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RSM Classic Betting Tips: Jamie Worsley's top bets for Sea Island

Russell Henley is a good value each-way bet for the 2021 RSM Classic
Russell Henley is a good value each-way bet for the 2021 RSM Classic

The PGA Tour arrives at its official climax this week, with the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort in Georgia. Situated right on the Atlantic coast, the luxury Sea Island Resort is home to many a current PGA Tour professional and welcomes the tour back for its 12th consecutive year. 

Played on two courses over the first two rounds, the field alternating between the Tom Fazio redesigned Seaside Course and the Plantation Course, which was also redesigned, this time by Davis Love III in 2019. Before playing solely at the more renowned and tougher Seaside Course for the final two rounds.

Both courses are short and scorable if the weather allows. Each not much longer than 7000 yards, with the Plantation Course playing to a par 72, compared to the Seaside Course being a par 70 and in the last six renewals, we’ve seen a winning score of -19 or lower.

The Seaside Course is a rather exposed setup, which makes it susceptible to the wind, but fairways regularly rank amongst the easiest to hit, giving a chance to both longer and shorter hitters. The Plantation Course is a more classic tree-lined design, in which the players will find themselves at a disadvantage if they can’t capitalize on the scorability and two extra par 5s. 

The event will be decided by what you do from the fairways and how hot you can get on these speedy bermuda greens. Every winner since the tournament’s introduction excelling in at least one of those two areas, often both. Approach play from 125-150 yards looking particularly important.

RSM Classic Tips

It’s an event with a huge amount of correlative form. Matching up well with fellow coastal courses, as well as shorter scorable venues. Events like the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC, the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, Honda Classic at PGA National and the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Hawaii to name a few. Whilst the Boise Open on the Korn Ferry Tour can provide further clues, particularly for those players stepping up to the PGA Tour this season. 

The weather is forecast to be warm and dry, meaning we should get firm conditions. Added to the prospect of some strong winds over the weekend, which will spice things up further, we may get closer to the -17 winning score that fired Mackenzie Hughes to victory in 2016.

Louis Oosthuizen is the highest ranked player in the field at #9 in the world. With Harris English and Scottie Scheffler making up the rest of the players from the world’s top 20. Robert Streb returns after becoming the tournament’s first two-time winner last year and as an event that has handed breakthrough victories to five of the eleven winners, we have a plethora of youngsters who will hope to take advantage off this lack of depth in the field.

Today's golf tips
Russell Henley E/W - 8 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-16 10:05 Odds subject to change.

The market is headed by Scottie Scheffler and Webb Simpson, both players with every chance but also questions to answer. Scheffler struggled when in control of the Houston Open last week, whilst Simpson hasn’t quite been at his best this year. For these reasons they’re passed over. Georgia’s own Russell Henley getting the nod as my headline selection, arriving here off the back of an excellent 7th place finish in Houston last week.

Over the last few years, this once renowned excellent putter has turned himself into one of the best iron players on tour. Ranking 3rd on tour in approach in 2020, then 6th for last season. He’s started the 2021/22 season in exactly the same fashion, sitting 1st in the approach rankings after a handful of starts. He also ticks the box in the 125-150 yards category, sitting 3rd and 5th on the PGA Tour in that statistic the previous two seasons.

Unfortunately, the gains Henley has made in approaching the greens have been lost on them. Dropping from inside the top 25 in putting in 2017, to being outside the top 100 in each of the last three seasons. Though there have been positive signs of late in this regard.

In the last 9 starts in which strokes gained stats have been recorded, Henley has gained strokes on the greens in 5 of them. Most recently when ranking 12th in last week’s Houston Open. His best putting performance since the Honda Classic back in March. 

Having played here every year since 2013, barring the 2017 season, Henley is familiar with the course and possesses an excellent record. With three top 10s to his name, a 4th place finish in 2014 his best.

Further encouragement is found in a book of form which boasts victories in the Honda Classic and Sony Open, two of the correlating courses mentioned above.

Continuing to play sublime golf with his irons, combined with his record here and at correlating events, Henley would’ve been on the radar anyway this week. With the added bonus of a best putting performance for 8 months on his last start, I had to be on him and think this is the week the former Georgia Bulldog finally re-enters the winner’s circle.

Mito Pereira E/W - 8 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-16 10:05 Odds subject to change.

I was tempted by Chile’s Joaquin Niemann but feel he’s causing enough concern with the putter of late to put me off, an area of his game which had long been a strength. Instead I’m going with his compatriot, Mito Pereira, who finally found something with the putter last week in Texas.

After gaining his PGA Tour card in express fashion, thanks to picking up three titles on the Korn Ferry Tour’s elongated 2020/21 season, Pereira has found the step up in grade no problem.

He’s played 13 times since the promotion, missing just three cuts and recording four finishes in the top 6. The most impressive a 4th place finish at the Olympics, also finishing 3rd at the Fortinet Championship in the first event of the new season. 

He’s a terrific ball-striker, ranking 5th in approach on tour this season and 25th off-the-tee. Only putting up negative numbers in one event since that first start on tour back in July. He does need to sharpen up on and around the greens but last week in the Houston Open, he recorded his best putting performance since his debut on the tour.

