Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's RSM Classic Tips 2020

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It was nice to have a Sunday sweat at the 2020 Masters. We had both Rickie Fowler and Patrick Cantlay in the mix last year, but both ultimately let me down. 2020 though saw Cameron Smith play way beyond my expectations and keep Dustin Johnson honest going down the stretch on Sunday. When confident in his ball striking, Cameron is a dangerous animal with both a tactical and short game that is elite level. Congratulations if you were on board Dustin Johnson, and I’m more than happy with a 2020 Major campaign which saw me capture Collin Morikawa at 33/1 and Masters runner-up Cameron Smith at 80/1.

There are 2 tournaments left on the PGA Tour in 2020 and we move to the Georgia Atlantic coast for the RSM Classic. Formerly The McGladrey Classic, the RSM within player circles is known as the Island Swing Major and 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 $6,600,000 on your doorstep. So names like Jonathan Byrd, Harris English, Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Matt Kuchar, Keith Mitchell, J.T. Poston, Hudson Swafford and tournament host Davis Love III will be spending a well-deserved tournament week in their own beds. 2018 winner Charles Howell III was also a former Sea Island house owner.

It’s worth noting, however, that the local knowledge doesn’t stop there as Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, 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. 2020 also sees the field benefit hugely from The Masters last week, as the likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Day, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Matt Wallace and Lee Westwood boost the field.

Before we talk the RSM Classic, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is at record levels. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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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 TifEagle Bermudagrass greens that will run at close to 12.5 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: 13; Fairways Tifway Bermudagrass with Platinum Paspalum; Rough: Tifway Bermudagrass, 2″; Greens: 7,200 sq.ft TifEagle Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 12.5ft. 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. 2018: 68.84 (-1.16), Difficulty Rank 33 of 49 courses. 2019: 68.90 (-1.10), Difficulty Rank of 25 of 41.

Sea Island Resort, Plantation Course, St Simon’s Island, Georgia: Designer: Walter Travis, 1926, Rees Jones renovation, 1998, Davis Love III renovation 2019; Course Type: Coastal, Classical; Par: 72; Length; 7,060 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 10; Fairways Platinum Paspalum; Rough: TifTuf Bermudagrass, 1.5″; Greens: 6,100 sq.ft TifEagle Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 11ft – 11.5ft. 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 courses. 2017: 70.54 (-1.46), Difficulty Rank 43 of 51 courses. 2018: 70.45 (-1.55), Difficulty Rank 37 of 49 courses. 2019: 70.44 (-1.56), Difficulty Rank of 34 of 41.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Harry Colt designs include:

  • Hamilton G&CC – 2012 + 2018 – 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
  • Conway Farms GC – BMW Championship 2013, 2015, 2017.
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship 2018-2019
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’ Open 2008/09

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Riviera Country Club – Genesis Open
  • Quail Hollow – Wells Fargo Championship to 2016-2019 & 2017 PGA Championship.
  • Merion – 2013 U.S. Open.
  • Oakmont – 2016 U.S. Open.

Sea Island 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: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:34; 325:31; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Winged Foot: 19-23 yards wide.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • Olympia Fields: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:26; 350:26.
  • TPC Boston: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:35; 300:34; 325:27; 350:33.
  • Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.

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 7,200 sq.ft. make the Seaside Course extremely susceptible to birdie-making for those that can putt well on TifEagle 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. Freshly renovated by tournament host Davis Love III, this is more of a parkland course by the sea. Fairways are tree-lined and the course certainly has a classical Carolina feel to it, with players mentioning links to Harbour Town Golf Links. However tidal creeks and lakes are in play across the majority of holes so mistakes prove costly.

Plantation boasts expansive fairways and, at 7,060 yards, this Par 72 – which features three reachable par-5s – is undoubtedly even more of a birdie-fest than Seaside, despite players mentioning that the new Love III-inspired green complexes are more difficult, with distinct quadrants and multi-tier layers. Indeed it ranked in the 7 easiest courses on Tour last season.

