A part-place return on Scott Piercy at 45/1 can’t be sniffed at Mayakoba, but it was a case of what could have been with Aaron Wise well in the places going into the back nine – he suffered, as did many other well-backed players, going down the stretch. So after 47 events, we finally reach the last PGA Tour tournament of 2018 – the now traditional year-ender RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort. Thanks to all readers, listeners of the podcast and watchers of our YouTube content across 2018 – it’s great to have had you on board this year!
Formerly The McGladrey Classic, the RSM Classic is popular with lots of the golfing community who reside (or have a practice base) here on Sea Island or on the adjoining St Simon’s Island – after all, it’s always handy to have a full PGA Tour tournament worth a record $6,400,000 on your doorstep. So names like Jonathan Byrd, Harris English, Joey Garber, Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Keith Mitchell, Trey Mullinax, J.T. Poston, Hudson Swafford and tournament host Davis Love III will be spending a well-deserved tournament week in their own beds.
It’s worth noting, however, that the local knowledge doesn’t stop there as Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Seamus Power, Josh Teater, Michael Thompson and Nick Watney all regularly use the Sea Island Golf Performance Center. Knowledge of Sea Island resort also stretches to a large number of players who studied and played college golf in Southeastern Conference (SEC) universities.
Course Guide: 2015 saw the RSM Classic extend to a 156 player field and a 2 course format. The Plantation Course sits next door to host venue the Seaside Course on St Simon’s Island. 18 holes of action across Thursday and Friday are split across the 2 courses with the Seaside Course hosting the final 36. The Seaside Course is, as you would expect, a links-type test. Seaside is an original Harry Colt design which in 1998 had a Tom Fazio re-design where the original ‘Marshside’ and ‘Seaside’ sets of 9 later were merged. It’s a true rarity – an American links-style course with man-made sand dunes, ridges and elevation fluctuations. The course is a short, 7,005 yard, Par-70 featuring Bermudagrass fairways and rough (average 2″) as well as pretty grainy TifDwarf Bermudagrass greens that will run at close to 11 on the Stimpmeter.
Sea Island Resort, Seaside Course, St Simon’s Island, Georgia: Designer: Colt & Allison, 1928, Fazio re-design, 1998; Course Type: Coastal, Resort; Par: 70; Length: 7,005 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 9; Fairways Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass, 2″; Greens: 7,000 sq.ft TifDwarf Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 10.5ft – 11ft. Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.28 (-0.72), Difficulty Rank 36 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.26 (+0.26), Difficulty Rank 21 of 43 courses. 2014: 69.42 (-0.58), Difficulty Rank 28 of 52. 2015: 69.31 (-0.69), Difficulty Rank 29 of 50. 2016: 68.89 (-1.11), Difficulty Rank 35 of 50. 2017: 69.24 (-0.76), Difficulty Rank of 35 of 51.
Sea Island Resort, Plantation Course, St Simon’s Island, Georgia: Designer: Walter Travis, 1926, Rees Jones renovation, 1998; Course Type: Coastal, Classical; Par: 72; Length; 7,058 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 11; Fairways Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass, 3″; Greens: 7,000 sq.ft TifDwarf Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 10.5ft – 11ft. Course Scoring Average 2015: 70.81 (-1.19), Difficulty Rank 42 of 50 courses. 2016: 69.76 (-2.34), Difficulty Rank of 48 of 50. 2017: 70.54 (-1.46), Difficulty Rank 43 of 51.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Harry Colt designs include:
- Hamilton G&CC – 2012 – RBC Canadian Open
- Royal Lytham, Muirfield and Hoylake – 2012-14 Open Championship
For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:
- Atunyote GC – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10
- Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017
- Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’s.com Open 2008/09
Fazio has also had re-design input into:
- Riviera Country Club – Genesis Open
- Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic
- Quail Hollow – Wells Fargo Championship to 2016-2018 + 2017 PGA Championship.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Seaside Course and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:
- Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 39 yards wide; 275:38; 300:33; 325:29; 350:23
- TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:31; 300:25; 325:25; 350:24.
- CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
- Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:23; 325:24; 350:24.
- East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:25; 300:24; 325:23; 350:22.
- Aronimink: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:40; 300:38; 325:36: 350:35.
- TPC Boston: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:36; 300:35; 325:28; 350:33.
Course Overview: The host Seaside Course is a links-style test, but don’t be fooled – you’d expect a technical challenge, but effectively the main defence of the course, which is barely 7,000 yards in length, is the weather from the Atlantic. Wide fairways and green complexes that average 7,000 sq.ft. make the Seaside Course extremely susceptible to birdie-making for those that can putt well on the grainy TifDwarf Bermudagrass putting surfaces. The greens themselves are quite a challenge as any putt within 10 feet is testing and difficult to read – especially for those that don’t get on with grainy Bermuda carpet.
The players also get 18 holes on the Plantation Course. The Rees Jones renovation is more of a parkland course by the sea. Fairways are tree-lined and the course certainly has a classical Carolina feel to it. However tidal creeks and lakes are in play across the majority of holes so mistakes prove costly. Plantation boasts expansive fairways and, at 7,058 yards, this Par 72 – which features three reachable par-5s – is undoubtedly even more of a birdie-fest than Seaside. Indeed it ranked in the top 9 easiest courses on Tour last season.
The key to the RSM is approach proximity and strong Bermudagrass putting. The gnarly TifDwarf Bermudagrass greens are not to every player’s liking and conversion of putts from anything outside of 10 feet is tough. That level of difficulty is not shared with Plantation, so low scoring is a must there to contend, especially as it is an incredibly short Par 72 by modern day standards.
Winners: 2017: Austin Cook (-21); 2016: Mackenzie Hughes (-17); 2015: Kevin Kisner (-22); 2014: Robert Streb (-14); 2013: Chris Kirk (-14); 2012: Tommy Gainey (-16); 2011: Ben Crane (-16); 2010: Heath Slocum (-14).
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Bill Haas, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, Lucas Glover, Russell Henley, Kevin Kisner, Harold Varner III, Robert Streb and Zach Johnson.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 8-tournament window that stretches back to the KLM Open and Boise Open includes PGA Tour, European Tour and web.com Playoff events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Jim Furyk; 2) Kramer Hickok; 3) Ryan Armour / Roberto Diaz / Shawn Stefani; 6) Brian Gay / C.T. Pan; 8) Russell Henley; 9) Brice Garnett; 10) Stewart Cink; 11) Joel Dahmen / Michael Thompson; 13) Ted Potter Jnr; 14) Kyle Jones / Adam Long / Brian Stuard; 17) David Hearn; 18) Bronson Burgoon; 19) Roberto Diaz / Ben Silverman.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Stewart Cink; 2) Jim Furyk; 3) Lucas Glover; 4) Ernie Els / C.T. Pan; 6) Chesson Hadley; 7) Michael Thompson; 8) Charles Howell III; 9) Keith Mitchell; 10) Nicholas Lindheim; 11) Corey Conners / Padraig Harrington; 13) Shawn Stefani; 14) Cameron Champ / Wes Roach; 16) Russell Henley; 17) J.J. Spaun; 18) Jamie Lovemark; 19) Kramer Hickok; 20) Whee Kim / Davis Love III.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Webb Simpson; 2) Ben Silverman; 3) Brian Gay / Patton Kizzire; 5) Bud Cauley / Michael Thompson; 7) Roberto Castro; 8) Jonas Blixt; 9) Jonathan Byrd / C.T. Pan; 11) Sam Ryder; 12) Peter Malnati; 13) Freddie Jacobson / Whee Kim / Denny McCarthy / Hudson Swafford; 17) Nick Watney; 18) Vaughn Taylor; 19) Matt Every; 20) Stuart Appleby.
