RSM Classic Betting Tips: Six picks for the final official PGA Tour event of the year
This week’s trip to the Sea Island Resort, Georgia, for the RSM Classic marks the official finale of the 2022 PGA Tour schedule; with two unofficial events to come in December - the Hero World Challenge and QBE Shootout – not counting towards FedEx Cup rankings...
An event that started out life in 2010 as the McGladrey Classic; it has held this curtain closer position on the PGA Tour schedule since 2015 and sees players play over both courses at the luxury resort - the Seaside Course and Plantation Course - over the first two days, before playing exclusively at the more renowned Seaside Course over the weekend.
After initially providing a demanding test - from Heath Slocum’s win of the inaugural event in 2010 to Robert Streb’s first victory in 2014, with winning scores of -16 or higher - over recent years birdies have flowed more easily; the tournament possessing an average winning score of just under -20 across the latest seven renewals, three times exceeding -20 and a best winning score of -22; shot for the first time in 2015 by Kevin Kisner and matched by Talor Gooch last year.
However, Gooch won’t be returning to defend his trophy this year, as he left the PGA Tour to play in the lucrative LIV Golf series earlier this year.
The Sea Island Resort is located on the East Coast of America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, with both courses originating in the 1920s – the Seaside Course by C.H Allisson and the Plantation Course by Walter Travis – though have undergone multiple renovations/additions since.
Most recently we saw Tom Fazio update the Seaside Course in the late 90’s and Davis Love III renovating Plantation in 2018, following on from Rees Jones’s prior remodelling.
Each course is short at a little over 7000 yards, though the Plantation Course is a par 72 to the Seaside’s par 70, with the two extra par 5s at Plantation meaning scoring is generally lower; a necessity therefore to score well on this course to contend.
However, with three rounds taking place at Seaside, it is really this venue that most of our focus should be placed and where the tournament will ultimately be decided.
The Seaside Course is an exposed, coastal links-like setup. Fairways are generous for the most part and rank amongst the easiest to hit on tour, though offer up little room for error with water – in play on 10+ holes - and waste areas hugging many of the sharply doglegging holes.
However, due to the length of many of the par 4s errors aren’t abundant as players will regularly be clubbing down for position.
The large and undulating bermudagrass greens are tricky, protected by challenging run-off areas and more water; despite this, due to the usually receptive nature of this course – which is set to be the case again this week – they’re easy enough to hit providing you stay out of serious trouble off-the-tee.
Do that and scoring opportunities are at every turn. Both the par 5s are reachable for most, whilst the majority of the par 4s are there to be attacked with a wedge in hand; though the par 3s do pose some sense of a challenge, as some of the most well-protected greens on the course.
As an exposed course, wind could obviously be a factor; it would have to be something relatively severe to cause the players too much trouble, with a mild breeze often on show here rarely enough to keep the scoring down.
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Stats breakdown (last three years):
2021 - Talor Gooch drove the ball poorly when winning last year, but produced quality in each other area, ranking 2nd in approach, 3rd in scrambling and 6th on the greens. Mackenzie Hughes replicated Gooch’s ability in approach and scrambling, ranking 3rd and 5th respectively, though was undone by a poor putting week; 3rd place finisher, Sebastian Munoz again at his best in approach and scrambling, ranking 5th and 8th respectively but was solid across all areas.
2020 – Robert Streb did all of his best work at the easier scoring Plantation Course when winning in 2020, producing slightly less impressive performances at the main Seaside Course, with the putter – where he ranked 9th – doing most of the hard work there. Kevin Kisner in 2nd too performed well on the greens, ranking 7th and was 1st in scrambling.
Cameron Tringale’s 3rd place finish was engineered by a quality iron week, ranking 6th in approach and 8th in GIR, also scrambling well, ranking 6th. Similarly impressive iron play was on show from Andrew Landry in 4th, who ranked 3rd in GIR and 7th in approach.
