The PGA TOUR fall schedule comes to an end this week as the TOUR preps for The RSM Classic down in Georgia.
Given the time of year (and daylight available) the event uses TWO COURSES before the cut, allowing them to manage a larger field and give more Web.com Tour graduates one final chance to improve their spot in the reshuffle.
The primary host course is the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. It will be played three times this week. It’s a short, par-70 coastal layout with Bermuda greens and is considered to be a links-style layout. This course has played the role of host since the inaugural 2010 edition. It was only two years ago that they added the second course so they could expand the field size.
The second course, which will be played just once, is the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club. It’s a parkland style track that is more protected by the winds but also has smaller greens. It would be the tougher of the two courses for that reason, except it’s a par 72 which has led to field average scoring of -1.19 and -2.24 under par in the two editions it’s been used. That’s really easy.
Similar to last week, these courses do not really allow you to overpower them. Let’s hear from some of the players to see how they describe these courses:
“I am kind of a plodder, and I feel like it just sets up well for me.” -David Hearn
The golf courses change a lot from when we’re playing at home just beating around with the guys that live here, so it’s definitely a different golf course but same venue. – Hudson Swafford
“I’ve never really pictured it as a course that I would win on or play well on. I struggled here in college always during the SECs, but I think the work that I’ve done with Scott, my teacher, is helping drive the ball a lot better and that’s one of the big keys out here.” -Chris Kirk
“I think it [experience] really helps with the greens because the greens a lot of them are elevated and they slope off pretty severe. So knowing where to hit it according to where the pin is on the green is very important.” -Michael Thompson
“I just like the atmosphere, being on the water, having the steady breeze.” – Michael Thompson
“It’s a golf course that relies on the weather, the conditions, the wind to be the teeth. And anybody could play a great round out there, whether you hit it long or short, and I think really comes down to who approaches it well and makes putts.” -Brendon Todd
“I think the local knowledge helps tee to green just not being uncomfortable with some of those tee shots where you’re having to carry hazards, put it in between a bunker and a hazard” -Brendon Todd
As you can tell from above, this is a venue where shorter hitters can contend since many of the holes force you to club down to take trouble out of play. It becomes an iron, wedge, and putting contest from there. Pretty similar to the last few weeks, actually, other than the change in grass types and cooler temperatures.
The weather is it’s main defense so keep an eye on the forecast as we get closer to Thursday, especially the wind forecast. Speaking of weather, this area got hit by Hurricane Irma earlier this year leading to a course closure for nearly three weeks. It’s unclear if that will have any lasting impact on how easy or hard the course will play this year. Keep an eye out for pre-tournament quotes about the playing conditions.
There is a large population of PGA TOUR pros that call Sea Island home. They are known as the SEA ISLAND MAFIA. It used to be that any student of Todd Anderson (previous instructor at the local performance center) was at a big advantage but he’s now moved onto TPC Sawgrass. Another key link is Randy Myers, who is the fitness instructor for a lot of the Sea Island Mafia. Give him a follow on Twitter or Instagram if you want to see who some of his students are. It is very likely those students call this week a home game, travel here frequently, or can at least talk to Myers to hear about the current course conditions and maybe get some local knowledge in that regard. Some of those current or past names include: Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker, J.T. Poston, Braden Thornberry, Keith Mitchell, Davis Love III, Brian Harman, Trey Mullinax Jonathan Byrd, Billy Horschel, Lucas Glover, and even last week’s winner Patton Kizzire.
Courses that graded out as potentially correlated include: Harbour Town, Sedgefield CC, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Summerlin, and Colonial. That is three of the same courses from last week, so if anyone found themselves in contention in Mexico, they should be a name to watch this week as well.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more tournament history and golfer quotes.
Players to Watch
Webb Simpson… From a per round perspective, Simpson is #1 at this event (minimum 10 rounds) so he clearly likes the layout of the Seaside Course. Also enters with top 20s in six of his last seven starts. BINGO.
Charles Howell III… Has gained the most strokes at this event (total, not per round) and is arriving off a strong weekend performance at the OHL Classic. I have the top four golfers this week all graded out within fractions of each other, but CH3 certainly has my full attention.
Ollie Schniederjans… I made my DFS lineups early last week which means I had to rework over 50% of them once Ollie backed out early last week. Yup, I was heavily invested in the hatless wonder. Don’t have any information on his WD but it’s promising that he’s already back in action. Another very strong course fit this week, so I’m jumping right back on the train. Finished T6 here last year.
Bill Haas … Has posted under-par rounds in 15-of-16 here at The RSM Classic. That has led him to a runner-up finish and three other top 35s. He picked up 19 birdies here last year, including 8 birdies in R2. Always gets a boost when the competition is weak and the course allows or forces you to club down.
Kevin Kisner … A perfect course fit but hasn’t pegged it since the Presidents Cup. That gives him a slight, slight downgrade for me, but he still cracks my top 5. Obviously he’s very comfortable here, posting four top 30s in six starts including a win in the 2016 edition.
Jamie Lovemark… Even though the course limits a distance advantage, Lovemark clearly likes what he sees when it comes to sightlines here. In two appearances here he’s posted a pair of top 10s, gaining 7.5 strokes approaching-the-green and another 3.6 strokes off-the-tee. A little surprising given his tendency to spray the ball, but the course history suggests he can contend here again.
Keith Mitchell… Before the season started, I had Mitchell circled as a potential sleeper for this event. He remains a sleeper as a member of the Sea Island Mafia but I am less excited than I was a few months ago when he was showing stellar form on the Web.com Tour. To start the season he’s hit less fairways than the field in all four starts and hit less greens than the field in all four starts. Without the form and without the course fit, I’m going to look elsewhere this week. Maybe next year.
J.T. Poston… Another member of the Sea Island Mafia, but unlike Mitchell, Poston has a great course fit. He disappointed in his debut here last year but he was still finding his legs on the PGA TOUR at that time. This time around he arrives without full TOUR status but much better form. After posting back-to-back top 15s at the Shriners and OHL, the Postman should be delivery plenty of birdies this week.
Luke Donald… Didn’t show much pop last season except of course at the RBC Heritage. That is one of the top correlated courses I’m looking at this week, a venue where Donald has posted SEVEN podium finishes in his career. Also has a runner-up at Sedgefield, another venue I’m looking at. Posted a T36 in his debut here last year but I’m expecting something even better the second time around.
My Top 25 for the 2018 RSM Classic
1. Webb Simpson
2. Charles Howell III
3. Kevin Kisner
4. Bill Haas
5. Ollie Schniederjans
6. Matt Kuchar
7. J.J. Spaun
8. Zach Johnson
9. Jamie Lovemark
10. Graeme Mcdowell
11. Russell Knox
12. Luke Donald
13. Brian Harman
14. J.T. Poston
15. Patton Kizzire
16. Kevin Streelman
17. William McGirt
18. Scott Brown
19. Byeong Hun An
20. Si Woo Kim
21. Jason Kokrak
22. Chris Kirk
23. Chesson Hadley
24. Hudson Swafford
25. Martin Laird