The RSM Classic
It was another somewhat frustrating week for us in Bermuda as despite all of our six picks making the cut none were able to find the frame. It was left to Adam Long to fight our corner on Sunday however having looked likely to bag a place for most of the day he stalled on the back nine ultimately finishing a couple of shots shy of a payout for us.
The event itself was won by Camilo Villegas who followed up his return to form in Mexico with a fantastic victory.
There is no doubt there have been plenty of great stories on the PGA Tour through 2023 but this was surely the greatest. This was the Colombian’s first win for nine years during, which time his game has deserted him completely. In addition of course as been well documented Villegas has gone through a huge person tragedy with him and his wife suffering the loss of their young daughter. For him to come back and close out a win then the way he did, after all he has been through both on and off the course was incredible to see.
So we move on to the final full field event on the PGA Tour this year, The RSM Classic.
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 week’s field include H English, Z Johnson, C Kirk, K Kisner, P Kizzire, B Harman, K Mitchell, JT Poston, G Sigg, W Gordon, B Griffin & D Thompson.
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 market is headed up by Ludvig Aberg who continues his quest to make the top 60. Aberg is then followed by local man Brian Harman, Cameron Young and Russell Henley.
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 let’s take a look at the last ten winners of the event.
2022 – A Svensson
2021 – T Gooch
2020 – R Streb
2019 – T Duncan
2018 – C Howell III
2017 – A Cook
2016 – M Hughes
2015 – K Kisner
2014 – R Streb
2013 – C Kirk
Looking at this list of players it is 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 ten winners seven of them, Svensson, Gooch, Duncan, Cook, Hughes, Kisner and Streb [in 2014] 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 the Mayakoba Classic.
Lets now take a look at the recent form of these past winners coming in to the week.
2022 – A Svensson 39 MC 59
2021 – T Gooch 60 11 5
2020 – R Streb 55 MC 21
2019 – T Duncan 48 18 MC
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
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 last ten winners of this event have only mustered five top 10 finishes between them in their previous collective thirty starts coming in to the week!
Equally though between them these ten winners had only missed six cuts in their previous thirty events so it would be fair to say that they had been playing solidly and ticking along steadily until the big week came along where everything clicked.
It must be said though that the 2022 winner Gooch did somewhat buck this trend as prior to finishing down the field in Houston the week before he had been on a great run of form, which had seen him post four straight top 11 finishes including two top fives in his first four starts of the 21/22 campaign.
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 seven winners, Cook, Hughes and Streb [in 2014] were all making their debuts here the year they won.
With regards to Duncan, 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, Howell III had played the event in each of the first eight editions and had posted four top 13 finishes, and 2019 winner Duncan had played here twice finishing 74th and 25th.
2020 Champion Streb did of course have previous here having landed his only other tour title here back in 2014, however it was back to the norm last year with Gooch who had three MC and a 23rd place in four previous visits.
Meanwhile to bring us up to date last years winner Svensson had missed the cut on all three of his previous visits here!
All in all then 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, Kirk, Kisner and the 2010 winner Heath Slocum have won here since the events inauguration.
In addition we have had players either based in or hailing from Texas, Oklahoma, 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 seven 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.
We look set for showers in the early part of the week before things clear up from Friday onwards. Temperatures look set to sit in the low 70s.
The wind, which is the main defence of both courses looks like it will be factor be a factor to some extent with 15mph to 20mph gusts possible, with Thursday showing the potential for stronger.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
ERIC COLE – 30/1 – 2pts e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 8. - FINISHED 3rd
I am going to start off this week with a pretty straight forward selection from the top end of the market in the shape of Eric Cole.
Cole has been a revelation on the PGA Tour this season as after missing his first four cuts of his debut campaign he has only failed to make the weekend on a further five occasions in the following 31 starts he has made, meanwhile he has been around for all four days the last 14 times he has teed it up.
Remarkable consistency then from the rookie however the one thing the CV is lacking is a win at this level and Eric will no doubt be looking to fulfil that dream this week and bag himself a trip to the Masters in the process.
Looking at Cole’s stats this season and it is clear his main strengths lie both in his approach play and on the greens as he currently ranks 20th and 17th in these areas. If we then add the fact that he is shorter than average off the tee and there is no doubt that he fits the profile of shorter hitting strong putters like Hughes, Kisner, Kirk and Duncan who have triumphed here over recent years.
Looking at three of those four winners, Kirk, Duncan and Hughes, as well as last years champion Adam Svensson, this also brings us another interesting link with Cole as it is noticeable that they have all performed strongly at the Honda Classic over the years as well.
Hughes was runner up at PGA National in 2020, Duncan finished third there this year, Svensson won what was the Web.Com Q School event there by eight shots in 2015, while also performing strongly there in 2022. That then leads us to Kirk who won the Honda Classic this spring beating none other than Eric Cole in a play-off. Clearly then we have a strong link between the RSM and PGA National.
As mentioned earlier Cole has been an absolute model of consistency this year, however he has really found his straps of late posting three top four finishes in his four Fall event starts including a runner up finish last time out at the ZOZO.
Arriving here then full of confidence the Florida based 35yr old really does tick all the boxes this week and I am very keen to have him on side this week.
BRENDON TODD – 40/1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 28th
My second selection this week is another very obvious type for this event, Brendon Todd.
A three time winner on tour Todd’s most recent successes came in his purple patch late in 2019 when he won on back to back starts at Bermuda and the Mayakoba, wins then at two venues, which immediately have him leaping off the page for this week.
