This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE RSM CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.152M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: St. Simons Island, GA
Courses: Seaside (primary) and Plantation, Sea Island GC
Yardage: 7,005 Seaside/7,058 Plantation
2017 champion: Austin Cook
This fall season has seen bigger names and better fields than usual – a little Jordan Spieth here, some Rickie Fowler there, a splash of Bryson DeChambeau – but the momentum has slowed significantly as we hit the eighth and final event before the winter break. Yes, it's time for the PGA Tour to step aside. The RSM Classic will deliver only three – three! – of the top 50 golfers in the world. Last year there were seven. The top guy is No. 20 Webb Simpson, joined by backup singers Kevin Kisner (No. 34) and Brian Harman (tied for 46th and fading fast). And to make matters worse, the field is a maxed-out 156 for the first time this season. The RSM used to be 132, but two years ago they added a second course to help beat darkness, and with it two dozen less-heralded players. In all, this might be the weakest field of the year, not counting alternate-field events.
But there is a bright spot. The headliner this week, the name at the top of the marquee, is the electrifying Cameron Champ. The 23-year-old rookie has become the star attraction of the fall season. With prodigious drives and a win at the Sanderson Farms, Champ has taken the Tour by storm. He's ranked only 107th in the world, but he's on a meteoric rise from outside the top 1,000 at the start of 2018. To illustrate, he is the No. 2 guy on the DraftKings board, behind only Simpson. There are some prices that could make you blanch: J.J. Spaun and Chesson Hadley are over $10,000, with Lucas Glover and C.T. Span right behind. The No. 7 guy on the board, at $9,500, is Russell Henley, who – and we'll have to confirm this – hasn't made a putt since the Obama administration. Mind you, we're not complaining about the salaries; the price-makers can only play the cards they are dealt. It just speaks to the hideous field, which makes lineup construction one big dart throw. It's certainly a week to play the longer shots. There's one last chance for someone to get to earn a spot in the Tournament of Champions, and it would not be a surprise if it were, um, a surprise.
One of the annual themes of the RSM Classic is the local contingent of golfers being referred to as the "Sea Island Mafia." Ooooh, scary, right? Not really. The only time a pro golfer is scary is when Patrick Reed gets in front of a microphone. Seriously, there are two dozen or so guys who live on the island and/or train at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center. But don't get overly caught up in that connection. While Kisner is a former RSM champion, some of these guys have a terrible track records at this tournament. The "Godfather" is Davis Love III, the playing host. He annually brings along his top lieutenant, his son Dru, who eats up a sponsor's exemption. Others in the pack who are in the field are Harman, Glover, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Harris English, Hudson Swafford and Jonathan Byrd. We don't know about you, but we've never heard of any mobsters named Harris, Hudson or Zach.
Finishing up with the field, more than 40 of the 50 recent Web.com grads are on hand. At the other end of the spectrum are near-50s Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Tim "Lumpy" Herron. Lumpy, that's more like it – that's a much better mafioso name.
Golfers will play each course the first two days before sticking to Seaside for the final two rounds. Seaside is a short links-style, oceanfront track with wide fairways and big greens. Wind is its biggest defense. Plantation is more of a parkland course with lots of trees. Both are tiny by today's standards, and there's water on about half the 36 holes. Last season, each course played among the easiest third on Tour, with Seaside raking 35th and Plantation 43rd, out of 51. The par-70 Seaside features only two par-5s. There are a stock 12 par-4s, and nine of them are under 430 yards. Driver will not be used often. The golfers will often be hitting irons off the tee and short irons to the green. Really, the key to success this week will be their play on and around the greens. We'll expand on that in the Champions Profile below.
Weather-wise, there was a lot of rain forecast for earlier in the week, with some lingering into Thursday. So, you might want to hold off on finalizing your lineup until just before they lock, and possibly adjust accordingly. Also of note, there will be some chilly mornings on Thursday and Friday, with highs in 60s all four days. Right now, the winds appear to be pretty light.
Key Stats to Winning at Sea Island
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Proximity to the hole/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Par 4 efficiency 400-450 yards
2017 - Austin Cook
2016 - Mac Hughes
2015 - Kevin Kisner
2014 - Robert Streb
2013 - Chris Kirk
2012 - Tommy Gainey
2011 - Ben Crane
2010 - Heath Slocum
Let's not even talk tee balls. Let's start from the fairway, the wide fairways of Seaside. With the course short and the greens large, let's not even talk about greens in regulation – you want your guys to do better than get it on the green; you want them to get it close to the hole. And you'll want them to make birdies, of course. Great putting – not good, great – is important here. Hughes was first in putting average, as was Kisner. Streb, Gainey and Crane ranked second in their year of victory. Every winner has been top-25 in proximity, which sure makes it easier to make putts. When the contenders miss the greens, they will stay in contention by getting up and down (scrambling). Cook led the field in scrambling a year ago. In looking at what golfers have said about the tournament in past years, quite a few of them say that experience matters, that the greens are tricky. Maybe so, but five of the eight champions – Hughes, Streb, Crane, Cook and Slocum (obviously, in the inaugural RSM) – won the tournament in their first visit. The winning score is usually in the mid-teens, a number Kisner blew past with his record 22-under total. Cook, at 21-under, almost matched that number.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Webb Simpson - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 9-1)
This will be Simpson's seventh visit to St. Simons Island. While he was runner-up in 2011, he hasn't done much here lately. Last year, he withdrew. But the sheer weakness of the field, combined with Simpson's continued elite putting, makes his selection obvious.
