This year’s version of The RSM Classic is the second-to-last event of the 2020-21 swing season and is being played after a major championship for the first time in its existence. With the change in schedule comes a stronger field though. Joining us this year in Sea Island will be the likes of Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Webb Simpson (last year’s playoff loser), Tyrrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick; all of whom are ranked inside the top 50 players in the world, and all of whom played at Augusta last week. Former champs like Austin Cook, Kevin Kisner and Tyler Duncan will also be here and the event will feature players who were hot before the year’s last major—but didn’t get an invite to Augusta—like Russell Henley and Harris English. This event has seen playoffs now in four of the last six years so we perhaps shouldn’t expect a runaway winner this week. Despite the split field (on two courses) the first two days, the cut remains the same as a regular event here with the top 65 players and ties making it to the weekend.
Editor’s Note: Henrik Norlander and Kramer Hickok have tested positive for COVID-19 and have withdrawn from The RSM Classic.
Seaside Course, Sea Island, Georgia: Par 70, 7,055 yards
Plantation Course (Thursday/Friday only): Par 72, 7,058 yards
The tournament will once again feature two different courses. On Thursday and Friday, players will play the Seaside (the host course) and the Plantation course once each, and then on the weekend, players will play Saturday and Sunday on the Seaside Course only. The dual courses in play at this event always plays a factor as the Plantation Course carries four par 5’s (compared to only two for the Seaside course) and is generally much less wind exposed, meaning it has the potential to play up to two shots easier than the host course. The Seaside course isn’t exactly tough though, as both its Par 5’s will measure in under 570 yards in length with 7-8 of the Par 4’s landing between 400-450 yards.
In 2016 the Plantation Course played at -2.237 strokes under par for the week and was the third easiest course overall on the PGA TOUR, while the Seaside course played at -1.111 strokes under par for the week and was the 15th easiest course on the PGA TOUR. In 2018, the Plantation course played as the 14th easiest on the PGA TOUR and Seaside the 17th. Knowing which days your players will be on which course is important and I’d suggest using the weather forecast to help you make decisions. Getting players with less breezy days on the Seaside course could be crucial to success.
The courses themselves are shorter in nature and generally favor players who rely on accuracy over power. Both are positioned near the sea and feature TifEagle Bermuda greens, although it’s only the Seaside Course that is more exposed and somewhat links style in nature. Many players who have had success at this event have also had success at other short seaside courses like Hilton Head, Sedgefield and Waialae Country Club, which also feature Bermuda grass. Looking for specialists on these sorts of tracks isn’t a bad plan and something I’d recommend when making your lineups.
2020 Weather Update: Weather could play a factor this week with the event starting off with some slightly colder temperatures. Thursday is expected to only see highs in the mid-60’s with winds starting off in the 10 mph range and building closer to 15 mph by the afternoon. Rain is a possibility in the afternoon on Thursday too although it doesn’t look very severe. The next couple days do clear up a bit as more sun is expected and highs return to 70 and above. We could see some showers on Sunday too, which may hamper play a touch, although the wind is expected to die down on Sunday. With gusts over 10 mph in the forecast all week, scoring could be affected a touch here and it’s worth your while to keep checking the first two day wind forecast, especially with two unique courses in play on Thursday and Friday.
Last Five Winners
2019—Tyler Duncan -19 (over Webb Simpson playoff)
2018—Charles Howell III -19 (over Patrick Rodgers playoff)
2017—Austin Cook -21 (over J.J Spaun -17)
2016—Mackenzie Hughes -18 (five way playoff)
2015—Kevin Kisner -22 (over Kevin Chappell -16)
– Six of the last 10 winners had achieved a T5 or better result at either the RBC Heritage (Hilton Head) or the Sony Open (Waialae Country Club) at some point in their career before their win at the RSM.
– Three of the last four winners had recorded a T6 or better in one of their last eight starts on the PGA TOUR before winning here.
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
Tyler Duncan (2019 winner, 19-under par)
Previous last five starts coming into 2019 (T48-T18-MC-T56-MC)
· Duncan posted a solid all-around effort here to take the win last year. His numbers are pretty similar to the last couple winners here who also gained +2 or more strokes putting for the week of their win.
· Scrambling and GIR percentages are quite high at Sea Island so players do have to differentiate themselves a bit on the greens—good Bermuda putters can be emphasized a touch here.
· Both Duncan and 2017 winner Austin Cook gained over +1.5 strokes Off the Tee for the weeks of their win here but neither averaged more than 288 yards off the tee. Both men hit 85% or more of the fairways though.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful to not put too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Corey Conners +3500 and $8,900
Ian Poulter +3500 and $8,300
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Webb Simpson ($11,200; best finish: 2nd-2019, 2nd-2011, 3rd- 2018): Simpson has a long history of playing this event that stretches all the way back to 2010. He’s got plenty of top finishes to fall back on this week as he finished solo 3rd here in 2018 and lost in a playoff here last year. He also finished solo 2nd here in 2011. Webb can gut courses like Sea Island, which don’t require players to hit it over 300+ yards consistently, and his record here makes him the lead horse this week.
2. Kevin Kisner ($8,600; best finish: win-2015): Kisner won this event back in 2015, his first win on the PGA TOUR, and has finished T20 or better five times in his last seven visits to Sea Island, including a T7 finish in 2018. He has been a bit boom or bust as he’s missed the cut here in two of the past four seasons now but if he makes the weekend, he’ll probably pay off for you in DFS.
