This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE RSM CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.188M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: St. Simons Island, Ga.
Courses: Seaside (primary) and Plantation courses, Sea Island Golf Club
Yardage: 7,005 Seaside/7,060 Plantation
2018 champion: Charles Howell III
The longest fall season in PGA Tour history comes to conclusion this week. Of course, pro tournaments will continue 'round the world every single week through the end of the year, most notably this week's European Tour season finale in Dubai, then next week's, um, European Tour season opener, followed in December by Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge and the Presidents Cup in Australia. The PGA Tour will return with the Hawaii Swing the first week in January.
But first, we have the traditional year-ender on St. Simons Island. The central cast of characters tends to be similar year after year, with many Tour pros connected to Sea Island Golf Club. The local contingent is called the "Sea Island Mafia." (The mafia is a scary word, except when it refers to golfers.) While Kevin Kisner is a former RSM champion, some of these guys have a terrible track records at the tournament, so don't be swayed by that connection. The "Godfather" is Davis Love III, the playing host. He annually brings along his top lieutenant, son Dru, who once again eats up a sponsor's exemption. We don't know about you, but we've never heard of any mobsters named Kevin, Davis or Dru. Tim Herron is in the field, though, and "Lumpy" would actually make a decent mobster's name.
Overall, the field is dreadfully weak, as it is most years. Just five of the top 50 in the world rankings are here, and just 15 of the top 100. No. 12 Webb Simpson heads the list, followed by No. 22 Matt Kuchar, No. 32 Billy Horschel, No. 34 Kisner and No. 47 Adam Hadwin. Then comes defending champion and No. 53 Charles Howell III. Two other players of note: No. 64-ranked and fast-fading Alex Noren, who is here because he didn't qualify for Dubai, and 17-year-old Akshay Bhatia, who is on his fourth sponsor's invite after missing the cut in the first three.
The field is a maxed-out 156 for the first time this season. The RSM used to be 132, but four years ago they added a second course to help beat darkness, and with it two dozen more golfers to make gamers' jobs that much harder. Not counting alternate-field events, this might be the weakest field of the year.
We usually see some wacky DraftKings prices here, but not so much this year. Mind you, we're not complaining about the prices; the DraftKings folk can only play the cards they are dealt. It just speaks to the poor field, which makes lineup construction one big fat dart throw. And remember, this will be the first 156-man field with the reduced cut line of 65 and ties. It's certainly a week to play the longer shots. This is the final chance for someone to get to Kapalua, and it would not be a surprise if the winner was, um, a surprise.
Golfers will play each course over the first two days before sticking to Seaside for the final two rounds. Seaside is a short links-style, oceanfront track with wide fairways and big greens. Wind is its biggest defense. The Plantation course is more of a parkland track with lots of trees, and it has just reopened after a year-long redesign by Love and his design company. We won't focus heavily on the changes, since the course is used for just one round. But both tracks are tiny by today's standards, and there's water on about half the 36 holes. Last season, each course played among the easiest half on Tour, with Seaside ranked 33rd and Plantation 37th out of 49. The par-70 Seaside features only two par-5s. There are a stock 12 par-4s, and nine of them are under 430 yards. Driver will not be used much. The golfers will often be hitting irons off the tee and short irons to the green. Really, the key to success this week will be from the fairway on in. We'll expand on that in the key stats and Champions Profile below.
Weather-wise, right now there's virtually no chance of rain all week outside of some afternoon showers on Saturday. Otherwise, temperatures are forecast to be in the 60s to near 70 with moderate wind.
Key Stats to Winning at Sea Island
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Par 4 efficiency 400-450 yards
Let's not even talk tee balls. Let's start from the fairway, the wide fairways of Seaside. With the course short and the greens large, we can talk a little bit about greens in regulation, but if a golfer's numbers aren't good there, well, good luck. Howell was first in GIR, Cook was second. Howell won a playoff against Patrick Rodgers, who didn't didn't have great GIR numbers but led the field in strokes gained: putting. When the contenders do miss the greens, they will stay in contention by getting up and down (scrambling). In looking what golfers have said about the tournament in past years, quite a few of them say that experience matters, that the greens are tricky. Maybe so, but five of the nine champions won the tournament in their first visit – Hughes, Streb, Crane, Cook and Slocum (obviously Slocum, in the maiden RSM). The winning score is usually in the mid-teens, a number Kisner blew past with his record 22-under total. Cook (21-under) almost matched it. Howell and Rodgers finished at 19-under.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Webb Simpson - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
Simpson isn't a part of the Sea Island Mafia. But as a native North Carolinian, he almost always thrives in the Southeast. This will be Simpson's eighth visit to St. Simons Island. He was third last year and runner-up in 2011. With one of the game's top short games in one of the weaker fields of the year, Simpson is a clear-cut choice, even as the top guy on the DraftKings board.
Billy Horschel - $11,000 (16-1)
Horschel is back for the first time since 2016 and for only the second time since 2012. But he was the runner-up in his last visit. Horschel traditionally thrives this time of year, and he has top-10s in three of this past five worldwide starts, including a T8 last week at Mayakoba.