The key to the RSM is approach proximity and strong Bermudagrass putting. The TifEagle 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.

rsm classic tips

Winners: 2019: Tyler Duncan (-19); 2018: Charles Howell III (-19); 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).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

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 Webb Simpson, Russell Henley, Doc Redman, Austin Cook, Corey Conners, Henrik Norlander, Aaron Wise, Brice Garnett, Matthew NeSmith and Kevin Kisner.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Corales Championship and Irish Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Chris Baker; 2) Chris Reavie / Webb Simpson; 4) Matt Kuchar; 5) Ian Poulter; 6) Keegan Bradley / James Hahn; 8) Ryan Armour; 9) Satoshi Kodaira; 10) Corey Conners; 11) Tyrrell Hatton / Mark Hubbard / John Huh / Adam Long; 15) Joel Dahmen / Brendan Steele; 17) Harris English; 18) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Russell Henley / Jason Kokrak; 21) David Hearn; 22) Austin Cook; 23) Vaughn Taylor / Brendon Todd; 25) Adam Hadwin.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Zach Johnson; 3) Shane Lowry; 4) Russell Henley / Aaron Wise; 6) Martin Laird; 7) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Jason Kokrak / Patrick Rodgers; 10) Emiliano Grillo; 11) Mark Anderson / James Hahn / Russell Knox / Matthew NeSmith; 15) Cameron Percy; 16) Corey Conners / Tyrrell Hatton; 18) Matt Wallace; 19) Joseph Bramlett / Harry Higgs / Henrik Norlander; 22) Joel Dahmen / Sungjae Im / Doc Redman / Cameron Tringale / Camilo Villegas.
  • Scrambling: 1) Russell Henley; 2) Henrik Stenson; 3) Ian Poulter; 4) Hank Lebioda; 5) Joaquin Niemann / Scott Stallings; 7) Matt Jones; 8) Tyrrell Hatton; 9) Bill Haas; 10) Jonathan Byrd; 11) Webb Simpson; 12) Joel Dahmen; 13) J.T. Poston / Scott Piercy; 15) Talor Gooch; 16) Doug Ghim / Charl Schwartzel; 18) Austin Cook / Fabian Gomez / Louis Oosthuizen; 21) Graeme McDowell; 22) Brian Harman / Doc Redman / Matt Wallace; 25) Tyler Duncan / Adam Long / Michael Gligic.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Brian Gay; 2) Tom Hoge; 3) Tyrrell Hatton / Brandt Snedeker; 5) Mackenzie Hughes; 6) Patton Kizzire; 7) Justin Rose; 8) Ian Poulter; 9) Peter Malnati; 10) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 11) John Huh; 12) Sebastian Munoz; 13) Sebastian Cappelen / Matt Kuchar / Webb Simpson / Roger Sloan; 17) Tommy Fleetwood / Mark Hubbard; 19) Adam Hadwin / Harry Higgs / Jhonattan Vegas; 22) Wyndham Clark / C.T. Pan; 24) Brian Harman / Kevin Kisner / J.T. Poston.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Corales Championship and Irish Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Sam Burns;3) Tyler McCumber; 4) Tyrrell Hatton; 5) Harry Higgs; 6) Henrik Norlander; 7) Harris English; 8) Corey Conners / Webb Simpson / Bernd Wiesberger; 11) Jason Day; 12) Cameron Davis; 13) Shane Lowry / Doc Redman; 15) Austin Cook; 16) Adam Hadwin / Charley Hoffman / Sungjae Im / Matt Wallace; 20) Tommy Fleetwood / James Hahn / Luke List / Sebastian Munoz / Matt NeSmith; 25) Keegan Bradley.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) D.J. Trahan; 2) Peter Malnati; 3) Russell Henley; 4) martin Laird; 5) Tyrrell Hatton; 6) Cameron Percy; 7) Camilo Villegas; 8) Keegan Bradley; 9) Chris Kirk / Sebastian Munoz / Matthew NeSmith; 12) Scott Piercy; 13) Chez Reavie; 14) Zach Johnson / Kevin Kisner / J.T. Poston; 17) Tom Hoge / Justin Rose; 19) Emiliano Grillo / John Huh; 21) Lee Westwood; 22) Troy Merritt / Joaquin Niemann; 24) Mark Anderson / Harold Varner III.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Ian Poulter; 2) Harold Varner III; 3) Bill Haas; 4) Hank Lebioda; 5) Lucas Glover; 6) Mackenzie Hughes; 7) Fabian Gomez; 8) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Matt Jones; 10) Kevin Kisner / Webb Simpson; 12) Adam Hadwin / Russell Henley; 14) Corey Conners / Shane Lowry / Aaron Wise; 17) Louis Oosthuizen; 18) Chris Baker / Talor Gooch / Charles Howell III; 20) Rob Oppenheim; 21) Matt Kuchar / Andrew Landry / Nate Lashley / Denny McCarthy. 25) Joseph Bramlett / Harry Higgs / Justin Rose / Matt Wallace.