RSM CLASSIC: The PGA Tour wraps up its Fall Series this week with one of the hidden gems on the schedule, and though this tournament lacks the star power that you’ll see in Dubai, where the European Tour’s year-end DP World Tour Championship is taking place, I don’t think too many guys in the field will regret their attendance this week. After all, spending a few November days in Sea Island, Georgia is just about as close as a golfer can get to paradise, which is why so many Tour players– 20 or more– now call these coastal lowlands home.
The world-class golf in the Sea Island area is plentiful, with courses like Frederica, Ocean Forest, the King and Prince, and more, but this event has found a home at Sea Island Golf Club, where both courses– the Seaside and Plantation– will be used once again. As has been the case in years past, the Seaside will serve as the host course and will be home to all the weekend action, with players mixing in a round at Plantation on either Thursday or Friday.
Both the Seaside and Plantation courses are relatively short, with each measuring just over 7,000 yards, so length off the tee isn’t a requirement this week. The wind can howl, though, especially at Seaside, a layout that is considerably more exposed than the tree-lined Plantation, which was recently renovated by Davis Love III, who apparently took out some bunkers and re-worked a few green complexes. The greens are smallish on both courses, but they’re firm and fast, particularly at Seaside, where they should be rolling at around 13 on the stimp. Bottom line: precision with the short irons and wedges is a must this week.
As mentioned, the Sea Island area has become somewhat of a mecca for professional golfers, with many choosing to relocate there over the past decade. The so-called “Sea Island Mafia” will be out in full force this week– players like Matt Kuchar, Harris English, Zach Johnson, Brian Harman, J.T. Poston, Keith Mitchell, Patton Kizzire, Michael Thompson, and of course Davis Love III, the tournament host who reserves a spot in the field for himself, will all have ample support from the hometown galleries and plenty of course knowledge to draw upon.
Another player who is intimately familiar with Sea Island in general and this event specifically, Webb Simpson, heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 11.5, and that fact alone should give you an idea of the type of field we’re talking about here. The U.S. Open, it’s not. But I expect an interesting week nonetheless, and hopefully our autumn hot streak continues with these three selections:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Billy Horschel (20.0)- Horschel has been very active this fall and he’s been playing well, with seven top-25s in his last nine worldwide starts. He’s been doing a bit of globetrotting over the last few weeks, with a T6 in Japan at the ZOZO Championship last month, followed by a T24 at the WGC-HSBC in China, and then last week he was in Mexico, where he closed with rounds of 66-68 to finish 8th at the Mayakoba. Now he returns home (or, quite close to home, as Horschel resides in Jacksonville, about 60 miles from Sea Island) to a course and style he’s quite familiar with. He last played this event in 2017 and nearly hoisted the trophy, coming up short in a 5-man playoff that was eventually won by Mackenzie Hughes. He shot 68 or better in all four rounds that week, so he should be filled with positive memories and confidence this week, and given his current form, I think he’s a sensible play at a price like 20.0.
Brian Gay (56.0)- Always a threat on shorter courses because of his consistency, accuracy, and brilliant short game, Gay has been playing some good golf lately, logging top-25 finishes in four of his past five starts. That makes him one to watch this week, because Sea Island is a perfect fit for him stylistically, from the narrow landing areas to the tricky Bermuda green complexes. Gay has always played his best on Bermuda grass, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a longtime Florida resident, and he did some great work on the actual island of Bermuda a couple of weeks ago, finishing 3rd in the Bermuda Championship. He’s made some noise in this event over the years, making 5 of 7 cuts and posting a pair of top-5s, including a solo 3rd in 2018, so he obviously knows his way around the courses. At a price like 56.0, Gay is an excellent value this week.
Dominic Bozzelli (142.0)- Though his name may be unfamiliar to casual fans, Bozzelli is a young player who has stabilized his career over the past couple of years and now looks to make his mark on the big tour. He’s played some good golf this fall, making 4 of 5 cuts and finishing 6th at the Sanderson Farms Championship, and he should have confidence at Sea Island after an 11th-place finish here last year that was huge for his career, as it vaulted him up the money list before the reshuffle, enabling him to earn a few more starts, one being the Desert Classic, where he finished 5th to lock up status for the remainder of the year. Bozzelli had been playing poorly heading into this event last year, so it’s notable that he was able to turn things around and finish 11th– it suggests that the course is a good fit. This is a guy whose putting and scrambling stats are tremendous, so if he gets a few good yardages this week, look out. If you’re looking for a longshot, Bozzelli is someone you may want to consider.