Winners & Prices: 2017: Cook 90/1; 2016: Hughes 250/1; 2015: Kisner 22/1; 2014: Streb 75/1; 2013: Kirk 50/1; 2012: Gainey 200/1; 2011: Crane 66/1; 2010: Slocum 50/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 97/1. Average: 100/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
- 2017: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 68. Wind NNE 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny and breezy with a high of 68. Wind ENE 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 72. Wind S 10-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny, breezy and cooler. High of 68. Wind NW 10-15 mph, gusting to 25 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 74. Light, variable wind 4-8 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 74. Wind ESE 4-8 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 77. Wind WSW 10-20 mph. Sunday: Sunny and cold, with a high of 62. Wind WNW 7-14 mph. Monday: Sunny and cold, with morning temperatures in the lower 40s. Wind WSW 5-7 mph.
- 2015: Thursday: Cloudy, with bands of rain throughout the day. High of 85 degrees. Wind E 10-20 mph. Friday: Sunny and cool. High of 68 degrees. Wind NE 12-18 mph, gusting to 28 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 71 degrees. Wind ENE 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy with light showers in the morning and a high of 60 degrees. Wind NNW 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Sea Island, Georgia is here. Weather will undoubtedly play its part this week in what looks to be a reverse of what we saw in 2017, when Sunday produced gusting 20 mph winds as the temperature fell to 20 degrees Celsius. In 2018 we should see soft course conditions, with plenty of cut on the fairways and receptive green speeds due to rain deposited early on Tuesday morning and across Wednesday night. Thursday will see gusts up to 20 mph with temperatures at a chilly 15 degrees Celsius. The wind subsides the following day, but Friday AM starters look to be at a disadvantage with temperatures set to drop to sub 10 degrees Celsius until lunchtime – very Northern European conditions. Calmer and warmer conditions on the weekend will see birdies the currency again like last week.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2017, Austin Cook (-21). 288 yards (38th), 85.7% fairways (4th), 83.3% greens in regulation (2nd), 31″10″ proximity to hole (16th), 91.7 % scrambling (1st), 1.68 putts per GIR (11th).
- 2016, Mackenzie Hughes (-17). 280 yards (57th), 78.6% fairways (11th), 72.2% greens in regulation (50th), 31’1″ proximity to hole (16th), 85.0% scrambling (2nd), 1.62 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2015, Kevin Kisner (-22). 275 yards (54th), 78.6% fairways (17th), 81.9% greens in regulation (9th), 25’3″ proximity to hole (2nd), 84.6% scrambling (3rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2014, Robert Streb (-14). 297 yards (6th), 73.2% fairways (25th), 73.6% greens in regulation (47th), 31’4″ proximity to hole (20th), 63.2 % scrambling (25th), 1.64 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2013, Chris Kirk (-14). 280 yards (24th), 67.9% fairways (41st), 76.4% greens in regulation (15th), 32’2″ proximity to hole (13th), 76.5% scrambling (5th), 1.78 putts per GIR (33rd).
- 2012, Tommy Gainey (-16). 284 yards (35th), 71.4% fairways (33rd), 79.2% greens in regulation (23rd), 29’1″ proximity to hole (7th), 53.3% scrambling (22nd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2011, Ben Crane (-15). 288 yards (21st), 64.3% fairways (58th), 76.4% greens in regulation (26th), 33’4″ proximity to hole (25th), 58.8% scrambling (18th), 1.67 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2010, Heath Slocum (-14). 276 yards (66th), 80.4% fairways (4th), 81.9% greens in regulation (7th), 29’11” proximity to hole (15th), 61.5% scrambling (7th), 1.71 putts per GIR (13th).
Tournament Skill Averages:
- Driving Distance: 38th, Driving Accuracy: 25th, Greens in Regulation: 22nd, Proximity to Hole: 14th, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 8th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:
- 2017, Austin Cook (-21). SG Off the Tee: 12th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 13th.
- 2016, Mackenzie Hughes (-17). SG Off the Tee: 38th, SG Approach: 61st, SG Around the Green: 1st, SG Tee to Green: 25th, SG Putting: 3rd.
