The RSM Classic – Sea Island, GA
Sea Island Resort (Seaside 7,005 yards, par 70 -- Plantation 7,058 yards, par 72)
$1,116,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
Now three years removed from the former McGladrey Classic, the TOUR heads back to the states for the calendar year’s final event at the RSM Classic. Sea Island Resort has hosted the past seven editions of this event, but only the last two have incorporated a 156-player field and the Plantation course into the event in one of the four rounds. While most of the action is held at the demanding Seaside course, a par-70 links layout, the starkly contrasting par-72 Plantation course that winds through forests will play a factor because it’s easier to score. Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and 10 other residents of St. Simons Island – including tournament host and World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III - will look to close the calendar year strong before resuming the wraparound season in early January.
Recent Past Champions
2016 – Mackenzie Hughes
2015 – Kevin Kisner
2014 – Robert Streb
2013 – Chris Kirk
2012 – Tommy Gainey
2011 – Ben Crane
2010 – Heath Slocum
Key Stats to Winning at Sea Island Resort
• Par-4 Scoring Average
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Average Proximity to the hole
• Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda greens (or strong ties to Southeastern U.S.)
For a second straight week, the presence of shorter courses deems driving distance a muted advantage at best. The key will be precision, precision, precision, both off the tee and on approach shots. The eventual winner will likely be a known ball-striker who can find a rhythm with their putter this week. Another interesting insight is past contenders and champions’ ties to the Southeast, where Bermuda greens are common. Past champions Kevin Kisner (SC), Robert Streb (FL), Chris Kirk (GA), Tommy Gainey (SC), and Heath Slocum (FL) all have ties to the Southeastern U.S., as do many past runners-up. This prevalence of local success is no coincidence, so check player’s ties to this area, since Bermuda is a tricky and very regional grass that plays noticeably different than other strains.
FanDuel Value Picks
Kevin Kisner, $9,800 – The 2015 champion made Sea Island his breakthrough PGA Tour victory and returns to this fond venue as his first event of the new season. Now a much more polished all-around player, Kisner is a top-3 favorite and well worth his $9,800 salary.
Webb Simpson, $9,400 – Simpson is 5-for-5 in made cuts at Sea Island with three top-15s including a runner-up in 2011. This converges nicely with the four straight top-20s he’s run off the last few weeks. Given Webb’s recent trend of driving and putting better, the elite iron player will look to capitalize as the calendar year ends.
Brian Harman, $8,800 – Though the former Georgia Bulldog missed his last two cuts at Sea Island, that is a blessing in disguise because it lowers his salary and increases his value. Last season Harman proved his worthiness as a top-50 player by rising to World No. 27, and enters having already claimed a pair of top-10s this season. If you go back a few years he did post a top-10 in 2013, so don’t be discouraged at all by his recent struggles at this venue.
Charles Howell III, $8,500 – Not only is Howell a cut-making machine here with a perfect 7-of-7 made cuts, he’s managed to turn that into four top-15 finishes. Known for his knack for starting strong, Howell is a great pick to make it four straight top-20s this week as we close out the calendar year on the PGA Tour.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Chesson Hadley, $7,300 – Hadley’s run of three consecutive top-5s halted last week in Mexico due to illness, but this week he should bounce back to his overachieving ways at the event where he was top-5 through 54 holes last season.
Patton Kizzire, $7,100 – Kizzire broke through for his first victory last week in Mexico after a pair of top-10s heading in, so there’s no reason to think he can’t make the cut on autopilot this week. At a value salary of $7,100, the trending Alabama native is a no-brainer.
J.J. Spaun, $6,500 – Spaun has put together two straight top-15s that included falling back on the weekend. If Spaun can somehow break out of his weekend funk or at minimum continue his tear of birdies in the early rounds, he’ll offer incredible value at a rock-bottom price.
Chris Kirk, $5800 – The part-time St. Simon’s Island native won here back in 2013 and has validated it with three other top-18 finishes at this event. Though his body of work hasn’t seen a top-10 in over a year, this event represents a perfect opportunity to erase that skid. There’s clearly some risk with Kirk but at $5,800, his upside for a top-10 is better than anyone else in his price range.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
Close out the calendar year strong by honing in on precision ball strikers who have proven to putt well on Bermuda greens or have strong ties to the Southeastern U.S., as history has proven these factors to be statistically significant. A recommended play is to select three of the top nine salaries players and then hunt for value down in the bargain bin under $7,000, since many of the middle-tier plays appear overpriced this week.