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Harold Varner III; 2) D.J. Trahan; 3) Joaquin Niemann; 4) Russell Henley; 5) Peter Malnati; 6) Tyrrell Hatton; 7) Sebastian Munoz; 8) Webb Simpson; 9) Martin Laird / Ian Poulter; 11) Corey Conners / Shane Lowry; 13) Keegan Bradley; 14) Scott Piercy; 15) Bernd Wiesberger / Aaron Wise; 17) Camilo Villegas; 18) Kevin Kisner; 19) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Tommy Fleetwood / Lee Westwood; 22) John Huh / Justin Rose; 24) Sepp Straka; 25) Mark Anderson / Matthew NeSmith / Matt Wallace.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Charles Howell III; 2) J.T. Poston / Ian Poulter / Brendon Todd; 5) Peter Malnati; 6) Brandt Snedeker; 7) Tyrrell Hatton; 8) Bill Haas; 9) Jason Kokrak / Cameron Tringale; 11) Mackenzie Hughes; 12) Michael Gligic; 13) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Brian Harman / Denny McCarthy; 16) Hunter Mahan / Kristoffer Ventura; 18) Tim Wilkinson; 19) Brice Garnett / Talor Gooch / Louis Oosthuizen; 22) Patton Kizzire / Hank Lebioda / Joaquin Niemann; 25) Brian Gay.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Peter Malnati; 2) Ian Poulter; 3) Tyrrell Hatton; 4) Joaquin Niemann; 5) Harold Varner III; 6) Webb Simpson; 7) Russell Henley; 8) Sebastian Munoz; 9) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 10) Jason Kokrak; 11) Brian Harman / J.T. Poston / Matt Wallace; 14) Corey Conners / James Hahn / Cameron Tringale; 17) Austin Cook; 18) Kevin Kisner; 19) Zach Johnson / Shane Lowry / Sepp Straka; 22) Michael Gligic; 23) Tommy Fleetwood / Lee Westwood; 25) Charles Howell III / John Huh / Louis Oosthuizen.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Tyler Duncan 200/1; 2018: Howell III 50/1; 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 7 Renewals Average: 105/1. Average: 105/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 67. Wind ENE 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 73. Wind SSE 6-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74. Wind S 10-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 62. Wind W 10-15 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly cloudy. High of 58. Wind WNW 10 mph. Friday: Sunny, breezy and cool. High of 59. Wind NW 10-15 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 67. Wind NE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 71. Wind ENE 5-10 mph.
  • 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. It should be an interesting week at the RSM Classic. Temperatures look nice at 20-24 degrees Celsius and there’s no threat of rain throughout tournament week. The course has received 10mm of rain in the past week, so I’m expecting pretty perfect turf conditions on courses that drain brilliantly anyway. And as per coastal courses, the real defence is wind. So 15-20mph south-westerly winds across Thursday, Friday and Saturday will keep them more than honest, with Sunday set to be a true birdie-fest.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners here at the RSM Classic since 2015 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018, Tyler Duncan (-19). 280 yards (47th), 89.3% fairways (6th), 83.3% greens in regulation (4th), 24″9″ proximity to hole (1st), 91.7% scrambling (1st), 1.70 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2018, Charles Howell III (-19). 297 yards (8th), 83.9% fairways (12th), 88.9% greens in regulation (1st), 29″11″ proximity to hole (14th), 50.0% scrambling (70th), 1.69 putts per GIR (19th).
  • 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).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 41st, Driving Accuracy: 10th, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Proximity to Hole: 10th Scrambling: 15th, Putting Average 9th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, Tyler Duncan (-19). SG Off the Tee: 21st, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 38th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 14th.
  • 2018, Charles Howell III (-19). SG Off the Tee: 38th, SG Approach: 17th, SG Around the Green: 40th, SG Tee to Green: 19th, SG Putting: 24th.
  • 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: 15th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 44th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 4th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 25th, SG Approach: 18th, SG Around the Green: 26th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 12th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how both Seaside and Plantation courses set up and what skills the course favours:

