THE RSM CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.116M
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
2016 champion: Mac Hughes
Warning, warning! You are about to enter fantasy golf withdrawal. Stay calm, stay patient, stay safe. We promise, golf will be back.
Yes, we've come to the eighth and final PGA Tour event of the fall season with the eighth edition of the RSM Classic. After this, the PGA Tour is dark until January. The big "thing" golf writers like to talk about this week is the "Sea Island Mafia." Ooooh, scary, right? Not really. The only time a pro golfer is scary is when Phil Mickelson hits driver -- bada-bing, bada-boom! Seriously, there are two dozen or so pros who live on the island and/or train at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center. Do not get overly caught up in that connection; while Kevin Kisner is a former RSM champion, some of these guys have a terrible track records at this tournament. Mafia leader (Godfather?) Davis Love III is the playing host of the tournament, and he'll have his lieutenant, er, son Dru Love in the field, as well.
In 2016, the tournament added a second course, Plantation, allowing for the field to increase from 132 to 156, a number that always makes gamers' jobs just a little bit harder. Or a lot harder. At the top, there are seven golfers in the top-50 in the OWGR, which isn't bad for this time of year. Matt Kuchar heads the list at No. 15, followed by Kisner, Brian Harman, Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson. Snedeker is making his first start since June, having been sidelined with a wrist injury.
Golfers will play each course the first two days before Seaside will be used 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 described as a parkland course with lots of trees. There's water on about half the holes at both of them. Plantation was the third easiest course among the 50 in play on the PGA Tour last year, but let's concentrate our planning on Seaside, which was the 16th easiest and will be in play for three rounds. There are only two par-5s and, with the usual complement of four par-3s, that means there are 12 par-4s. Nine of them are under 430 yards, meaning a driver will not be used often. The golfers will often be hitting irons off the tee and short irons to the green. We'll expand on that in the Champions Profile below.
Weather-wise, it will be warm with little chance of rain but strengthening wind during the tournament. Sunday is forecast to be the coolest (mid-60s) and windiest day, so whoever handles those conditions best could be your champion.
Key Stats to Winning at Sea Island (in order of 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
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. Mac Hughes (who was Mackenzie Hughes when he won a year ago) was first in putting average, as was Kevin Kisner. Robert Streb, Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane ranked second in their victory years. 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). 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 Hughes, Streb, Crane and Heath Slocum (obviously) won the tournament in their first visit. It took Kisner five tries and it took Chris Kirk four starts. The winning score is usually in the mid-teens, a number Kisner blew past with his record 22-under total.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Kevin Kisner - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 15-1)
Kisner is No. 1 on the DraftKings board, and by a fairly large margin over No. 2 Matt Kuchar ($500). Kisner is a superior putter and an accurate iron player. We won't offer stats, because this is Kisner's first start of the season. He hasn't played since the Presidents Cup at the end of September, and before that a T3 at the Tour Championship. Kisner did miss the RSM cut last year, but won the tourney the year before and was T4 two years ago.
Ollie Schniederjans - $9,900 (30-1)
Schniederjans withdrew before last week's event with no reason given, but we view it as a good sign that he's immediately back in action; not to mention top-25s in his three previous starts this season and his T6 here last year. Schniederjans is ranked 23rd in proximity and 33rd in par-4 400-450.
Webb Simpson - $9,800 (20-1)
Simpson has played in five of the seven RSM Classics with a runner-up in 2011 and another top-10 two years later. He has opened 2017-18 with a pair of top-20s. Simpson is ranked 11th in proximity, 18th in strokes gained approach and 40th in both strokes gained putting and par-4 400-450.
Charles Howell III - $9,400 (25-1)
Howell has played this tournament all seven years, with three top-10s and a T13 last year. He's coming off a great week in Mexico in which he tied for fourth -- his third straight top-20. He does seem to play quite well throughout the fall, doesn't he?
Tier 2 Values
Bill Haas - $9,300 (25-1)
Haas is making his third start of the fall, which began with a top-20 at the Safeway. He's had two top-25s in his three visits to Sea Island, including T13 last year. Haas is ranked fourth in par-4 400-450 and 27th in proximity.
J.J. Spaun - $9,000 (50-1)
This price was a bit of a shock; we didn't expect it to start with a nine but Spaun has played well the past two weeks, following up his late collapse that cost him the Shriners with a T14 last week at Mayakoba. Spaun is ranked seventh in par-4 400-450 and 35th in proximity. He was 57th in his RSM debut last year.
Graeme McDowell - $8,700 (50-1)
McDowell finished last season with four straight missed cuts but has rebounded with six straight cashes -- three on the European Tour and three on the PGA. That includes a T10 at the Shriners two weeks back. McDowell is ranked an impressive second on Tour in strokes gained putting and third in par-4 400-450. The links-style course should suit him fine, and it did two years ago when he tied for third.
Jamie Lovemark -- $8,400 (30-1)
Lovemark has played the RSM twice with a pair of top-10s, including T6 last year. He made his first three cuts of the fall season, with a best of T5 in South Korea before missing the cut last time out at Vegas. Lovemark has been unusually strong on the greens, ranking 26th in strokes gained putting.
Tier 3 Values
Scott Brown - $8,000 (40-1)
Brown has been active in the fall season. Already with five starts, he has two top-10s, including last week in Mexico. Brown also has three top-20s at the RSM, with a best of T4 in 2013.
Beau Hossler - $8,000 (60-1)
Of the 50 Web.com grads, Hossler has the third-most FedEx Cup points, so he is primed to move way up in the next reshuffle, which takes place after the RSM. He's done it by going 4-for-4 in cuts, including two top-10s. Putting has been Hossler's strong suit -- he's ranked T26 in strokes gained putting.
Patrick Rodgers -- $7,500 (60-1)
Rodgers shared the midway lead at Mayakoba last week before settling for a T14. It was his best finish in a productive fall season, as he's made 4-of-5 cuts. Rodgers has done it largely on the greens, ranking 20th in strokes gained putting. He also finished T10 last year at Sea Island.
Si Woo Kim - $7,500 (50-1)
It's always a leap of faith when turning to Kim, who can light it up with the best of them but also torpedoed his backers last season with six WDs. The 2017 Players Championship winner closed fast for a T3 last week in Mexico. He missed the RSM cut last year, but was T18 the year before. The 50-1 price offers more faith in him than the DK value of $7,500.
Chad Campbell - $7,300 (125-1)
Campbell carries a strong RSM track record, making the cut in six of the seven years while also notching two top-10s, plus a T13 last year. He's 4-for-4 in cuts so far this season, albeit with nothing even in the top-50. Going back to last season, Campbell has missed only one cut since June. He's 40th in strokes gained approach and 42nd in strokes gained around the green.
Talor Gooch - $7,200 (Field, 5-1)
Gooch has been among the more impressive members of the 23-man rookie class so far, making all four cuts with a best of T16 at the Shriners. He's ranked T26 in strokes gained putting and 36th in par-4 400-450.
Kelly Kraft - $7,000 (Field, 5-1)
Kraft is 4-for-4 in cuts this season, albeit with nothing inside a top-40. He finished T21 last year at the RSM. Kraft ranks 17th in proximity.
Ben Silverman - $7,000 (Field, 5-1)
Another rookie, Silverman is ranked T19 in proximity, 25th in strokes gained approach and 47th in strokes gained putting. So we're banking on that skillset carrying him this week in his tournament debut. Silverman missed the cut last week, but before that had been 3-for-3 in cuts, including a T7 at the Sanderson.