One of the most accurate players off the tee on tour, Todd currently ranks 10th on that front, he is also one of the best proponents of the short game as he sits 14th in Strokes-Gained-Putting and third around the greens. Once more then Brendon is exactly the type of neat, tee to green player and strong putter, whose name would fit perfectly on the roll of honour here.
While it is four years since Todd’s last win 2022-23 has been a strong campaign for him as he finished the regular season in 47th place. With his top 50 slot secured then for next year he is playing this week with ‘house money’.
That said at 56th in the OWGR there is still plenty of incentive for the Georgia man to produce a really strong week to try and climb in to the worlds top 50, or of course to post a win that would book his place at Augusta.
A look at Todd’s results for this season shows us that alongside a runner up finish at the John Deere his other standout effort came at Pebble Beach showing us once again that the shorter coastal tracks are ideal for him.
Brendon finished the regular season really strongly and he picked up where left off by posting a sixth place at the Fortinet. He then took time off before dusting the cobwebs off for this week with a 20th place last week in Bermuda.
A winner at the SEC Championship at Sea Island in years gone by, Todd clearly knows this venue very well and although he only has one top ten in this event on the CV, a fourth place when on his golden run four years ago, it is clearly a set-up, which suits his game perfectly.
I’ll happily take Todd then to return to the winners enclosure this week in his home state.
BEN MARTIN – 200/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up for me this week is Ben Martin.
After regaining his status on tour for 2022-23 Martin looks to have just about done enough to hang on to his position in the top 125 for another season as he heads in to this week in 117th place.
The bulk of Ben’s success this season was built around a strong couple of month’s from February through to April during, which he made seven straight cuts, posting three top tens along the way. Notably as well his best result during that period came at the Honda Classic where he was fifth, giving us the nice link with PGA National mentioned earlier.
Furthermore during that run Ben posted an eighth place at the Corales and a 13th at Pebble Beach, two other coastal events, which tie nicely to this week.
In addition if we go back over Ben’s CV over the years we see that he has produced numerous other strong efforts at correlating venues such as at Hilton Head and TPC Sawgrass.
If we look at Ben’s stats for the season we will see that he is another shorter neat and tidy player, exactly the type who fare so well here, with his approach play the most impressive part of his game and he showed this again in Bermuda last week ranking a solid 19th in GIR and 16th in Driving Accuracy on his way to 27th.
Ben’s record in this event it is a mixed bag of missed cuts and top 25 finishes, however as already noted past history here doesn’t count for too much. Instead then I’ll take the South Carolinian’s overall profile and fit for this event and risk him to close out 2023 in style this week.
HAYDEN BUCKLEY – 175/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up I shall take my chances on a player who very much fits the profile to me this week, Hayden Buckley.
Buckley’s sophomore season on the PGA Tour had been ticking along nicely until a loss of form coincided with a rib injury early in June resulting in him missing just under two months before returning in time for the play offs.
Since that return Buckley has struggled to gain any real momentum however he has made his last three cuts posting finishes 65th 72nd and 59th, thus giving us the solid but unspectacular run of recent form that many winners here seem to have.
Looking at Buckley’s first two seasons on tour and he has shown us that he is more than comfortable on short and/or coastal layouts. His best efforts this campaign have come at the Sony Open where he posted an excellent runner up finish, while he was also fifth at Hilton Head. Meanwhile in his maiden season he was 12th at the Sony and 13th at the Corales. Furthermore he has fifth to his name at the short layout used for the ZOZO Championship.
With regards to form here Hayden missed the cut on debut and finished 39th here last year. Nothing to get too excited about then. As we know though previous course form is not too key here.
Hailing originally from Tennessee Buckley’s lone Korn Ferry win came in Florida so he is clearly comfortable in the South East and has the southern states connection we are looking for. Meanwhile as a maiden on tour he fits the profile on that front of many previous winners here.
Buckley has certainly looked a player on the up over the past couple of seasons and he looks exactly the type of player who could land their first tour title here this week.
RYAN GERARD – 400/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week I will wrap up our full previews for 2023 by rolling the dice at big odds on Ryan Gerard.
Gerard first came to our attention at the Honda Classic in the spring when after Monday Qualifying for the event he went on to produce a superb fourth place finish. What’s more Gerard then morphed that effort in to an 11th place finish at Puerto Rico the following week. Two great performances from Ryan then and two eye catching finishes by the coast for this week from our point of view, particularly the fourth at the Honda.
Following on from those strong efforts Ryan earned himself Special Temporary Membership to the PGA Tour, which gave him an opportunity to bag enough points as the officially ranked 125 player by the end of the year to earn a full card.
Whether it be the pressure of this situation or just a slight loss of confidence, since that great fortnight in the spring Ryan has struggled as a whole to make the most of that opportunity. That said there was one exception to this at the Barracuda, where Ryan posted a fifth place finish to remind us of his potential at this level.
Following on from the Barracuda though it has been a struggle for Gerard and prior to last week in Bermuda he had missed his previous four cuts. In Bermuda though Ryan started strongly with a 64 before closing with a 67 after a tougher day two and three. Still though the opening and closing rounds show us his game isn’t far away.
On to this week then and Ryan finds himself at the moment still outside the 125 points level he needs to get to, however he is within striking distance with a top ten here potentially good enough to get the job done.
Plenty of pressure on him no doubt then, however at still only 24 Gerard has shown since winning on the Canadian Tour last year that he undoubtedly ‘has something about him’ and I’ll take him to rise to the challenge this week and produce a big effort.