The holiday break is right over the horizon for the PGA TOUR but we have one last event before packing it up for 2018.
That event is The RSM Classic which takes place this week on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Home of the Sea Island Mafia.
Unlike most of the fall events, they stretch the field out here as 156 golfers will tee it up at Sea Island Golf Club. It's tough to accomplish that given the lack of daylight at this time of the year but they get it done by alternating between two courses over the first two rounds.
Let's have a look at those courses and then dig a little deeper...
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The host course this week is The Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. If golfers make it through the cut line, they will play three rounds on this layout.
The Seaside Course is a par 70 that plays right around 7,000 yards. At an average of 7,000 square feet, the greens are larger than TOUR average but that's often needed here since the course is more exposed to the elements. This is easily the tougher of the two layouts here at Sea Island but it's still generally on the easy side of the difficulty spectrum when comparing across all courses used.
Off the tee golfers won't need the heavy lumber much. It's all about finding the fairways here. The field averages over 80 percent of greens hit when hitting their approaches from the fairway. That's going to be right up near the top of easiest greens to hit, each and every year.
Described as a links-style layout, when the wind is up, things become dicey because golfers will have to deal with a lot of crosswinds.
Like I said, golfers will see the Seaside Course during three of their four rounds. The other round? They will head over to The Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club to battle with a short, par-72 layout that plays around 7,058 yards. When you adjust for par, this is one of the shortest courses on TOUR. UPDATE: This year's scorecard is actually even shorter (6,907 yards for the Plantation Course).
Added to the tournament rota in 2015, we have three years of history to look at, for the Plantation Course. Like you'd expect from a short, par 72 layout, the field has feasted here, averaging more than a shot and a half per round under-par. If you are playing DFS Showdown contests, you'll definitely want to target golfers on the Plantation Course on Thursday and Friday.
The green sizes are much smaller at the Plantation Course but it's also more shielded from the coastal winds (trees).
As for grass types, this property is wall-to-wall bermuda. They do generally overseed the courses in late September or early September. Kevin Kisner informed us they did not overseed the greens last year but that's generally not the case. If you are really into the grass splits then you'll want to keep an eye out for pre-tourney pressers or attempt to get some intel from the tournament officials.
Looking for a course fit, fairways are the name of the game here. After that, short game reigns supreme over ball-striking. That's very rare but it's somewhat similar to what we saw last week at Mayakoba. Last year in particular, nine of the 12 golfers that posted top 10s entered the week with positive putting form. However, three years ago was almost the opposite (poor putters finding success). Overall, I'd give a slight boost to accurate hitters that are strong around the greens but I wouldn't rule anyone out based on fit alone. This is a pretty weak field, after all.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how they will play...
Mackenzie Hughes: "The Seaside course kind of has some bigger fairways when there’s not any wind blowing, but when the wind’s blowing, you’ve got those crosswinds going, the fairways seem kind of small. The golf courses are awesome. They’re both kind of different styles. I think the Seaside’s more, I don’t want to say linksy but it has that linksy feel to it, and the Plantation’s a bit more tree lined. But they’re both great. "
Kevin Kisner: "I lived here for a year after college and played exclusively out here and a number of SEC championships on the Seaside course, so I feel really comfortable with the different shots and around the greens and understanding the golf course. So last year I thought it was a little bit of a fluke how well guys played, so hopefully we’ll get a little more wind and it’s a little more difficult this year because that’s the way I think the golf course plays great."
Ollie Schniederjans: "Yeah, I actually won a junior tournament at Seaside. I won by 10 when I was 16, but I hadn’t played it since then. I haven’t played it in seven years."
David Hearn: "I just enjoy playing this golf course. I think it suits my game pretty well. Tee-to-green I’m usually pretty consistent. I am kind of a plodder, and I feel like it just sets up well for me."
Michael Thompson: "I just like the atmosphere, being on the water, having the steady breeze. The course is in unbelievable condition every time I play it. The greens are perfect."