- 2015, Kevin Kisner (-22). SG Off the Tee: 16th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 45th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 4th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:
- SG Off the Tee: 22nd, SG Approach: 23rd, SG Around the Green: 18th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 7th.
So let’s take a view from players as to how both Seaside and Plantation courses set up and what skills the course favours:
Austin Cook: “I was here all four years at the SEC Championship, so I think it’s three rounds, and then – or the old format, three rounds and a practice round, so 16. Just being able to see the golf course and play it multiple times. I think it really does help the more rounds you get on a track, the more confident you are and comfortable you are on the golf course. It’s playing a little different this week than it does in May or whenever SECs are. It’s a little cooler but the grass isn’t quite the same. We’ve got some overseed this week, but I just think that being able to play it as many times as I have just really helped me out.“
Kevin Kisner: “I’m interested to see what the scores will be tomorrow if the wind blows like they’re forecasting. You know, north wind, neither course is really made to play a north wind. I think that’s probably the hardest wind to play Seaside in. So I’m hoping they move the tees up on that course like they did over here, or maybe it just doesn’t blow at all and we can make a bunch of birdies.“
Kevin Chappell: “Yeah, you know, Plantation course is in great shape, but the backside was tough there early. There were some pucker holes, 10 through 13. And then you can kind of get it. Obviously got me early. I played really well there the last 12 holes, last 13 holes. As we made the turn it got swirling pretty good. I drove it well today. I was in position and was able to take advantage of the soft golf course. Having two courses here brings back the feel of Disney again. It was real lax, but there was a tournament going on.“
Zach Johnson: “What they’ve done is added a lot of sand to the fairways over the last year and it helps with the drainage, helps with the run out and that sort of thing. I played here about a week ago, and we had an inch and a half of rain. That’s a lot of rain. I was getting some plugged lies. I played two days after that and I played nine holes, and it was starting to roll out already. They’ve done some nice things with the fairways. The greens have always been perfect. They’re difficult because they’re undulated and they’re kind of table topped somewhat, but they still hold, so it’s going to be a great test. The rough is brutal.“
Brian Harman: “I struck it nice, got some putts to go in. I think statistically which is one of the hardest plays to putt on Tour. The grain is very difficult to read here. I was pleased to make some 10 to 15 footers, some nice mid range putts and when you feel like you’re rolling it well you don’t have to be quite as aggressive coming into the green, so I was playing a lot of shots to the fat side of the green and just gave myself good looks and was fortunate enough to make a few of them.“
Russell Henley: “The other morning in the pro-am, I was hitting it at least a club shorter, and you know, into the wind, into the cold wind, it was playing almost two, and if you hit a normal shot, it’ll spin back into you, so you gotta hit some half shots, so it’s kind of a weird you almost gotta take two more clubs and hit it three quarter shots just to keep it under the wind, so I’d say I was pulling on average two more clubs in the morning. I don’t know. I just confused myself on that one, too.“
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 Shriners Open winners:
- 2017 – Austin Cook: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2016 – Mackenzie Hughes: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2015 – Kevin Kisner: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
- 2014 – Robert Streb: Round 1: 48th, Round 2: 10th, Round 3: 12th.
- 2013 – Chris Kirk: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2012 – Tommy Gainey: Round 1: 65th, Round 2: 30th, Round 3: 29th.
- 2011 – Ben Crane: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 9th.
- 2010 – Heath Slocum: Round 1: 7th, Round 2 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
Incoming form of winners since 2013:
- Austin Cook: 50th OHL/20th Shriners/ 25th Sanderson/ 8th web.com Tour.
- Mackenzie Hughes: MC OHL/68th Shriners/26th Sanderson/13th Safeway.
- Kevin Kisner: 2nd HSBC/37th CIMB/25th Shriners/28th Tour Championship.
- Robert Streb: 10th Shriners/31st Fry’s/9th Deutsche/MC Barclays.
- Chris Kirk: 25th CIMB/36th Shriners/24th BMW/16th Deutsche.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 4 – Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson.