2019 – Further elite approach play drove Tyler Duncan to victory in 2019, as he ranked 3rd in approach and GIR; another who scrambled well, ranking 1st and was top 20 on the greens. Webb Simpson - who Duncan beat in a playoff – was solid on and around the greens but shone with his irons, ranking 4th in approach; Sebastian Munoz and Brendon Todd combining some quality ball-striking with a good week on the greens to put up 3rd and 4th place finishes.
There are a few ways to go about achieving success here; most of them including showing quality in approach or putting, often both; whilst strong drivers have that weapon subdued slightly by this setup, with many of the longer hitters clubbing down on plenty of holes.
An ability to get up and down is of varied importance; with some breezy conditions this week suggesting it may be necessary to possess at least a decent scrambling ability.
In addition to this it can pay to look at players who excel in approach play between 125-150 yards; the distance from which most iron shots are typically hit around the Seaside Course.
Key Stats: SG: Approach, Greens-in-Regulation, SG: Putting, Scrambling, Proximity 125-150 yards
Wyndham Championship @ Sedgefield CC
A similarly short par 70 with bermudagrass greens, where scoring is usually low due to the receptive and attackable greens; Sedgefield CC ranks closely to this week’s venue both in terms of simplicity in ball-striking and the slightly heightened challenge on and around-the-greens.
Kevin Kisner has won both; whilst Webb Simpson and Camillo Villegas have won the Wyndham and finished 2nd in the RSM Classic. Brian Harman, C.T Pan, Brian Gay and Russell Henley amongst a raft of other players to show form across the events.
Sony Open @ Waialae CC
The Sony Open is another short par 70 with bermudagrass greens that often sees low scoring and due to being situated on the Hawaiian coast, is also susceptible to wind; a place where putting and iron play is typically key.
Rather unsurprisingly, Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson tie all this form together on another very Kevin Kisner/Webb Simpson(y) course, possessing multiple top 5s apiece.
Russell Henley and Zach Johnson are similar types who often show up on these types of setups; both are winners of the Sony, whilst Charles Howell – a past RSM Classic winner – has 2nd and 3rd place finishes at Waialae. Chris Kirk, Jamie Lovemark and Brian Harman offering extra form-ties.
RBC Heritage @ Harbour Town Golf Links
Though more challenging due largely to the much smaller greens, the RBC Heritage – situated on the same stretch of coast as the Sea Island Resort, just on the other side of the border in South Carolina - very much falls into the same category of this week’s and above courses. It’s short and requires more strategy than force off the tee; putting importance on strong approach play and a good short-game.
Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner and Zach Johnson are all there again; Simpson a winner and the other two runners-up. Brian Gay and C.T are also winners there, to go with their strong records here; added form-ties found from Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Luke List and JJ Spaun.
John Deere Classic @ TPC Deere Run
Though you can let your driver go a little more around TPC Deere Run, it ranks very closely to Sea Island in terms of difficulty in finding fairways and greens; whilst also posing a similar level of challenge in scrambling. This has enabled this low scoring affair to develop some strong form-ties with the RSM Classic.
Zach Johnson and Brian Harman are both past champions; Patrick Rodgers, Andrew Landry, Sebastian Munoz and Luke List among many players to hold form in both tournaments.
Cold temperatures and a strong breeze throughout most of the week should provide some challenges for players teeing it up here in Georgia. Though the breeze is usually up a little most years, which doesn’t stop a good level of scoring and we shouldn’t expect much different this year.
Tony Finau arrives here as the headline act and top ranked player in the field at #12, coming off the back of a facile win in last week’s Houston Open; a third victory in seven starts for a man who has now truly shaken that “Can’t win” tag.
After a win last week, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if he with from this week’s field, though as of now he’s still in and is the only player from inside the world’s top 25 set to tee it up.
Brian Harman is the next best ranked at #26 in the world, whilst course specialist, Kevin Kisner makes just his second start of this new season. Major winners Justin Rose and Jason Day also teeing it up this week, hoping to build on some more encouraging performances in recent weeks.
