The RSM Classic
It was a disappointing end to the week for us in Mexico as Harris English who had been right in the hunt for us literally since the off finally succumbed to a double bogey on the 16th hole from a plugged lie in the final round to put paid to his, and our chances of a juicy winner, and instead it was Brendan Todd who in the end landed a remarkable second tour title in two starts.
While Todd played some fantastic stuff in Mexico and deserves all the plaudits he gets those who watched round four and indeed the latter stages of round three unfold will have seen clearly the marginal fractions that fall for you, when it is ‘your time’ and clearly the stars were aligned for the man from Georgia on Sunday and Monday.
A chip in on 16 in round three was the first bit of fortune that went his way but perhaps the biggest break he got was the suspension of play coming when it did on Sunday evening as he was clearly faltering at that stage, while English had huge momentum. Instead Todd was able to steady himself overnight and come out fresh on Monday morning and he duly holed a great putt. Finally on 16 he avoided the plugged lie that befell Harris and the rest as they saY was history.
Anyway enough of the ‘if onlys’ and as the 2019 PGA Tour calendar year draws to a close it’s time to move on to the final full field event of the year, The RSM Classic.
Beyond this I will be previewing Tiger’s Hero World Challenge at the end of November, after which we get a chance to recharge the batteries before we go again in Hawaii in January.
The RSM classic debuted on the PGA Tour in 2010.
For its earlier years the event was known as the McGladrey Classic. This changed in 2015 when the title sponsor changed to RSM.
Since its outset it has been played at the Sea Island club on St Simons Island in Georgia, an area which is home to several PGA Tour players.
Players based in the area who are in this weeks field include Z Johnson, C Kirk, K Kisner, P Kizzire, B Harman, K Mitchell, JT Poston, H Swafford.
Since 2015 the event has been played across two courses with the second course being The Plantation Course.
Each player plays one round on each course over the first two days with all players then playing the Seaside course in rounds 3 and 4.
The field and market is headed up this week Webb Simpson. He is then followed by Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar and last years winner Charles Howell III.
The Seaside course is a par 70 measuring just over 7000yds.
The greens are TiffDwarf Bermuda.
The course initially opened in 1929 and was designed by Harry Colt & Charles Alison.
It then underwent a redesign in the hands of Tom Fazio in 1998.
The course is a true links course whose only real defence is the wind.
The Plantation course is a Par 72 measuring just over 7050 yards.
It was designed by Walter Travis in 1926 before undergoing a Rees Jones redesign in 1998.
The greens are again TiffDwarf Bermuda.
The Plantation course has more of a tree lined feel to it than the wide open links of the Seaside course.
Both courses have wider than average fairways and assuming the wind is not strong they offer up plenty of birdie opportunities.
With three reachable par 5s the Plantation course is statistically the easier of the two,
So lets take a look at the winners of the event since its inception in 2010.
2018 – C Howell III
2017 – A Cook
2016 – M Hughes
2015 – K Kisner
2014 – R Streb
2013 – C Kirk
2012 – T Gainey
2011 – B Crane
2010 – H Slocum
Looking at this list of players its easy to see straight away that this event is the domain of players who are shorter hitters, who when on song find fairways & greens with regularity and hole more than their fair share of putts.
This is backed up by the fact that the likes of Spaun, Gay, Harman, Furyk & Cejka have also performed well here over the past few years.
Of these eight winners five of them, Cook, Hughes, Kisner, Streb & Gainey were clinching their first PGA Tour wins here so don’t be afraid to back a player this week who is winless on tour to date.
It’s also worth noting that none of the winners had won previously on tour in that calendar year.
From a point of course correlation the obvious events that you would see as tying in with this week are the RBC Heritage, The Sony Open, TPC Sawgrass, Bermuda and last weeks Mayakoba Classic, [all of which means don’t rule out a Brendan Todd hattrick!!]
Lets now take a look at the recent form of these past winners coming in to the week.
2018 – C Howell III MC 61 5
2017 - A Cook 50 20 25
2016 - M Hughes MC 68 26
2015 - K Kisner 2 37 25
2014 – R Streb 10 31 9
2013 – C Kirk 25 36 24
2012 – T Gainey MC 66 38
2011 – B Crane MC 10 51
2010 – H Slocum 45 50 65
As we can see from the above really strong recent form coming in to the event is clearly not a key factor. In fact the nine winners of this event since its inception have only mustered five top 10 finishes between them in their previous collective twenty seven starts coming in to the week!
Equally though between them these nine winners had only missed four cuts in their previous twenty seven events so it would be fair to say that these winners had been playing reasonably well and ticking along steadily until the big week came along where everything clicked.
In relation to previous course form I am afraid that this doesn’t appear to offer too many historical clues either.