- 3 – Ernie Els, Brian Gay.
- 2 – Ben Crane, Jason Dufner, Matt Every, Fabian Gomez, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Davis Love III.
- 1 – Ryan Armour, Aaron Baddeley, Jonas Blixt, Wesley Bryan, Jonathan Byrd, Cameron Champ, Austin Cook, Harris English, Tommy Gainey, Robert Garrigus, Retief Goosen, Cody Gribble, Padraig Harrington, Mackenzie Hughes, Kevin Kisner, Patton Kizzire, Will MacKenzie, Peter Malnati, Ben Martin, Graeme McDowell, Grayson Murray, Sean O’Hair, Webb Simpson, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Michael Thompson, Nick Watney.
The McGladrey in 2010-2012 formed part of the PGA Tour Fall Series with the 2013 renewal being played in November as part of the first wrap-around season structure. Every winner of the tournament has played a Tour tournament post-East Lake. It’s also interesting to see that inaugural McGladrey champion Heath Slocum had captured The Barclays title 13 months previously in 2009. Of all the winners on the Seaside course, nobody has won a full Tour tournament in the calendar year prior to triumphing here. Tommy Gainey, Robert Streb, Kevin Kisner, Mackenzie Hughes and Austin Cook all captured their first main Tour titles here in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
I covered off many of the resident, Sea Island Golf Performance Center and SEC links at the top of this Preview. Local links are numerous, but a couple of additional themes jump out for this tournament. Three winners – namely Slocum, Kirk and Kisner – resided in the home state of Georgia when winning this title. Other winners have hailed from Texas (Crane), South Carolina (Gainey), North Carolina (Hughes), Arkansas (Cook) and Florida (Streb). The last two champions here, namely Mackenzie Hughes and Austin Cook, were both PGA Tour rookies.
For another route in, I’ve also looked at other events played in this part of the world. The Jones Cup Invitational is played in February and is part of the Amateur World Rankings. Played since its inception from 2001 to 2016, this event was held just up the coast from Sea Island Resort at the Ocean Forest Golf Club. I’ve listed those who have finished in the top 20 in the Jones Cup since 2009 who are in this week’s field. Some of the names have featured in this event previously:
Jones Cup Results
- 2018 – 1st: Garrett Barber.
- 2017 – 8th: Sam Burns.
- 2016 – 19th: Tom Lovelady.
- 2015 – 2nd Kyle Jones, 3rd: Tom Lovelady, Hank Lebioda; 8th: Adam Svensson, 11th: J.T. Poston; 14th: Corey Conners.
- 2014 – 1st: Corey Conners; 6th: Trey Mullinax; 17th Joey Garber.
- 2013 – 18th: Trey Mullinax.
- 2012 – 5th Max Homa, Michael Kim; 12th: Blayne Barber.
- 2011 – 3rd: Bud Cauley, Patrick Rodgers; 6th: Scott Langley; 12th: Kelly Kraft; 16th: C.T. Pan, Hudson Swafford; 19th: Peter Uihlein.
- 2010 – 8th: Harris English; 20th: Adam Long.
- 2009 – 3rd: Cody Gribble; 4th: Jon Curran; 7th: Bud Cauley, Brian Harman; 16th: Hudson Swafford; 19th Andrew Landry.
- 2007 – 1st: Luke List; 3rd: Michael Thompson; 7th: Brian Harman.
Southeastern Conference (SEC) university golf is also played on the actual Seaside Course every year:
SEC Individual Results
- 2017 – 5th: Cameron Champ; 9th Sam Burns
- 2014 – 13th: Trey Mullinax.
- 2013 – 9th: Trey Mullinax; 20th Dominic Bozzelli.
- 2012 – 10th: Keith Mitchell; 13th Wesley Bryan; 15th: Dominic Bozzelli.
- 2011 – 6th: Russell Henley; 10th: Bud Cauley; 14th: Wesley Bryan, Hudson Swafford.
- 2010 – 1st: Russell Henley; 10th: Harris English, David Lingmerth.
