The RSM Classic
It was another week of treading water for us in Houston as our headline pick Scottie Scheffler who had entered Sunday with a slender one shot lead was unable to close the deal.
The Texan who is yet to win on tour looked in control of proceedings as he stood over a seven foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, however after he failed to convert that he lost his way before rallying slightly to finish second.
Scheffler’s time will undoubtedly come however it was clear on Sunday that the pressure of the occasion got to him.
The event in the end was won by Jason Kokrak, a player who had to battle his own demons on tour for several years with regards to closing out a first win. Just over 12 months ago though Kokrak triumphed at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas and he hasn’t looked back since with yesterday’s win being his third now on tour.
So we move on to the final full field event on the PGA Tour this year, The RSM Classic.
The RSM classic debuted on the PGA Tour in 2010.
For its earlier years the event was known as the McGladrey Classic. This changed in 2015 when the title sponsor changed to RSM.
Since its outset it has been played at the Sea Island club on St Simons Island in Georgia, an area which is home to several PGA Tour players.
Players based in the area who are in this week’s field include H English, Z Johnson, C Kirk, K Kisner, P Kizzire, B Harman, K Mitchell, JT Poston, G Sigg and H Swafford.
Since 2015 the event has been played across two courses with the second course being The Plantation Course.
Each player plays one round on each course over the first two days with all players then playing the Seaside course in rounds 3 and 4.
The market is headed up by last weeks runner up Scottie Scheffler, Webb Simpson and Cameron Smith.
The Seaside course is a par 70 measuring just over 7000yds.
The greens are TiffDwarf Bermuda.
The course initially opened in 1929 and was designed by Harry Colt & Charles Alison.
It then underwent a redesign in the hands of Tom Fazio in 1998.
The course is a true links course whose only real defence is the wind.
The Plantation course is a Par 72 measuring just over 7050 yards.
It was designed by Walter Travis in 1926 before undergoing a Rees Jones redesign in 1998.
The greens are again TiffDwarf Bermuda.
The Plantation course has more of a tree lined feel to it than the wide open links of the Seaside course.
Both courses have wider than average fairways and assuming the wind is not strong they offer up plenty of birdie opportunities.
With three reachable par 5s the Plantation course is statistically the easier of the two,
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners of the event.
2020 – R Streb
2019 – T Duncan
2018 – C Howell III
2017 – A Cook
2016 – M Hughes
2015 – K Kisner
2014 – R Streb
2013 – C Kirk
2012 – T Gainey
2011 – B Crane
Looking at this list of players it is easy to see straight away that this event is the domain of players who are shorter hitters, who when on song find fairways & greens with regularity and hole more than their fair share of putts.
This is backed up by the fact that the likes of Spaun, Gay, Harman, Furyk & Cejka have also performed well here over the past few years.
Of these ten winners six of them, Duncan, Cook, Hughes, Kisner, Streb [in 2014] & Gainey were clinching their first PGA Tour wins here so don’t be afraid to back a player this week who is winless on tour to date.
It’s also worth noting that none of the winners had won previously on tour in that calendar year.
From a point of course correlation the obvious events that you would see as tying in with this week are the RBC Heritage, The Sony Open, TPC Sawgrass, Bermuda and the Mayakoba Classic.
Lets now take a look at the recent form of these past winners coming in to the week.
2020 – R Streb 55 MC 21
2019 – T Duncan 48 18 MC
2018 – C Howell III MC 61 5
2017 - A Cook 50 20 25
2016 - M Hughes MC 68 26
2015 - K Kisner 2 37 25
2014 – R Streb 10 31 9
2013 – C Kirk 25 36 24
2012 – T Gainey MC 66 38
2011 – B Crane MC 10 51
As we can see from the above really strong recent form coming in to the event is clearly not a key factor. In fact the last ten winners of this event have only mustered five top 10 finishes between them in their previous collective thirty starts coming in to the week!
Equally though between them these ten winners had only missed six cuts in their previous thirty events so it would be fair to say that they had been playing solidly and ticking along steadily until the big week came along where everything clicked.
In relation to previous course form I am afraid that this doesn’t appear to offer too many historical clues either.
Three of the last seven winners, Cook, Hughes and Streb [in 2014] were all making their debuts here the year they won, as was Crane when the tournament was in its second year. Gainey had played once previously and missed the cut.
With regards to Duncan, C Howell III, Kisner and Kirk, Kirk had played here three times prior to winning and had gone 15 MC 64. Kisner did however have some previous here as he had finished 4th the year before he won and 20th the year prior to that, Howell III had played the event in each of the first eight editions and had posted four top 13 finishes, and 2019 winner Duncan had played here twice finishing 74th and 25th.
Finally this leaves us with last years winner Streb who did of course have previous here having landed his only other tour title here back in 2014.
All in all though as we can see past course form has never been hugely relevant.
Finally allowing for the fact that the area is home to several PGA tour players I felt it worth looking at whether there have been past winners of the event with local connections.
The answer to this is that no winner has been based permanently in the area however four players who either hail from Georgia, or who are based there, in the form of , Howell III, Kirk, Kisner and the 2010 winner Heath Slocum have won here since the events inauguration.