Webb Simpson – DLIII Renovated Plantation Course: “Yeah, I mean, it’s usually windy here like Hilton Head so you’ve got to keep your ball on the ground. You have plenty of holes that are crosswinds, so that can be challenging. There’s water everywhere, so there are some similarities. But I love the redesign, Davis did a great job. There’s a lot of slope in the greens now, so you can really use those slopes to help you and get the ball in the hole.”

Scott Brown – DLIII Renovated Plantation Course:Plantation‘s much tougher now with the new greens, I think, than it was before. You just had to get it in the right quadrant. You could get some good looks if you got it in those quadrants with the greens the way they’re tiered, but also, you know, on the other hand, if you’ve got them on the wrong side of them, you’ve got a tough two-putt. So I think it’s a great golf course and they’ve made it a lot tougher.”

Charles Howell III: “Yeah, Seaside, honestly if you shoot under par, you’ve played a good day. If I can shoot anything under par tomorrow, I’ll be happy with it and then you keep moving on from there. Anybody that shot 2, 3, 4 under today at Seaside, I mean, my goodness, what a round of golf it is in this wind, holy cow. Anything under par tomorrow would be great with me. Probably 14 just because, yeah, it was blowing pretty hard there on that hole and that’s a hole where you’re on that tee box, you’ll take a 4 and run, and made a 3 there. It was in off the left and just uncomfortable. But yeah, that hole there, because if you make three 4s there throughout the week, you’re happy. So to make a 3 there, it’s a drive and a 9-iron. The tee was up today because of the wind. But yeah, that one.”

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 10 RSM winners:

  • 2019 – Tyler Duncan: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2018 – Charles Howell III: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 10 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Tyler Duncan: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2018 – Charles Howell III: Round 1: 2 ahead, Round 2: 3 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2017 – Austin Cook: Round 1: 3 behind, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2016 – Mackenzie Hughes: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2015 – Kevin Kisner: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2014 – Robert Streb: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 5 back.
  • 2013 – Chris Kirk: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: level.
  • 2012 – Tommy Gainey: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 7 back.
  • 2011 – Ben Crane: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 5 back.
  • 2010 – Heath Slocum: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.

Incoming form of winners since 2013:

  • Tyler Duncan: 47th Mayakoba/18th Bermuda/MC Shriners/MC Sanderson.
  • Charles Howell III: MC Mayakoba/61st CJ Cup/5th CIMB/24th BMW.
  • Austin Cook: 50th OHL/20th Shriners/ 25th Sanderson/ 8th 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 – Jason Day, Brian Gay, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson.
  • 3 – Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Camilo Villegas.
  • 2 – K.J. Choi, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Fabian Gomez, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Scott Piercy, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Keegan Bradley, Jonathan Byrd, Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Harris English, Branden Grace, Adam Hadwin, James Hahn, Tyrrell Hatton, Jim Herman, Charles Howell III, Mackenzie Hughes, Sungjae Im, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Martin Laird, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Sebastian Munoz, Sean O’Hair, C.T. Pan, Pat Perez, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Brendon Todd, D.J. Trahan, Jhonattan Vegas, Lee Westwood, Aaron Wise.

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, Austin Cook and Tyler Duncan all captured their first main Tour titles here in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 respectively. Charles Howell III won here in 2018 – that was 11 and a half years after winning at Riviera in 2007.