He hasn’t played here before and due to his infancy on the tour, hasn’t played in many correlating events, but does possess a couple of bits of form from the Korn Ferry Tour which may point to his suitability to here. The standout of them is a victory in the BMW Charity Open, that takes place in this area of the U.S, an event in which 2019 RSM Classic champion, Tyler Duncan, finished as runner-up in 2017.

He was a talented amateur, reaching as high as #5 in the rankings, therefore his progress is of little surprise. A victory on the PGA Tour will come eventually and if able to match the quality ball-striking he’s shown in the last few months with the improved putting performance of last week, he can add his name to that list of first time winners at Sea Island.

Chris Kirk E/W - 7 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-16 10:05 Odds subject to change.

Island Resort, the other a current member. Chris Kirk is the former member in question, and he has more than just course knowledge in his favour this week.

Kirk is not just a former member of the course but also a former winner of this event, picking up the title in 2013 and posting two subsequent 4th place finishes since. Not only his form here that gives confidence, as he possesses an abundance of correlative form.

He’s twice been a runner-up in the Sony Open and has top 10s in the RBC Heritage. Even a victory and generally quality record at Colonial appears to work well.

His form has been solid of late, making his last seven cuts in a row. This owing to iron play that is predominantly firing, as it often has. Particularly excelling with his wedges in that 125-150 yard range, where he ranked 19th on tour last season and has been in the top 30 on tour every year he’s played, going back to 2017.

The putter is streaky but when it fires, he’s a dangerous player. With many things to his benefit, he can take advantage of some good recent golf to pick up his first PGA Tour title since 2015.

Today's golf odds
Matt Kuchar E/W - 8 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-16 10:10 Odds subject to change.

The current Sea Island resident I was referring to is Matt Kuchar, who has had an eye-catching start to the new season. Recording his best approach and putting numbers for months in his last few starts.

The eye-catching performances in question came in the Fortinet Championship and the Shriners Open. In his 36th place finish in the Fortinet Championship he gained 3.7 strokes on the greens, his best putting performance since the RBC Heritage in April. He followed that with a 35th place finish in the Shriners Open, gaining 3.4 strokes with his irons, his best approach play performance since the 2020 US Open, over 12 months ago.

He’s played here all but once since 2010, recording a best finish of 7th in 2013 and has only missed the cut twice. Amongst a huge list of correlating form are victories in the Sony Open, RBC Heritage and Honda Classic, adding to his credentials further.

After a tough middle part of 2021, Kuchar looks to have come out the other end, and has made the cut in four of his last five starts. Most recently finishing 22nd at the Mayakoba two weeks ago.

If he can put together the putting performances from the Fortinet Championship with the iron play from the Shriners Open, he will be very dangerous this week and as one of the winning-most players in the field, could be a tough man to beat if getting into contention over the weekend.

Branden Grace E/W - 8 Places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-16 10:10 Odds subject to change.

With a 7th place finish in the Zozo Championship just two starts ago, I was surprised to see Branden Grace at such a large price this week. At a course that should suit his game.

Despite winning on his first start in 2020, Branden Grace really struggled last year. Missing cuts in half of the events he played. Though after re-entering the PGA Tour winners circle at a windy Puerto Rico Open in February, he’s gone on to have a much more consistent 2021.

He’s racked up four more top 10s, the most impressive a 7th place finish at the US Open. Whilst also missing out on a 2nd title of the year in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship in August. Not just a positive in terms of showing the state his game is in but also due to it being a clear correlating course. As is his other PGA Tour win, when picking up the RBC Heritage in 2016.

He’s a quality wedge player, ranking 13th on tour in proximity from 125-150 yards and possesses a solid short game. Very much in the mould of regular Sea Island performers. 

He’s forgiven a poor showing in Texas last week and feel the price this week is an overreaction to an event in which many struggled. He finished a solid 30th here on debut and I’m sure he’s capable of going even bette. His game suits and he’s very capable in the wind, should the worst of the conditions arrive this week.

Andrew Putnam E/W - 8 places
Odds correct as of 2021-11-16 10:12 Odds subject to change.

Of the outsiders, there’s a few more with that Sea Island link that appealed. Greyson Sigg is a talent and as well as being a member here, possesses a win in the Boise Open on the Korn Ferry Tour. Whilst Michael Thompson, also a member here, played well on his last start and is exactly the type you’d expect to go well. Though it’s Andrew Putnam who gets my vote as the final selection of the week.

It was only as recently as 2019 that Andrew Putnam had broke into the top 50 in the world. Two years later he’s down to 143rd and comes into a relatively weak field as a 150/1 shot.

It’s easy to see why this has happened, as he missed more cuts than he made last year. Though despite a poor run in the middle part of this year, he’s actually played quite well at either end, and comes into this event having only missed two of his last nine cuts.

Putting is his biggest asset, shown by an incredibly impressive ranking of 3rd on tour last year and that has very much been the case in recent starts. Ranking 9th on the greens last week in Texas, with a ranking of 14th in the Shriners Open. That performance more impressive as he also ranked 4th in approach, seeing him to an 11th place finish.

He’s played here three times, making the cut twice and possessing a best of 12th in 2014. Further to that, he’s got form at correlating courses. A 2nd place finish in the Sony Open and 3rd at Colonial the standouts.

As an excellent putter capable of blistering iron play, he fits the bill this week and can draw on positive past memories to produce another good showing in Georgia.

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