My selections are as follows:
C.T. Pan 2pts EW 25/1
We’ve seen a number of international players come to the fore in this new PGA Tour season so far. Marc Leishman, Emiliano Grillo, Haotong Li, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen and Danny Lee have all contended for titles and have all landed big results. The next in that line and one I’ve been looking to place a bet on since the start of this season is C.T. Pan who’s pretty perfect for the test this week. Excellent in soft conditions and strong in the wind, Pan is the metronomic fairways and greens character who thrives at Sea Island. An ex World Amateur Number 1, C.T. has always been involved with Junior and Amateur golf in the United States and he was also a student of the IMG Academy based in Bradenton, Florida, which also produced Byeong-Hun An and Emiliano Grillo. So Pan is no stranger to the eastern seaboard and it’s noticeable that he had some success as an amateur at the Jones Cup (2011) played next door at Ocean Forest Golf Club. This is the whole point – the Taiwanese Number 1 plays well by the coast. 2nd at a Torrey Pines set-up in 2016 which is way too long for him, Pan has also placed 23rd at Harbour Town (4th after 54 holes), 16th last week at El Camaleon and his record here since joining the PGA Tour reads 6th (2016) and 13th (2017). Late 2018 has also seen a development in his ability to thrive at the higher end of leaderboards. Runner-up to Brandt Snedeker at Sedgefield highlighted a player who can go low on a short, soft golf course featuring Bermudagrass greens. He actually led for a chunk going down the stretch. Since then 4th at the inland-links TPC Boston track is stand-out and the Taiwanese has showed signs at TPC Kuala Lumpur, Nine Bridges, Sheshan and last week in Mexico that his next contending performance is very close. He’s also a rarity as far as my analysis goes – a player who currently sits across all 3 of my 8-week skill set trackers covering Driving Accuracy (7th), Greens in Regulation (4th) and Putting Average (9th). Result: MC
Chesson Hadley 1.5pt EW 35/1
Half the game at this time of year is spotting players who are winding-up rather than winding-down as we close in on the festive period, so I think the other player near the top of the market who is a real danger this week is Chesson Hadley. At 58th in the OWGR he is very, very close to a career milestone. A win here would cement a first ever start at The Masters, as would likely a top 3 as he would enter the OWGR top 50. That’s a huge carrot for a player we know is a level above most of the field this week and also a player who has that uncanny knack for staying hot. 2nd at the CIMB Classic and 7th last time out at TPC Summerlin, Chesson simply loves this time of year and despite having a low-level set of results here on Sea Island, the Georgia Tech graduate has gone well here in the past. 5th after Round 1 in 2014, the closest Chesson came to top result here was in 2016 when rounds of 65-66-67 placed him 2 back of Mackenzie Hughes. That was a wind-affected renewal and we know that Hadley is equally adept in both wind and on soft golf courses. A winner of the 2014 Puerto Rico Open, Hadley can clearly play by the coast as a couple of top 10s (2014 & 2015) at Pebble Beach and 7th (this year) at Harbour Town highlight. Hadley will be taking the short trip down IS 95 from North Carolina in good spirits this week and when he’s hitting fairways his razor-sharp approach play is a huge factor. 9th in Strokes Gained Approach, 19th in Fairway Proximity and 11th for Proximity to Hole across last season, Chesson can unlock scoring opportunities around short golf courses and he’s ranked 6th and 12th for Putting Average in Kuala Lumpur and Las Vegas in his last 3 appearances. Result: MC
Jim Furyk 1pt EW 50/1 with