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. You can add Charles Howell III to that list as he was born in Augusta, Georgia, despite living in Orlando, Florida, when winning this 24 months ago. He was also a former Sea Island resident. Other winners have hailed from the southern states of the United States, namely Texas (Crane), South Carolina (Gainey), North Carolina (Hughes), Arkansas (Cook) and Florida (Streb + Duncan). Mackenzie Hughes and Austin Cook, were both PGA Tour rookies.

For another route in, I’ve also looked at other amateur 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 2019, this event is 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 25 in the Jones Cup since 2007 who are in this week’s field. Some of the names have featured in this event previously:

Jones Cup Results

  • 2020 – 1st: Davis Thompson.
  • 2018 – 15th: Will Gordon, Davis Thompson; 21st: Doc Redman.
  • 2017 – 8th: Sam Burns; 21st Will Gordon.
  • 2016 – 1st: Beau Hossler; 2nd: Matthew NeSmith; 19th: Hank Lebioda.
  • 2015 – 3rd: Hank Lebioda; 5th: Matthew NeSmith; 11th: J.T. Poston; 14th: Corey Conners;   22nd Robby Shelton.
  • 2014 – 1st Corey Conners; 4th: Sebastian Cappelen; 17th Robby Shelton.
  • 2013 – 4th: Matthew NeSmith; 14th Chase Seiffert.
  • 2012 – 5th: Michael Kim.
  • 2011 – 3rd: Patrick Rodgers; 5th Andrew Putnam; 16th: C.T. Pan, Hudson Swafford.
  • 2010 – 8th: Harris English, Tom Lewis; 12th: Henrik Norlander; 16th James Hahn; 20th: Adam Long.
  • 2009 – 7th: 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

  • 2019 – 3rd: Will Gordon; 4th Davis Thompson
  • 2017 – 9th: Sam Burns; 18th Will Gordon.
  • 2016 – 13th Matthew NeSmith.
  • 2015 – 1st: Matthew NeSmith; 3rd: Robby Shelton.
  • 2014 – 3rd: Robby Shelton; 13th: Sebastian Cappelen; 21st: Keith Mitchell, Matthew NeSmith.
  • 2013 – 1st: Sebastian Cappelen; 3rd: Tyler McCumber; 20th Matthew NeSmith.
  • 2012 – 10th: Keith Mitchell; 23rd: Austin Cook.
  • 2011 – 6th: Russell Henley; 12th: Sebastian Cappelen; 14th: Hudson Swafford; 21st: Harris English.
  • 2010 – 1st: Russell Henley; 10th: Harris English; 22nd: Austin Cook.

My selections are as follows:

Russell Henley 2pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Towards the top of the market, I want a player who sees this week as a huge opportunity and will be 100% motivated to go well. I snagged Kevin Kisner here in 2015 at 22/1 on that proviso – a player who despite ranking 24th in the world at the time, had never won on the PGA Tour and who saw a trip to Sea Island as that chance to grab his maiden victory.

Well Russell Henley, like Kisner, is a University of Georgia graduate, who would like nothing better than to grab a huge win this week. The Kiawah Island, South Carolina resident as recently as the Travelers Championship, was at 193rd in the Official World Golf Rankings. But since June a run of unbelievable tee to green excellence has generated 7th at the Workday Charity Open, 9th at the Wyndham Championship, 8th at the Northern Trust, 3rd at the CJ Cup and 4th at the ZOZO Championship (we were on-board at 45/1). So arriving on Sea Island this week, Henley sits 58th in OWGR, with the opportunity of forcing himself onto the top table of world golf, bagging himself 2021 Major and WGC starting berths. That’s a huge carrot and he has here and the OHL Classic to eat it.

It’s also worth noting that Henley just loves playing on the Seaside Course. He won the 2010 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship here and followed that up with 6th in 2011. Since joining the PGA Tour in 2013, Russell has finished 4th (2014), 6th (2015) and 10th (2016) here in 6 appearances generating $572,835 in RSM prize money. From an 8-week tracker perspective in this field, Henley ranks 18th for Driving Accuracy, 4th for Greens in Regulation and 1st for Scrambling. From a Strokes Gained perspective that equals 3rd for Approach, 12th for Around the Green, 4th for Tee to Green and 7th for SG 8-week Current Form.

