web.com win and all four of his top-12 finishes on the PGA Tour coming on courses with Bermuda surfaces.
On his preferred surface, at a course that should suit and correlates with PGA National, Burns should feel comfortable in this Southern state affair. 100/1 looks too big this week, given his potential.
Ted Potter Jr 125/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
Ted Potter Jr, the surprise winner at this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-am has been playing very well of late, even if his results don’t necessarily reflect that.
At the BMW Championship a final-round 73 cost Potter a top finish and perhaps even a chance of a second victory of the year, after he opened up with rounds of 68-64-67.
It was a similar story during his last start at the CJ Cup, but this time he started slow, opening with a 77 on the Thursday. Rounds of 67, 65 and 70 followed to see him soar up the leaderboard, and if he could have opened the way he closed, with a round of 70 he would have finished in solo 3rd.
Of course this is all ifs and buts, however Potter is showing positive signs, even if one round is ultimately costing him of late.
Potter has played here three times, missing his cut on debut, followed by a 36th place finish a year later (2013). He opened with rounds of 67-67 that week and four years later Potter returned, shooting two rounds of 67 and two rounds of 68 to finish in a tie for 13th. That finish here last year suggests he likes the course, as does his form at correlating courses.
T13 finishes at both the FedEx St.Jude Classic and Sony Open and finishes of T16 and T18 at the RBC Heritage shows his liking for this sort of challenge and like Luke List, he has also won the South Georgia Classic (2012) on the Web.com.
A return to Georgia should provide positive memories, as should two decent efforts here in the past and recent form suggests he’s playing well enough to contend in this sort of field. A player that got the better of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Phil Mickelson earlier in the year, will have no fear if in contention this weekend.
Total points staked this week: 9
Profit/Loss for 2018: – 77