Cameron Champ - $10,900 (20-1)
It will be fascinating to see how often Champ hits driver, which he's been hammering to the tune of a Tour-leading 335.2-yard average. He still used it often last week at a short Mayakoba track, though he took his foot off the gas, averaging only 325. Champ has continued to play well after his win at the Sanderson, and he tied for 10th last week despite four double-bogeys, two of which came on the back nine on Sunday. Champ is also ranked 17th on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Lucas Glover - $9,900 (25-1)
Glover was headed for a very high finish two weeks ago at the Shriners Open until a soul-crushing triple-bogey on his final hole. Still, he tied for seventh and showed that his long layoff for personal reasons is in the past. Glover has a best of T9 here three years ago.
C.T. Pan - $9,700 (20-1)
It's always a little hard to pull the trigger on a good-but-not-great golfer at a great golfer's price. But Pan has been playing great since the end of last season. He arrives with three consecutive top-25s. Plus, he tied for 13th here a year ago and sixth the year before that.
Tier 2 Values
Kevin Kisner - $9,300 (30-1)
Kisner has played only two rounds since his 2017-18 season ended with a thud more than two months ago at the BMW Championship. Those two rounds were last week at Mayakoba, where he missed the cut. Despite coming off a poor season, Kisner's track record here is too good to overlook: He has two fourths and a win in the past four years. Kisner is still an elite putter, ranking 13th in strokes gained: putting last season.
Sam Ryder - $8,600 (50-1)
Statistically, Ryder seems like almost a perfect fit this week. He's 10th in strokes gained: approach, 18th in proximity, 22nd in strokes gained: putting, 32nd in strokes gained: around the green and even eighth in par-4 400-450. Ryder has a pair of top-5s in four starts this fall.
Whee Kim - $8,400 (50-1)
Kim is 5-for-5 in made cuts, with a season-best T10 last week at Mayakoba. He's ranked fourth on Tour in proximity, T27 in strokes gained: putting and 32nd in approach. Kim missed the RSM Classic cut a year ago, but was T27 the year before. He's a far more accomplished golfer this time around.
Jim Furyk – $8,200 (40-1)
What's a former Ryder Cup captain to do? It's back to the Tour for Furyk, who tied for sixth last week at Mayakoba and for fourth at the Wyndham Championship at the end of last season. He arrives fifth on Tour in greens in regulation and ninth in par-4 400-450. At age 48, Furyk should still be able to compete on shorter tracks. In three visits to the RSM Classic, he has never finished worth than 11th.
Tier 3 Values
Bud Cauley - $7,900 (50-1)
A lot of run-of-the-mill guys have 9s or even 10s at the start of their prices, while Cauley curiously has a 7. Returning from a serious car accident, Cauley is 3-for-3 in cuts this season, with a top-10 two weeks ago at the Shriners Open. He was eighth here a year ago. Cauley is a sterling sixth in strokes gained: around the green and is tied for 18th in putting average.
Bill Haas - $7,800 (60-1)
We've been high on Haas, maybe too high, but he's a good fit again this week. He opened the fall with a pair of top-15s before slumping to a T60 at Mayakoba. Still, through three starts, Haas leads the Tour in scrambling. He has three top-25s at the RSM through the years, including a T13 two years ago.
Stewart Cink - $7,700 (50-1)
A Georgian, but not part of the cool club of Sea Island kids, Cink has played well here through the years, tying for 25th last year and 10th the year before. This is his third start of the fall season, though his first in the United States. Cink tied for 13th at the CIMB Classic, a similarly short track.
Nate Lashley - $7,400 (50-1)
The 35-year-old Nebraskan has teed it up only twice in the fall season, but he's netted top-20s both times. Lashley is ranked eighth in strokes gained: putting, 39th in proximity and 55th in par-4 400-450. He tied for 49th in his RSM debut a year ago.
Hudson Swafford - $7,000 (100-1)
This will be a "Mafia"-dominated long-shot group, beginning with Swafford. The Georgian is 4-for-4 in cuts so far this season. He was 29th here a year ago with a personal best of T12.
Harris English - $6,800 (125-1)
English has missed the cut in three of his six visits, including his past two. But he also has a couple of top-25s on his RSM ledger. English is 4-for-4 in cuts this season, though none of them is a high finish. He's ranked 20th on Tour in par-4 400-450.
Stephan Jaeger - $6,800 (100-1)
The University of Tennessee alum by way of Munich, Jaeger has a pair of top-20s this season to go along with a pair of missed cuts. He tied for 16th last week at Mayakoba. Jaeger is ranked 19th in scrambling and 35th in strokes gained: approach.
Jose de Jesus Rodriguez - $6,500 (Field, 13-2)
This week's long, long shot. Rodriguez is a 37-year-old Mexican with only 12 PGA Tour starts going back more than a decade. But four of them have come in the past two months, and he has made the cut in three straight. Rodriguez graduated from the Web.com Tour after winning a tournament last season. He's ranked 30th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: around the green and is 45th in par-4 400-450.