RSM Classic Tips
- Jason Day 30/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1.75 pts ew
- Brendon Todd 50/1 – 1/5 8 places (Boylesports) – 1 pt ew
- Harris English 50/1 – 1/5 8 places (Boylesports) – 1 pt ew
- Chris Kirk 66/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Davis Thompson 90/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- JT Poston 100/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
Tony Finau is an expected strong favourite after last week’s win and recent form in general but makes no appeal at the price.
I toyed with giving Tom Hoge another chance after he missed the cut in Mexico two weeks ago but I just couldn’t get away from Jason Day here.
He’s a class act in this field and not just showing positive form figures in recent starts but with each area of his game looking in good shape, he can sign off 2022 in style - picking up a first win in four years and in turn setting himself up to aim for bigger and better things in 2023.
After showing some positive signs earlier in the year - recording a 3rd place finish in the Farmers Insurance Open on his second start of 2022 - Day’s year didn’t quite take off in the way he’d have hoped, picking up just another two top 20 finishes before the end of the season.
However, despite the finishes appearing underwhelming, there was a lot to like about his game, with him continually gaining strokes T2G over that period but struggling to fully catch fire in any area.
After a missed cut in his first start of the new season in the Fortinet Championship things have clicked in a big way for Day.
An 8th place finish in the Shriners Open on his next start was his second-best performance of the year and he’s followed that with consecutive top 25 finishes of 11th in the CJ Cup, 21st in the WWT Championship and was 16th last week in Houston; the first time he has recorded four consecutive top 25s since 2020.
He's done this showing quality in most areas, though has excelled in approach, gaining strokes in each start and ranking 12th at this early point of the season, as well as 19th in GIR.
Whilst he’s also scrambling well, ranking 23rd and has putted well on recent starts after a poor performance on the greens in the Fortinet.
Day showed his ability around here in 2020 when finishing 12th on debut and with this high-quality operator starting to show signs of a return to something closer to his best, he looks decent value in a field lacking star power.
Brendon Todd is one of many players with ties to Georgia, having gone to college here and now residing in the state.
After a good start to the season, where he’s picked up two top 10 finishes, this steady, straight, strong putting type is tailor-made for the RSM Classic and can prove it this week.
After regaining form in late 2019 following a few years in the doldrums, Todd has continued to show consistently strong golf over the following years.
This has been very much on show in 2022, as he has picked up four top 10s, the best of them coming when 3rd at Colonial in the Charles Schwab Challenge and two of them in his last five starts; 9th in the Fortinet and 7th in the CJ Cup just two starts ago.
How he’s produced these performances has been typically Todd; find the fairways, hit the greens and then work your magic with the flat-stick.
However, even more encouraging has been the quality of his approach play in both of those top 10s, particularly at the CJ Cup; where he ranked 2nd in the field for the week and in gaining 1.95 strokes a round, produced his best strokes-gained number in approach since 2015. Added to that typically strong short-game, he has a game well suited to this week’s test.
That was well evidenced here in 2019, as Todd finished 4th at a course where he’s only missed the cut twice in eight starts and recorded another top 20 in 2013. Further confidence in his chances taken from a 4th place finish at Harbour Town and top 10 at the Wyndham.
The comfort factor cannot be underestimated too and with the correct areas of his game looking in good condition, I’m expecting Todd to finish 2022 with a strong play for the RSM Classic this week.
Harris English doesn’t just have ties to Georgia but to this very golf resort.
He’s my first of three selections with such links and starting to find form this season after a year that has been plagued by injury, he looks well placed to mount a challenge to win this home game.
He started the new season with a 9th in the Fortinet Championship, his first top 10 in over twelve months.
A missed cut in the Sanderson Farms followed but English has made each of his last four cuts, with finishes of 28 – 40 – 32 – 39; the most recent of these was last week’s Houston Open, where he looked like getting involved nearer the top of the leaderboard on multiple occasions, particularly in Saturday’s third round, before a sloppy finish dropped him down.
When in the form of his life in 2020/2021 English showed quality across all areas; a straight and steady ball-striker who excelled with the short-game.