He’s excellent in windy conditions – his 2014 Honda Classic win at PGA National spells that out – and all 3 of his PGA Tour victories have been on Bermudagrass base greens. RESULT: T30

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Doc Redman 1.5pts EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

One who I thought that I would struggle to get to based purely on price was Doc Redman. But I’m on board at 66/1, at a tournament where the winner across 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 was a PGA Tour maiden.

A North Carolina born and Clemson University educated individual, Redman was the 2017 U.S. Amateur champion so comes from a superb pedigree line and his 2016 Freshman year also included wins at the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic, played at the coastal Ka‘anapali GC, in Lahaina, Hawaii and The Jackrabbit, played on the faux-links Dunes Course at The Prairie Club, in Valentine, Nebraska.

Redman jumped the Korn Ferry Tour, remarkably finishing 2nd at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic when he didn’t have any kind of status on the PGA Tour, and has slowly gained confidence on the main Tour. After all this is a player who had very little professional experience prior to that Detroit breakthrough and the Special Temporary Status it brought him. But since the Covid resumption, forward momentum has been accelerated. 21st at the RBC Heritage and 11th at the Travelers Championship came in June. 21st at the Rocket Mortgage Classic came in July, before a superb August.

Redman in his first Major Championship as a professional landed 29th in the PGA Championship and the week after seriously contended for the Wyndham Championship, entering Sunday in 2nd spot before eventually finishing 3rd. This new 2020/21 season has already proved fruitful with a final round -10/62 at the Safeway Open earning Redman another 3rd spot. And the 22 year old from North Carolina went on to play brilliantly at the recent Bermuda Championship played on the Atlantic coast at Port Royal Golf Course. An opening round 65, in calm conditions, was followed by a solid Friday and Saturday in blustery 20-25 mph conditions which saw Doc grab his first ever 54-hole lead. A closing Sunday 69 was no disgrace, adding up to a 4th place finish and another huge boost in confidence.

Redman ranks top 40 for Driving Accuracy, 13th for SG Off the Tee and 23rd for Greens in Regulation in this field across my 8-week trackers and his first outing here 12 months ago is very noteworthy. 66-65-66 over the first 3 days saw him in 8th spot at the close of Saturday. Sunday saw him in the 3rd last group which also contained Scottie Scheffler plus eventual winner Tyler Duncan. But where Tyler thrived, Doc through that lack of experience struggled. Put in the same circumstance this week after 3 top-4 finishes in his last 7 appearances, I think Redman would be a real factor down the stretch. RESULT: MC

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Austin Cook 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

2017 RSM Classic winner Austin Cook looks like another who’s ready to challenge this week on Sea Island.

Now Cook really came to life 2 outings ago at the Shriners Open where in a field packed full of quality he played some outstanding stuff. Opening rounds of 63-65 placed him in a tie for the lead after 36 holes and to be fair to the 29 year-old from Arkansas, he never let go. 68 on Saturday kept him in the race and a closing round 66, matched Matthew Wolff, who he went into a play off with, plus eventual winner Martin Laird.

We next saw Cook again at the Memorial Park-hosted Houston Open, where despite the disappointment of the play-off defeat he made the weekend on the number. From there Cook produced a 68/66 weekend which was tied-7th best score over the final 2 rounds, beaten only by the likes of tournament winner Carlos Ortiz and World Number 1 Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Tyrrell Hatton and Brooks Koepka. And this is the point, Cook is mixing it with the best in the world right now, arriving at a tournament where he has earned $1.271 million in 3 appearances and ranks T3 in terms of RSM Scoring Average.

Back to his consistent best off the tee and hitting enough greens to be a factor, Austin ranked 4th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green at TPC Summerlin and 6th for Strokes Gained Putting at Memorial Park. He was 1st for Tee to Green here when winning in 2017 and 2nd for Tee to Green in 2018 when defending his title creditably, finishing 11th. RESULT: MC

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Matt NeSmith 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I’ve never backed Matt NeSmith but have kept a close eye on him from afar.