3. Brian Gay ($6,900; best finish: T3-2017): Gay’s the prototypical type of player that should do well at Sea Island, as strong putting and short games get a boost here. Gay has missed two cuts here in seven tries, overall, but he’s also flashed upside with two top-5 finishes here over his last five starts, including a T3 finish here in 2017.
4. Charles Howell ($8,200; best finish: win-2018): In his last 10 appearances Howell has finished T13 or better five times at Sea Island and also recorded just his second PGA TOUR win ever at this event in 2018. The veteran has missed the cut here three times now over his career, but overall, has flashed more upside at this venue than most players in the field.
Henrik Norlander ($7,100; best finish: T2-2016): Since missing the cut here in 2015, Norlander has been lights out at this week’s event. The Swede has now made the cut here in four straight starts and finished T5 here last season. His best finish at this event came in 2016 when he lost out in a five-man playoff. He’ll look to continue his good play here in 2020.
1. Sungjae Im ($11,000, Recent results: T2, T50): Im is coming off a fabulous effort at the Masters where he finished T2 for the week in his first visit as a professional. The South Korean has been in great ball-striking form of late and found some life with his putter last week. He could carry that momentum over here.
2. Corey Conners ($8,900, Recent results: T10, T24): Conners posted a T10 at Augusta last week, his best finish ever in a major. He comes into this week’s event ranked 3rd in SG: TTG stats in the entire field and playing solid golf.
3. Talor Gooch ($7,900, Recent results: T4-T35-T5): Gooch has shown far more consistency in 2020 than any of his past years on the PGA TOUR. The American has two top-5s now in his last three starts and has shown big improvement on the greens where he’s gained strokes in five straight starts.
4. Russell Henley ($10,100, Recent results: T29-T4-T3): Henley cooled off a bit in his last start, posting just a T29 in Houston. Still, he ranks first in the field in SG:TTG stats and finished T4-T3 in his two events prior to Houston.
5. Shane Lowry ($9,200, Recent results: T25-T11): Lowry is starting to string together some solid results. He posted his best finish ever at Augusta last week and was T11 in Houston the week prior. He’ll be making his first start ever at this week’s event but brings solid form with him.
Cash Games: Webb Simpson ($11,200) is the favorite here, just like he was last year and is also the highest ranked golfer in the OWGR—just like he was last year. He’s never missed the cut at The RSM Classic in seven starts now and just building around him in cash games feels like the safest play. After him, we have plenty of great values to choose from. Corey Conners ($8,900) is a solid play at under $9K this week, although you could also stack Webb with players from the $8K range like Doc Redman ($8,000-see below), Talor Gooch ($7,900) and even Zach Johnson ($8,000) who has a great record at this event and enters having made nine of his last 10 cuts on the PGA TOUR. Austin Cook ($7,500) and Harold Varner III ($7,400) are also potential options here.
Tournaments: If you’re going off the top priced plays this week, a player like Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,900) could be a good starting point. He’s one of the best Bermuda putters in the field and did make over 20 birdies in each of his last two starts before Augusta. C.T. Pan ($7,900) is a player who flashed with a great week at Augusta and has a win at the RBC Heritage on a very similar setup. His increased price-tag should keep ownership relatively in check in GPPs. Other potential targets here for big fields on DraftKings include the likes of Matt Wallace ($7,600), Matthew NeSmith ($7,000-see below), Wyndham Clark ($7,200), Harry Higgs ($6,900) and Rob Oppenheim ($6,300).
MY PICK: Doc Redman ($8,000)
Redman comes into this year’s RSM Classic with a couple of strong Fall results already behind him. The 22-year-old racked up a T3 finish at the Safeway Open and was in contention for most of the weekend three weeks ago in Bermuda too, where he eventually finished T4. Overall, Redman’s now landed three top-5 finishes over his last seven starts and very much looks like a player ready to break through. While he lacks the power of some of his contemporaries, his ball-striking has been laser sharp of late and he comes in ranked 8th in SG: Ball Striking and 10th in SG: Approach stats over the last 50 rounds.
Accurate off the tee to a fault (13th in Driving Accuracy last year) and a player whose irons allow him to hit a ton of greens when he’s firing (12th in Greens in Regulation last year) Redman’s game should work great on Sea Island where hyper-accurate players are often rewarded. Top-10 finishers here last season averaged over 70% of fairways and greens hit for the week and Redman comes in having hit over 70% of the greens in three of his last five starts. He also finished a solid T23 here last year despite losing strokes on Approach for the week—which suggests he may also find these traditionally slower greens to his liking as well. Ranked at $8K-flat in salary here, he’ll be making his sixth start of the Fall and sets up as great upper tier value.
MY SLEEPER: Matthew NeSmith ($7,000)
I will run it back here with Matthew NeSmith for one more week. The 27-year-old is coming off a horrendous performance in Houston where he missed the cut by a ton of strokes, but a deeper dive into his performance there should have us buoyed for a quick bounce back. NeSmith gained +2 strokes Off the Tee there and +4.5 strokes on his Approaches (through just two rounds) but also lost an incredible -7.5 strokes around the greens and -3.35 strokes Putting. Those kinds of massive splits are not seen often and indicate a player who is striking the ball very well right now but just didn’t like/feel comfortable on and around the greens in Houston.
Luckily for us, the green complexes at the RSM are quite a bit simpler and players in the top 20 here scrambled to about the PGA TOUR average—while only missing about 25% of the greens. NeSmith is 10th in Greens in Regulation gained stats over the last 50 rounds and did finish T14 at this event last year too, only losing -0.6 strokes around the greens in the process. Given the last two winners here gained less than a stroke ATG, but hit well over 80% of the greens here, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see NeSmith bounce back quickly at a course that seems tailor-made for his game.
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