RSM CLASSIC: It’s been a year to remember in professional golf, and this week the PGA Tour’s final full-field event of 2022 will be held in lovely Sea Island, Georgia, a little slice of heaven that happens to be the primary residence of dozens of touring pros.

The “Sea Island Mafia”, as they are colloquially known, has claimed this event as their own, with the Don himself, Davis Love III, serving as official tournament host. If you’ve ever been to Sea Island you understand immediately why pro golfers would want to relocate there– it’s temperate, beautiful, family-friendly, and is home to more world-class golf courses than just about any region of its size on the planet. There’s Frederica, Ocean Forest, Retreat, King and Prince, Brunswick Country Club, Jekyll Island Club… and then of course there’s the Sea Island Resort itself, whose Seaside and Plantation courses will be the site of this week’s action.

The Seaside Course, which was rebuilt and modernized by Tom Fazio in 1999, will be the primary host course this week, with the Plantation being used as an alternate venue on Thursday and Friday. Both courses are short by Tour standards– Seaside is a par-70 that measures just a hair over 7,000 yards, while Plantation is a par-72 that isn’t much longer at 7,060 yards– but they can both be heavily wind-affected due to their proximity to the ocean. Plantation is a more conventional, tree-lined, parkland-style course, while Seaside is more exposed and has a bit of a links feel. Neither course is particularly demanding tee-to-green, but the firm, undulating green complexes at Seaside can cause problems, particularly when the wind is whipping. Still, scores are always low here, with last year’s champion, Talor Gooch, becoming the sixth winner in the past seven years to post 19-under or better.

This tournament has become a launching pad for the careers of some of the Tour’s younger, lesser-known players. Mackenzie Hughes, Austin Cook, Robert Streb, Tyler Duncan, and Gooch have all been victorious here in recent years, and this week’s field is full of young, hungry guys who fit the profile. Four of the past six champions here have gone off as triple-digit longshots, so if there was ever a week to throw some darts, this is it. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Mackenzie Hughes (34.0)- When Hughes won this event back in 2016, it was a major breakthrough for his career– prior to that he had never registered a top-10 on Tour and his career earnings were less than $200k. He’s now ranked 50th in the world and has experienced plenty of success, but no place has treated him better than Sea Island, as he added a runner-up finish here last year to go along with his victory in ’16. He’s had a big-time run this Fall, too, finding the top-25 in all four of his starts and winning the Sanderson Farms Championship last month. All things considered, it seems strange that there are a dozen guys priced shorter than Hughes this week… he’s certainly a blue-chip option given his current form and course history.

Webb Simpson (43.0)- If “horses for courses” is the mantra of the successful golf bettor, then Simpson should be a no-brainer this week at his current price. The man simply plays well nearly every time he tees it up at Sea Island, finding the top-10 here four times in his last eight appearances, including a T8 last year, a runner-up finish in 2019, and a T3 in 2018. The course(s) obviously suits his eye, and the segmented green complexes with extra small targets are perfect for an elite short-iron player like Simpson. He hasn’t played much this Fall but he did make the cut in the CJ Cup a couple weeks back, so we know his game is in decent shape, and “decent” may be all Simpson needs to contend at Sea Island. At better than 40/1, I’m more than happy to take a chance on a seasoned vet who loves the course.

Patton Kizzire (128.0)- Kizzire very much fits the mold of players who have won here recently– he’s talented but relatively unheralded and is still looking for a major career breakthrough, though he did win twice in the 2017-18 season. He has a nice record at this event, finishing 10th in 2020 and T15 in 2018, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering he does his best work on short, tight, Bermuda-covered courses… courses like Sea Island. Perhaps the main reason I think he could be a sneaky value this week, however, is his performance in Mayakoba two weeks ago (his last start), when he opened with back-to-back 65s and went on to tie for 10th. That means his game is quietly rounding into form, and now he comes to a place that brings him confidence and good memories. If you’re looking for a live longshot this week, you could do a lot worse than Kizzire.

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