Now into his second PGA Tour season, he qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs in his first season, which is always a high-class effort for a rookie. 1 top-10 and 4 top-20 finishes across 2019/20 included 18th at the 2019 Shriners Open and 17th at the 2020 American Express. His performances by the coast were also noteworthy. 47th at El Camaleon, 14th here at Sea Island, 32nd at Waialae, 30th at Torrey Pines (3rd after 36 holes), 11th at Pebble Beach, 6th at Coco Beach G&CC and 33rd at Harbour Town – NeSmith has never missed a Tour cut with the smell of sea salt in his nostrils.

His season long numbers were impressive enough as well – 47th for Driving Accuracy, 22nd for Greens in Regulation 28th for Ball Striking and 23rd for Strokes Gained on Approach – the 27 year-old is undoubtedly strong from tee to green; and at 77th for Strokes Gained Putting, he’s not pedestrian with the flat stick either.

The 2020/21 season has started well enough too. 41st at Corales, 17th at Sanderson Farms and 8th at the Shriners Open, Matthew must arrive at the RSM Classic in good enough spirits. Plus NeSmith undoubtedly knows this area very well, as he takes the short trip down IS 95 from his base in Aiken, South Carolina.

As an amateur he finished 4th (2013), 5th (2015) and 2nd (2016) at the Jones Cup played next door at Ocean Forest Golf Club. And as we know the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Universities Stroke Play tournament is played here on the Seaside Course every April. NeSmith, playing for the University of South Carolina, finished 20th (2013), 21st (2014), 1st (2015) and 13th (2016) across his 4 outings. Impressive results and intimate course knowledge all rolled into one. A -7/65 on Plantation and closing round -5/65 on the Seaside Course were the highlights of a 14th place finish in his first RSM Classic 12 months ago, and I just get the feeling that Matt is far more comfortable and established on the Tour right now. RESULT: T15

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Henrik Norlander  – WITHDREW PRE-EVENT

The RSM Classic is rarely a straight forward exam to pass. The average winning price here is 104/1 over the first 10 renewals. Now you can definitely say that we have a better field than normal here in 2020 post-Augusta National, so looking at the past 4 RBC Heritage winners the week after The Masters is a fascinating exercise.

The results highlight 40/1 (Grace), 80/1 (Bryan), 250/1 (Kodaira) and 160/1 (Pan) winners 2015 through 2018. 2 winners played The Masters, namely Branden Grace and Satoshi Kodaira, with the South African missing the cut and the Japanese player finishing 28th. So a smattering of bigger prices is never a bad shout here.

Henrik Norlander cost me some money at the Bermuda Championship where he missed the cut, but I still think he’s the sort who could pop up and win on a coastal track, and if you are looking for a horse for the course then Norlander fits the bill. Up 100 spots or so in the Official Golf Rankings so far over the past 11 months, the Swede has finished 9th at the Sony Open, 25th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, 12th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, 6th at The Memorial, 23rd at the 3M Open and 4th at the Sanderson Farms Championship. And in 5 appearances here at the RSM Classic he has finished MC (2015), 2nd (2016), 54th (2017), 54th (2018) and 5th (2019).

The 33 year-old is a bit of a late developer in terms of top-level golf, but the Augusta, Georgia-educated and residing Swede has been stellar from tee to green for a while. Very much a steady tee to green man, Norlander already sits in the 31st for Driving Accuracy and 16th for Greens in Regulation in season 2020/21, 2 skill-sets where he was 8th and 13th for the same marks across season 2019/20. He also ranks 30th for Driving Accuracy, 6th for SG Off the Tee and 19th for Greens in Regulation in the field across my 8-week trackers.

Fact is though he’s an atrocious chipper and putter, but 3 of his last 4 top-10 finishes have come on Bermudagrass, here at Sea Island (5th), Waialae (9th) and the Country Club of Jackson (4th). He clearly loves the RSM and will arrive here with no expectations and a far larger price off the back of 2 straight missed cuts. NORLANDER WITHDREW PRE-EVENT

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:05GMT 16.11.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.