In addition we have had players either based in or hailing from Texas, The Carolina’s, Florida & Arkansas get the job done, showing that this event would appear to be the domain of ‘southern states’ players.
So to sum up we are looking most likely for a shorter hitter with southern states connections, whose form has been ticking along over recent weeks, and who when on song is known as an accurate tee to green player and strong putter!
From a winning score point of view we have had six editions of the event since it has been played on two separate courses and the winning total over this time has ranged from -18 to -24.
We look set for a fair week of weather with sunshine mixed with a few clouds and temperatures sitting around 70 degrees.
The wind, which is the main defence of both courses looks like it could be a factor though, as at the time of writing after 15mph winds on Thursday, the remainder of the week shows the possibility of gusts of 25mph+
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
MACKENZIE HUGHES – 55/1 – 1pt e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 8. - FINISHED 2nd
First up this week I am going to return to a player who performed very nicely for us recently in Japan, Mackenzie Hughes.
Hughes landed his maiden, and to date lone, PGA Tour title in this event back in 2016 however following this success he struggled through 17/18 season and large chunks of the 18/19 season were also a real struggle for him.
After starting 19/20 slowly as well Mackenzie posted a second place finish at the Honda just before lockdown and this seemed to inspire him to better things when the tour returned in June.
A third place finish at the Travelers in his third start once the tour returned proved a prelude to a really consistent run of form for the remainder of that campaign, which saw him make the Tour Championship.
As I noted when putting Hughes forward for the ZOZO since he made it to East Lake just over a year ago he appears to have stepped up his level in the bigger events and last season saw him post a top ten finish at the Open Championship and feature in the thick of things at the US Open before fading on Sunday to 15th place.
Where Hughes has shown himself to be most dangerous however is on shorter par 70 layouts, which is what he will be faced with for three of the four rounds this week. This is born out by the fact that six of his eight top tens on tour have come in this type of test including of course his win here.
Furthermore as one of the strongest putters on tour Mackenzie is always at his best where a hot putter is required, something which tends to be the case here.
Mackenzie has once again started the new season in solid fashion with the highlight so far being the fourth place in Japan. Following that week the 30yr old took a couple of weeks off before knocking the rust off with a solid 29th place in Houston last week.
Primed then now to go for one last shot this year at a trophy Hughes should arrive at Sea Island in confident mood and I am optimistic he can follow in Robert Streb’s footsteps from last your and land his second tour title at the home of his first this week.
BRANDEN GRACE – 80/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
For my next two selections I make no apologies for going back to the well for one last time this year with two players who have featured fairly heavily in these pages throughout 2021.
The first of these is Branden Grace and, to put it bluntly, if the layers continue to put Branden up at these sort of odds on shortish coastal tracks I will continue to back him every time.
Those who follow Grace’s career or indeed this column probably don’t even need me to make the case for him this week however for those new to this column I will briefly summarise.
Quite simply when in any sort of form Branden thrives on short and/or coastal set ups. His win earlier this year when we were onboard came by the coast in Puerto Rico while his other PGA Tour success came at Hilton Head in 2016, a venue which he has also finished seventh and 11th at.
More recently Branden lost out in a play off at the Wyndham Championship at the short Sedgefield CC par 70 while prior to missing the cut in Houston he logged a seventh place on the short par 70 layout used in Japan at the ZOZO.
Then of course we have the South African’s more widespread record by the coast over the years, which includes his strong performances in coastal Major Championships in the US including both in the PGA Championship and US Open this year [when we were onboard again] as well as more historically at Chambers Bay, and him becoming the first man to shoot 62 at a Major at Birkdale in 2017.
In addition of course if the wind does pick up this week Grace’s low ball flight makes him as suited as any to handle the conditions.
There is no doubt that the South African’s form has been up and down over the past 12 months, however what is clear is that when the course suits his game is in good enough shape for him to strongly compete.
What makes this week particularly interesting to me then is that this time last year Grace made his debut in this event when he was really struggling with his game and he was still able to post a 30th place finish, which included a final round of 64. Arriving back 12 months later then with another win on the PGA Tour to his name and four further top tens I expect him to build on that debut here last year and make a bold bid for his second tour title of the year.
PATRICK RODGERS – 80/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 57th
Our second ‘familiar face’ to feature this week is Patrick Rodgers.
Rodgers is a player who I have firmly nailed my colours to the mast of over the past 12 months or so in the belief that his maiden tour win had to come soon and there is no doubt that this has lead to some frustration along the way.
This season though after having gone through what Patrick himself described as a ‘humbling experience’ of having to go back to the Korn Ferry finals to retain his card the Stanford grad his come out with a refreshed more relaxed attitude, which has lead to him posting two top ten finishes in four starts including a sixth place when were onboard at three figure odds in the Fortinet and a fourth place finish by the coast in Bermuda.
After a rare week off following a missed cut at the Mayakoba Rodgers now returns to a venue which he so nearly grabbed his maiden tour title at in 2018 after he played the weekend in an incredible 123 total with rounds of 61 and 62.