Jim Furyk seems to be playing very nicely right now with a 6th last week and 4th at the Wyndham Championship from his last 3 outings, and he arrives at Sea Island where 3 appearances have generated 11th (2010), 3rd (2013) and 6th (2016). Asked after a 3rd Round -5/66 on Saturday, about his current mindset, the 48 year-old replied, “Pretty good, pretty good. I struggled a little bit the first day until the end of my round, I birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 2 under, and then the last two days I’ve played very well. The putter’s been working pretty well and I’ve been able to hit a lot of fairways, keep the ball in play, give myself some opportunities, so it’s been fun. I was going to use Vegas and Mayakoba and RSM as just kind of a state of the union, see where the game’s off, see what I need to work on this offseason, what I want to improve on, and it’s nice to come out here and see some positive stuff. You know, something to build on really.” He clearly feels no pressure at the moment and we know he’s a class above most in this field when on his game. 7th (at Copperhead), 4th and last week’s 6th is 3 each-way payouts from his past 15 appearances and highlights a player who can still mix it on shorter golf courses, and on a course where hitting fairways and greens is great news, Jim sits 1st and 2nd across both my 8-week Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation trackers. A 4-time PGA Tour winner on Bermudagrass greens since 2008, his last 4 top-10s have been on Bermudagrass or Paspalum. A winner at Kapalua (2001) Waialae (1996) and Harbour Town (2010 & 2015), Jim has the experience in tough, coastal conditions to survive the tricky opening 36 holes that look set for this tournament and then be able to shoot low scores on the weekend. His 67.08 Average Score at this tournament is the best of the multi-starters at the RSM and I can see the 2006 U.S. Open champion having another solid week on Sea Island. Result: MC
Bud Cauley 1pt EW 50/1
Bud Cauley is another player I’ve always taken a very close account of. As a precocious 21 year-old he hit the PGA Tour as far back as 2011, finishing 24th at The Travelers, 4th at the Viking Classic, 13th at the Canadian Open, 3rd at the Frys.com Open and 15th here at Sea Island. To put that in context, those results were gleaned across his 3rd to 8th starts on the PGA Tour. 2012 saw a continuation of these fantastic results with 4th at Bay Hill, 8th at Houston, 4th again at Annandale (again the Viking Classic), 4th at Hamilton (RBC Canadian Open), 4th at Sedgefield and 10th at the beast that is Bethpage Black. Since those days, Cauley’s career has never reached those highest peaks again with a drop into the web.com Tour, promotion back to the PGA Tour (2014) and a serious injury all curtailing the high development path we know his career could take. But last season showed more promise with 2 top-10s and a further 4 top-20s prior to The Memorial tournament, where after missing the cut he was involved in a serious car accident. Now clear of those injuries, the University of Alabama product is back with 46th at Safeway, 10th at Shriners and 29th last week at Mayakoba showing promise. He also has affection for Sea Island: 7th (2009) and 3rd (2011) at the Jones Cup, Cauley also finished 10th here as an individual in the 2011 SEC. 3 appearances here have gleaned a 15th, 20th (2012) and 8th (last year) and in this strength of field, Bud should be a real feature. Result: MC
Kramer Hickok 1pt EW 100/1
If we follow the PGA Tour rookie winner rule of thumb in this, Kramer Hickok seems an astute selection. Best known as Jordan Spieth’s old (you would presume these days) house mate, the 26 year-old Texan is starting to feel at home on the PGA Tour. 23rd a fortnight ago at TPC Summerlin featured an opening round -5/66 and a couple of -4/67s to close. Then on the coast in Mexico last week, Kramer produced a storming -7/64 to co-lead with Dominic Bozzelli and eventual winner Matt Kuchar on Thursday, before finishing 27th. It’s a case of 3 good rounds out of four at the moment for Kramer – very much like Mackenzie Hughes and Austin Cook prior to their wins here – but I like him on the basis that like Cook 12 months ago, he’s shown the ability to find plenty of fairways and greens over the course of this season to date. 3rd for Driving Accuracy and 19th for Greens in Regulation across my 8-week trackers, he also features well across both embryonic PGA Tour Scrambling (40th), Fairway Proximity (22nd) and Bogey Avoidance (52nd) skill-set categories. A bit of an all-rounder, slowly but surely the putter is warming – he produced a PGA Tour best 32nd for Putting Average last week. If that continues this week, I can see the talented University of Texas graduate being a feature here. Result: MC