This has been the case so far this season, with English ranking 47th in putting and 62nd in scrambling, whilst his iron play has also been solid, ranking 82nd.
Though the driver had previously underwhelmed, he may well have turned that around with a positive strokes-gained performance off-the-tee last week in Houston.
If able to keep this up, he can rely on his familiarity with this week’s venue to improve on a 6th here in 2020 - his best ever finish of the event - and with a strong record in the Sony Open to boot, where he’s recorded finishes of 3rd, 4th and 9th, English looks a strong candidate.
Chris Kirk is a Georgia man who used to reside here at Sea Island. He used that knowledge to record a victory in 2013 – as well as twice finishing 4th since - and though his form figures so far this season don’t look hugely encouraging, I believe there’s enough in the details of his performances to suggest he isn’t too far away from a good week. This looks an ideal place for him to find it.
Kirk has enjoyed a strong year, with multiple top 10s to his name, the best of them a 5th place finish in the PGA Championship. He signed off the previous season with some solid but unspectacular performances, something he’s carried over to this season but his golf offers far more promise than the bare form figures suggest.
In his five starts this season, Kirk has missed one cut and finished no better than 30th, though each area of his game has fired at one point or another.
He’s gained strokes in three of those five starts on the greens; whilst two in approach, around-the-greens and off-the-tee, all parts firing but not able to get them working at the same time.
At his best, he’s a strong tee-to-green player, shown by rankings of 20th and 38th in the last two seasons on the PGA Tour, though a bit of a streaky putter, not necessarily a negative if he can find a going week here. Whilst a ranking of 33rd in proximity 125-150 yards offers further promise.
Multiple runner-up finishes in the Sony Open is another positive and if Kirk can put all of this together this week, he can add another strong performance to an already impressive record in the RSM Classic.
The final two are both current Sea Island residents, though I’m not merely backing them based on this, as they make compelling cases aside from that fact.
First up is former #1 amateur Davis Thompson, who played solidly in Houston when we were on him last week, finishing 43rd; with his knowledge of this venue he can continue his impressive start to his first season on the PGA Tour.
That impressive start began with a 9th in the Fortinet Championship and though finishing an underwhelming 67th in the Sanderson Farms on his next start, he responded well by finishing 12th at the Shriners.
Last week was Thompson’s first start for over a month and there was plenty to like; opening and closing with rounds of 68 around that difficult setup, whilst we once again saw that biggest asset at work, his driver, as he ranked 3rd in the field.
That part of a strong ball-striking game, as he has shown plenty of ability with the irons too; most eye-catching is his ranking of 33rd in proximity 125-150 yards this season.
Not just familiar with this course but Thompson has actually played this event three-times in his short career, finishing 23rd in 2019.
Now a full-fledged pro plying his trade on the biggest tour, he can show how much he’s improved since then and make home advantage count to find a good performance this week.
JT Poston is our final Sea Island resident and fits the bill at this horses-for-courses venue. He can get his season going in Georgia this week and head into the winter break with potentially a second victory of the year in the bag.
He finished last season in excellent form, winning the John Deere Classic in July and then recorded four more top 25s in his final six starts of the season thereafter, earning him a first trip to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Poston started the new season with a missed cut in the Sanderson Farms Championship, though responded well with a 20th in the Shriners Open; however has failed to fire on recent starts in the CJ Cup and in the WWT Championship.
Poston is at his best with putter in hand, particularly on bermudagrass, ranking top 50 on the PGA Tour in each of the last four seasons. However, his approach play was in excellent shape in that strong finish to last season and was the architect of his 20th in the Shriners, as he ranked 14th in the field.
Poston’s record here doesn’t read brilliantly, though a 14th in 2019 offers hope. As does an excellent book of correlating form, with both of Poston’s two PGA Tour victories coming at courses mentioned above; the Wyndham in 2019 and that win at the John Deere just a few months ago; form that is improved further by 3rd and 6th place finishes in the RBC Heritage.