Overview: Lots of talk about the SEC events that are hosted at Sea Island. That means a lot of golfers will have experience at this venue, even if their PGA TOUR resume doesn't say it. Hearn talks about this being a plodder's course which plays out in the course-fit data as well. Not everyone likes playing golf in a bubble, as we can tell by Michael Thompson's quote. Some golfers just like playing by the coast with that steady breeze.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Harbour Town GL
Muirfield Village GC
The top three courses are all less-than-driver layouts where approach and short game is key. TPC Scottsdale shares the overseeding factor so perhaps that is where the link comes from. Muirfield Village gives you lots of shots from the fairways which is similar here at Sea Island. Lastly, Firestone pops up. This is a smaller sample since most golfers that play in WGCs aren't making the trip to Sea Island. However, the overlapping results we do have show a lot of similar names under or overperforming at both events.
Thursday: Showers likely. Cloudy with a high near 69 degrees. Winds at 7 to 12 MPH.
Friday: Mostly sunny with a high near 62 degrees. Winds at 13 to 18 MPH.
Weekend: Temps remain cooler with highs in the mid 60s. Not much threat for rain over the weekend. At least not at the moment.
There is lots of rain in the buildup for this event which should leave the course a bit vulnerable, as long as the rain leaves by tournament time.
This event is an interesting one for weather because you can look at tee-time waves but you can also look at course waves on Thursday/Friday. Check back tomorrow as we'll look at that closer in the DFS Dish.
Golfers to Watch
He's the class of the field from a long-term view and he's also a Carolina/Wake guy. This kind of Southeastern layout is right up his alley. No need to hit a lot of drivers? Not a problem for Simpson who does most of his damage on approach and around-the-greens anyway. If you're into cross-tour doubles, then Simpson and McIlroy looks to be a standout pick on paper. It's chalky but it's rare to see two golfers pop off the page like this.
He became somewhat popular last week and now he arrives off a close call in Mexico, heading to an event where he finished runner-up last year. This might be the most popular we ever see Spaun but it does make sense as the trends are all converging for him.
Doesn't have all the experience at the course that most do, but Niemann set up shop in Florida. These Southeastern courses should be getting more comfortable for him. Coming off a T60 at Mayakoba, I like the young Chilean to bounce back and get back into contention this week.
This Georgia Bulldog has top 10s in each of his last three starts at The RSM Classic. Has gone eight staight starts without a top 25 but this is a great spot to change that.
Another Southerner that should use Sea Island as a nice slump-busting venue. Kiz has just two top 20s over his last 14 starts but he's talked about his love for Sea Island in the past, calling it somewhat of a second home. His last five starts here? T20-T4-WIN-MC-T4... not too shabby.
He's either defying course fit or his course fit is much different than most assume. This heavy hitter has actually hit more fairways than the field in six of his last nine PGA TOUR events. That helps explain how he can win at CC of Jackson and get himself into contention at El Camaleon. Sea Island wouldn't be on the ideal list of venues for Champ but he's playing so well right now that he's hard to ignore on any course.
If plodding is the name of the game then Lashley may be your darkhorse. He's shorter than average off the tee and also less accurate. However, he's managed to hit more greens than the field in 11 of his last 14 starts. If this event turns into a shootout then you may also want a hot putter. Lashley has gained 12 strokes putting total over his two starts this season (T17 and T20 at the Safeway and Sanderson).
It was painful to watch Glover putt himself out of contention in Vegas but he still managed a top 10. It was his third straight top 20 to kick off the new season. This Clemson product has top 40s in four of his last five RSM starts and that should almost be considered his floor this week. Given his stellar form, another top 20 could be in the cards.
Ranking the Field
1. Webb Simpson
2. Lucas Glover
3. J.J. Spaun
4. Jim Furyk
5. Joaquin Niemann
6. Luke List
7. Sam Ryder
8. Harold Varner III
9. Russell Henley
10. Zach Johnson
11. Austin Cook
12. Cameron Champ
13. Jamie Lovemark
14. Chesson Hadley
15. Jason Dufner
16. Bill Haas
17. Kevin Kisner
18. Charles Howell III
19. Nate Lashley
20. C.T. Pan
21. Chris Kirk
22. Sungjae Im
23. Michael Thompson
24. Denny McCarthy
25. Johnson Wagner
Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.