Three of the last five winners, Cook, Hughes and Streb were all making their debuts here the year they won, as was Crane when the tournament was in its second year [and of course Slocum when it was first played].
Gainey had played once previously and missed the cut.
This leaves us with C Howell III, Kisner and Kirk. Kirk had played here three times prior to winning and had gone 15 MC 64. Kisner did however have some previous here as he had finished 4th the year before he won and 20th the year prior to that, while last years winner C Howell III had played the event in each of the first eight editions and had posted four top 13 finishes.
All in all though as we can see past course form has never been hugely relevant.
Finally allowing for the fact that the area is home to several PGA tour players I felt it worth looking at whether there have been past winners of the event with local connections.
The answer to this is that no winner has been based permanently in the area however four players who either hail from Georgia, or who are based there, in the form of , Howell III, Slocum, Kirk & Kisner have won here.
In addition we have had players either based in or hailing from Texas, The Carolina’s, Florida & Arkansas get the job done, showing that this event would appear to be the domain of ‘southern states’ players.
So to sum up we are looking most likely for a shorter hitter with southern states connections, whose form has been ticking along over recent weeks and who, when on song is known as an accurate tee to green player and strong putter!
From a winning score point of view we have had four editions of the event since it has been played on two separate courses and the winning total over this time has ranged from -18 to -24.
After last weeks rain effected week in Mexico I am pleased to say that apart from the possibility of a storm on Saturday we look set for a clear dry, sunny week with temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s.
The wind, which is the main defence of both courses looks to be fairly negligible with only Saturday showing the potential for anything over 10mph so this should lead to low scoring.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
BILLY HORSCHEL – 16 -1 – 2pts win. - FINISHED - MC
For our first selection this week I am going to go back to the well with a player who we have had onside on several occasions to no avail this year, Billy Horschel.
Eighth last week in Mexico represented another strong week for Billy in a year of many strong weeks, with the only thing missing being a win.
With only two missed cuts in over two years on tour Billy has been one of the most consistent players out there for a while now and the only thing holding him back from another victory is getting all components of the game to click on the same week.
Last week in Mexico Billy was again his consistent self, finishing the tournament ninth for GIR and 15th for putts per GIR and it was only perhaps the fact that he missed a few fairways too many that stopped him from being right there at the end.
Arriving now at St Simons Island Horschel fits the profile of the recent winners of this event who were all winless on the year and looking to close the year out in style and there are strong grounds to think this a course the 32yr old can follow suit on.
Second here when he last visited in 2016 if we dig back further in the past we will also see that the Florida Gator was right in the mix here at the halfway stage back in 2011 in the very early stages of his PGA Tour career, before perhaps understandably fading over the weekend.
Now of course a way more accomplished player the former Fedex Cup Champion is a man as a rule to keep on side when he is in good nick and I can see him building on last weeks performance and closing the year out with a win.
HARRIS ENGLISH – 30 -1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED MC
I thought long and hard about whether two include last weeks ‘nearly man’ Harris English again and in the end I just felt that his overall form is so strong at the moment that I couldn’t ignore him.
The case for the Georgia Bulldog formwise is naturally very similar to last week with the exception that you can add a fifth place finish in Mexico to his third, sixth and fourth place finishes at the Greenbrier, The Sanderson Farms and the Houston Open respectively.
On the flip side of the coin we don’t have a previous course and distance victory to boost the confidence as we did last week, in fact it must be said that Harris’ form here, particularly of late, has been very ordinary.
Having said this though as noted already past course form here has never really been a great guide to finding the winner, in addition to which it hasn’t been all bad for English here over the years as his first four visits saw him post three solid top 27 finishes.
Another thing I like about Harris this week is the area that let him down in Mexico, over the first two rounds in particular, was his inability to take care of the par 5s and this basically cost him the tournament, whilst his shorter irons and scoring on the par 3s and par 4s was superb.
On this basis you would have to think a shorter par 70 track with only two par 5s, which this weeks host course is would be very much to his liking. We also shouldn’t lose site of the fact that English topped the week for birdie’s made last week and if he can just cut out the mistakes that were particularly prevalent in round 3 he will surely be right in the mix again.
I noted earlier that this event is a hugely successful one for players who hail from the host state of Georgia and the Georgia Bulldog obviously fits this bill and having watched fellow Georgia man Brendan Todd close out another win last week you have to believe that English has a great chance of making it a hat trick of Georgia wins on tour this week.
RUSSELL HENLEY – 50-1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED MC
Another Georgia native who really catches my eye this week is Russell Henley.
Those who perhaps weren’t following last weeks tournament in Mexico too closely will be forgiven for wondering why I would be so keen on the chances of a player who has a MC by his name from his most recent outing, however those who were following events south of the border will know that Russell’s missed cut at the Mayakoba was no ordinary MC.
