RSM CLASSIC: What the RSM Classic lacks in star power it more than makes up for in ambiance, and it’s all due to the venue: a little slice of heaven tucked away in the coastal marshlands of South Georgia that is one of the true hidden gems of American golf. Sea Island is the place in question, and if you’ve never been I highly suggest you rectify that as soon as possible. The stunning resort features two courses, Seaside and Plantation, and both will be used on Thursday and Friday before all the action moves to Seaside for the final two rounds.
This is only the eighth edition of this tournament and it takes place in what has traditionally been the heart of the offseason, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the bigger names on Tour have decided to stay home. Of course, there are the regulars, guys like Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Brian Harman, Hudson Stafford, and Harris English– players who reside in Sea Island year-round, so they don’t have to choose between family and work. The “Sea Island Mafia”, as they’re known, now includes over a dozen players (and many more on second-tier tours), giving this tournament a unique down-home feel.
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, which is considerably more exposed than the tree-lined Plantation (maybe “tree-lined” is a little strong, but Plantation is definitely more of a traditional, parkland-style course). Firm, fast Bermuda greens will keep things interesting, and great short-iron play is a must.
Last year’s tournament was rather wild, as an exciting Sunday ended up producing a 5-man playoff that was eventually won by Mackenzie Hughes. Hughes has been struggling lately, however, missing back-to-back cuts and finding the top-10 only once since his victory here 12 months ago, so I’d look elsewhere this week. Brian Harman heads BETDAQ’s Win Market (surely the first time I’ve ever typed that sentence), but his price is a little short for my liking and there’s plenty of value to be found a little further down the board.
With that in mind, here are this week’s selections:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Charles Howell III (25.0)– A seasoned veteran who probably hasn’t won as much as he should have over the course of his career, Howell is in great form at the moment and it feels like he’s closing in on a victory. He almost had one last week, as he closed with back-to-back 66s to finish 4th at the OHL Classic. It was Howell’s third consecutive top-15 finish and his best showing since his runner-up finish in July’s Quicken Loans National, and he did it in style, making ten birdies and an eagle over the weekend. He’s a Georgia native who never misses this tournament and has a terrific record here, making the cut in all seven of his appearances and finding the top-15 three times. All things considered, Howell is a blue-chip option this week and a fair value at 25.0.
Scott Brown (46.0)- Brown has long been one of the most underrated players on Tour and he closed last season strong, finishing 13th in the PGA Championship and finding the top-25 in two FedExCup Playoff events– The Northern Trust and the BMW Championship. His good form has carried over to the fall, as he finished 5th at the CJ Cup a couple of weeks ago and followed that with a 6th-place showing at the OHL Classic last week, where he broke 70 in all four rounds. So he’s on a bit of a roll heading into this week, and he’s coming to one of his favorite venues: Sea Island. Brown hails from Augusta, Georgia and now lives in nearby Aiken, South Carolina, so he’s grown up on and around courses that are very similar to what he’ll see this week. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that he has an excellent record in this event, logging three top-20 finishes in four career appearances. If he gets hot with the putter, Brown could be the man left standing with the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
William McGirt (104.0)- McGirt is a 38-year old journeyman whose lone PGA Tour victory came at the 2016 Memorial, but Sea Island is the type of place where he should be able to succeed. He’s a Southern boy– a native of North Carolina who played collegiately at Wofford (in South Carolina), and he generally plays his best golf in the Southeast. His results in this tournament have been solid yet unspectacular, as he finished 27th last year and 32nd in his previous appearance, back in 2014. He hits the ball low, which could be helpful if the wind picks up at the Seaside course, and his lack of length off the tee won’t hurt him this week. Critically, he’s been playing very well this fall, finding the top-25 at the Sanderson Farms Championship in late October and then following that with a T10 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. At better than 100/1, McGirt is worth taking a shot on here.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Kevin Kisner (1.91) vs. Brian Harman (1.91)
Kisner won this event in 2015 and he’s coming off a great year that saw him make over $4 million in prize money and finish 12th in the final FedEx Cup standings. He hasn’t played since the Tour Championship, however, while Harman has been active and playing some good golf, finishing 5th at the CJ Cup and 8th in the WGC- HSBC Champions. Harman is a Sea Island resident who has played countless rounds on both the Seaside and Plantation courses, and though he can’t yet match Kisner’s win here, his results have been solid. I’ll happily back him heads-up against a guy who hasn’t played a competitive round in nearly two months. Recommendation: Harman at 1.91
Chesson Hadley (1.91) vs. Ollie Schniederjans (1.91)
Schniederjans has been playing very well, finding the top-25 in all three of his PGA Tour starts this fall (and throwing in a top-20 in Japan for good measure), and the Georgia Tech grad has lots of experience at Sea Island. But he hasn’t been playing quite as well as Hadley, who is one of the hottest players in the world right now after recording three consecutive top-5 finishes at the Safeway Open, the Sanderson Farms Championship, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. And Hadley definitely knows his way around Sea Island– last year he was in the top-5 before playing poorly on Sunday. He’s likely to contend this week. Recommendation: Hadley at 1.91