Kevin Kisner - $9,800 (25-1)
Kisner won this tournament in 2015, part of a run of four top-10s in the past five years at Sea Island. The Georgia alum didn't have the finest of summers, but he closed the season strong with top-12s in all three playoff events. He was and is a terrific putter, ranking 20th on Tour in strokes gained: putting last season.
Tier 2 Values
Scottie Scheffler - $9,200 (30-1)
The top player on the Korn Ferry Tour last year is 6-for-6 in cuts in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. His tie for 18th last week at Mayakoba was his fourth top-20. His short game – scrambling and putting – has been the weakest component of his game. But Scheffler still manages to deliver high finish after high finish. This will be his Sea Island debut.
Zach Johnson - $9,000 (40-1)
There are maybe only two or three times all year that we will turn to the aging and fading Johnson, and this is one of them. He finished seventh last year at Sea Island and eighth the year before. Johnson has delivered a couple of decent finishes in weak fields so far this fall, including top-25s last week at Mayakoba and also the Sanderson Farms.
Dylan Frittelli - $8,700 (40-1)
The South African has been playing really well since his breakthrough win at the John Deere over the summer. Frittelli opened this season with a pair of top-10s, then had a top-25 in Japan and just last week he tied for 11th at Mayakoba. He's never played Sea Island, but should fit right in, as he's ranked in the top-10 on Tour in both strokes gained: approach and SG around the green.
Russell Henley - $8,500 (50-1)
Henley has reversed course from his horrid summer and had made eight straight cuts before last week's debacle at Mayakoba. He was in the top-10 after two rounds, then discovered he had a strange ball in his bag, violating the Tour's one-type-of-ball rule. He was assessed an eight-shot penalty (two shots for every hole he was deemed to have used the ball) and therefore missed the cut. The Georgia native ran off three top-10s at Sea Island from 2014-16.
Tier 3 Values
Rory Sabbatini - $7,900 (50-1)
Unlike a number of guys mentioned above, Sabbatini has no ties to the Southeast. And he has only one top-25 in five visits to Sea Island. But the South Africa native who is now a citizen of Slovakia has missed only two cuts in the past 10 months. He tied for 33rd last week at Mayakoba.
Adam Long - $7,800 (80-1)
The Louisiana native and Duke alum opened this season with three top-25s. Last week was his best showing yet, finishing as one of three runners-up at Mayakoba. Long ranks 18th on Tour in both strokes gained: approach and SG tee to green.
Chris Kirk - $7,600 (80-1)
It was quite a story seeing Kirk tie for 33rd last week in his first start in six months. He took a sabbatical to treat an alcohol problem. Sometimes there could be a big adrenaline rush in a first week back before the grind of the Tour returns. And that may very well happen this week. But Kirk – yes, another Georgian – considers Sea Island a favorite track, and one at which he has played well. Since winning there in 2013, Kirk has two additional top-5s and a top-20.
Brian Stuard - $7,400 (80-1)
Stuard has made his past six cuts as he's about to conclude a year that saw his ranking rise from 299th OWGR to 135th right now. He doesn't have the best track record at Sea Island, but he does have three top-25s in seven visits. The other four, however, were missed cuts, including last year.
Xinjun Zhang - $7,300 (100-1)
Zhang has had an even better year than Stuard, rising from the 400s OWGR to 128th today. He missed the cut in the season-opening Greenbrier but has run off six cashes in a row since then, two of them top-10s. Zhang is ranked 21st on Tour in strokes gained: tee to green. He's played Sea Island once before, finishing 68th two years ago.
David Hearn - $7,000 (100-1)
Hearn's troubles have always begun on the tee, as he's one of the game's shortest hitters. Maybe that's why he does well here – the courses are so short. Hearn is 6-for-6 in cuts at Sea Island, including two top-20s and a top-10 in his past three trips. He's also made 5-of-6 cuts overall so far this season.
Mark Hubbard - $7,000 (125-1)
Hubbard has been as busy as anyone in the fall season – this will be his eighth start. He's made six cuts, with three top-15s, including a runner-up at Houston. Hubbard is ranked in the top-35 in both strokes gained: approach and SG putting. He's played Sea Island three times previously, with a best of T18 in 2015. Hubbard began 2019 outside the top-1000 in the world rankings but is now inside the top-200.
Fabian Gomez - $6,800 (150-1)
Gomez has played in five of the nine editions of the RSM, and he's made the cut every time. Only one was a high finish, though, a T8 in 2014. The 41-year-old Argentine is ranked 13th on Tour in strokes gained: around the green. Gomez has made six starts this fall, making four cuts with one top-20 and a top-10 at Bermuda.
Bo Hoag - $6,700 (no odds posted)
Hoag missed the cut at the season-opening Greenbrier but has made six in a row since them, including a tie for 20th last week at Mayakoba. His strength is his iron game, as he's ranked 42nd on Tour in greens in regulation. This will be the 31-year-old Hoag's RSM debut.