While Patrick’s record here over the years is very much ‘feast or famine’ with a tenth place finish in 2016 and a couple of missed cuts on his last two visits there is no doubt he should arrive here in a far better frame of mind than he did over the past couple of years and having finished fourth for the week in good old fashioned GIR in Bermuda recently his iron play, often his weak link, appears to be heading in the right direction.
Patrick also showed in Bermuda that he can handle tough conditions so if the wind does pick up this week he should relish the challenge.
Whenever I put Patrick forward I tend to finish with the comment that he is too talented a player not to win eventually and on a track, which we know he likes and solid form coming in, I am happy to chance that this is the week it finally all clicks.
SCOTT PIERCY – 100/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED 70th
Next cab off the rank for me this week is Scott Piercy.
Piercy is another player I had a close eye on at the back end of the 20/21 campaign and who rewarded us with a full place in the desert at the Barracuda.
Since salvaging his card though with his late season burst and after making a promising start to the new season with an 11th place finish at the Fortinet Scott appears to have taken his foot off the gas slightly as he followed this up with two missed cuts and a 40th at the Mayakoba.
Last week in Houston however Piercy appeared to turn the corner again posting a solid 19th place finish and most significantly leading the field in approach play for the week whilst ranking sixth from tee to green.
Moving on to this week then and Scott has been solid if unspectacular in his previous visits here posting three top 25 finishes across the years including an 18th place last year when he returned after many years absence.
As we know though past course form here is not really a huge pointer so instead I will focus more on the Vegas residents form over the years at the key correlating courses.
Firstly alongside his 18th place here last season he notched a 14th in Bermuda and a 15th at the short Sedgefield CC home of the Wyndham. If we then go back further to the 2018/19 season and he posted a sixth place at the Mayakoba and a third place at Hilton Head while over the years prior to that we can draw further encouragement from another top ten at the Mayakoba and a runner up spot at the Sony Open. To sum up then while Piercy is perhaps best known as a desert specialist he is also very comfortable on a short coastal test like we have this week.
As noted earlier this event has a history of favouring players who are yet to win in the calendar year and Piercy, having not been in the winners enclosure on a solo basis since 2015 very much fits that category.
Hungry then for a fourth tour title my hope is Scott can build on last weeks solid play and produce a big performance this week on a course, which fits him well.
CHESSON HADLEY – 250/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week in an event which as outlined earlier has a habit of throwing up winners who are neither in great form coming in or indeed have great course history, but fit the profile needed here well, I can’t resist rolling the dice on Chesson Hadley at huge odds.
Hadley endeared himself to many when showing his emotions following his card saving performance at the Wyndham Championship in August, where he closed out with a fantastic 62.
That performance, which resulted in a 15th place finish, was another reminder that Chesson is at his best where he can use his best asset, his putter, and he is not penalised hugely for the odd wayward drive.
Looking at those strengths then it is no surprise that Hadley has a propensity to pop up pretty much out of nowhere when the course is right for him, something, which we saw with his second place at the Palmetto in the Summer, and indeed to a lesser extent with his 16th, 13th and 23rd place finishes in Bermuda, The Corales and here last season.
Going back over the years further Chesson has posted top tens at Hilton Head and Pebble Beach as well posting his lone tour title in Puerto Rico showing that he is more than comfortable by the coast.
After his card saving heroics Hadley has started the new season fairly slowly it must be said however he did open up with a 64 at the Shriners on his way to a 27th place finish so there is still some good stuff in there.
Last week saw Hadley miss the cut in Houston, however while Friday was a struggle Thursday saw him gain of one and half shots with his approach play and over two shots with the putter so again there was some good stuff in amongst the bad.
Back this week then on a course, which he posted his best result at in seven attempts last year, and really despite his lack lustre showings here, should fit him down to a tee, I am happy to chance that Hadley, still feeding off the confidence gained from retaining his card, can post a big performance.
UPDATED 16th NOVEMBER
FANTASY DRAFTKINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - WYNDHAM CLARK - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED 29th - DK POINTS 89.5
Wyndham Clark was a player on several shrewd judges radar last week to produce a big performance in Houston and despite a Sunday stutter he still had a solid week posting a 41st place finish thus rewarding those who played him at a low salary in DK.
This time around Clark comes in once more under the radar however with his form trending positively, having made his last three cuts, and with him having made the cut on both of his previous finishes here, there is every reason to expect another solid showing.
A strong putter on his day, always a requisite here, Clark showed when narrowly missing out in Bermuda last year that he is at home on a short coastal track and at the price he looks a good play again this week.
PICK 2 - DAVIS THOMPSON - DK VALUE $6400 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 29
A name on a lot of peoples lips heading in to this week is that of Davis Thompson.
Thompson who turned professional earlier this year is a player with huge potential and who has already shown that he can more than compete at this level when posting a 63 to open up the week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Thompson has strong local connections to the Sea Island area and has plenty of experience and success in the area at an amatuer level. Furthermore he made the cut in this event as an amateur in 2019 when he went on to finish 23rd.
Davis should be primed and ready to go and I am hopeful he can 'make some noise' this week and prove a great value play.