No, what actually happened at El Camaleon was that after posting two solid rounds to sit at -7 at the halfway stage and in contention, Henley realised that he had a different model of the Pro V1x ball in his bag alongside the one he normally has in play, thus falling foul of the PGA Tour’s rule of only using one type of ball per round.
Following on from this and after consultation with rules officials where Henley, having declared the infringement on himself, felt he may have had the wrong ball in play on four holes around the turn, he was penalised the two shots per hole the rule book states for this infraction, thus incurring an eight shot overall penalty to send him home at the halfway stage!
Having had Henley on my shortlist for the event in Mexico last week I was naturally mightily glad we hadn’t pulled the trigger, however allowing for the fact that Russell had been in solid form at the end of last season before starting this one with four consecutive made cuts I was intrigued to read the following comments he made after events had unfolded.
“I felt like I was gaining momentum with my game,” Henley said. “I felt really confident about my chances; I don’t know about winning but I proved to myself that I can go low on Sunday at the John Deere last year. I had two rounds to get it done and I felt good about my game.”
Add to this that Henley attributes the upturn in confidence to a putting tip from Brandt Snedeker after they played together at the Sanderson Farms Championship, the area of his game, which had always been his strength prior to his recent slump and the 30yr old is clearly a man to keep a close eye on at the moment.
So we’ve established that Henley is trending in the right direction however the final piece of the jigsaw is of course to be found in his course form, which saw him post three consecutive top tens here when he was at the peak of his powers, along with the fact that he is a former winner at Waialae CC, the host of the Sony Open, which has obvious links here.
All in all the Georgia man is a proven winner who is ideally suited to the course and returning to form, and with him no doubt on a mission this week to erase last weeks debacle from his mind I am very keen to have him on side.
JOEL DAHMEN – 66 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up for us this week is Joel Dahmen.
While Dahmen doesn’t fit the profile of past winners here from the point of view of hailing from a South Eastern state, there is enough about his recent form and more pertinently his form on similar, correlating tracks to make me think that he has a great chance of posting his maiden tour victory this week.
Sixth last week in Mexico Joel had a cracking 36 hole day on Sunday shooting rounds of 66 and 65 to propel himself up the leaderboard and this represented his second top ten finish of the season following a ninth place finish in Vegas.
Away from his strong Sunday, which should see Dahmen arrive here in good heart what really draws me too him this week though is his form across other similar events.
16th last season at Hilton Head and 12th at both the Corales Puntacana and at TPC Sawgrass the 32yr old clearly enjoys this type of coastal challenge.
Eighth last week in putting in Mexico Dahmen is a player who has been knocking on the door of a breakthrough for a while now and he did precious little wrong when he finished runner up at Qual Hollow earlier in the year with us on board, and I am more than happy to have him on side this week.
XINJUN ZHANG – 100 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED MC
I shall finish this week by giving another chance to another player who was in our team last week, Xinjun Zhang.
As I noted last week the Chinese star had made a really strong start to his campaign posting three consecutive top twenty finishes, including a seventh place at the Safeway and a fourth place in Houston and we went in to the Mayakoba with high hopes for him, unfortunately though for whatever reason last week wasn’t his week and he limped home in 58th place.
As noted earlier though the history of this event is littered with winners who have been in solid but unspectacular form coming in and Zhang fits that profile perfectly. In addition as I also noted last week some of his best performances in his full debut season on tour a couple of years ago have come on the coast at the Corales Puntacana event and at the Sony so one lacklustre week isn’t going to make me do a complete u-turn on my view that the 32yr old is at home on this type of track.
Zhang finished 68th here on his only past visit back in 2017, however he returns this week as a far more consistent and accomplished player and I am happy to give him another chance at big e/w odds.
UPDATED 20th NOVEMBER
TRADER - BEN MARTIN - FINISHED MC
For this weeks trader pick I am going with South Carolina native Ben Martin.
32yr old Martin has had a tough time of it of late and after time out with a back injury he finds himself with three starts remaining on a Major Medical Extension and needing another 70 odd Fedex Cup points to secure his playing priviliges.
From a positive though after missed cuts at the Sanderson Farms and Safeway Open he posted an eye catching 20th place finish in Mexico last week, which should give him some good momentum moving forward to take care of business.
What is also key to my decision to side with Ben this week is that he has a history of performing well on shorter coastal tracks like we have in play this week, having notched top ten finishes at the Sony Open, The Players, The Puerto Rico Open and RBC Heritage over the years.
Martin has undoubtedly been a tough player to call right over the years, however on his day he is a class act and I am happy to have him onside as our trader this week.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 270