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RSM Classic 2017: Kim and Knox worth chancing in Georgia

Russell Know, one of the Punter's picks for the RSM Classic
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The PGA Tour moves from Mexico to Sea Island, Georgia, where many of the PGA Tour's stars reside, and our man Steve Rawlings is here to provide a comprehensive preview of what looks an open betting heat...

"The last two winners have both ranked number one for Putting Average and they’ve both made more birdies than anyone else so it’s basically a putting competition but for those that can handle the Bermuda greens."

Tournament History

The RSM Classic, formerly known as the McGladrey Classic, was first staged as recently as 2010 so this is just the eighth renewal.

Originally staged at the Seaside Course alone, the tournament became a two-course tournament two years ago, leading to an increased field size.

Competitors will play both the Plantation Course and the Seaside Course in rotation over the first two days, with the Seaside Course being used for both the third and fourth rounds after the cut.

Venue

Sea Island Resort (Seaside), Sea Island, Georgia.

Course Details

Plantation Course
Par 72, 7,058 yards
Stroke index in 2016 - 69.76

Originally designed by Walter Travis in 1926, the Plantation Course was renovated in 1998 by Rees Jones, who describes the course as "parkland by the sea".

At just a little over 7,000 yards and described as having expansive fairways, I thought the Plantation would yield lower scores than it did over the first two years but with water in play on 10 holes, it's perhaps not surprising it wasn't a pushover.

The Plantation Course averaged 70.81 over the first two rounds in 2015, which equated to 1.19 strokes under-par and the Seaside Course averaged 69.62, which equals 0.38 under-par so the Plantation Course played 0.81 of a stroke easier over the course of the two days two years ago and it was a remarkably similar story last year.

The Plantation Course averaged 69.06 on Thursday and 70.46 on Friday 12 months ago, so a combined total of 4.47 under-par. The Seaside Course averaged 68.29 and 68.06, which adds up to a combined 3.64 under-par so the difference between the two courses over the first two days was just 0.83. That's a difference of just two one hundreds of a stroke and given there is less than a stroke between the two courses, we have to surmise that the Plantation is only marginally easier than the Seaside.

Seaside Course
Par 70, 7,005 yards
Stroke index in 2016 - 68.89

Originally made up of two separate nine hole courses - a 1929 Colt and Alison classic and a Joe Lee 1973 creation called the Marchside Nine, the Seaside Course was created in 1999 when Tom Fazio combined the two. Positioned right on the southern tip of St. Simons Island this sea-side links style Bermuda grass course is susceptible to very windy conditions and very different to the parkland style Plantation Course.


Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days - beginning on Thursday at 18:30.

First Seven Tournament Winners

2010 - Heath Slocum -14
2011 - Ben Crane -15 (playoff)
2012 - Tommy Gainey -16
2013 - Chris Kirk -14 (playoff)
2014 - Robert Streb -14 (playoff)
2015 - Kevin Kisner -22
2016 - Mac Hughes -17 (playoff)

What Will it Take to Win the RSM Classic?

Length off the tee is absolutely irrelevant this week. The 2015 winner, Kevin Kisner, ranked 53rd for Driving Distance and last year's winner, Mac Hughes, was even shorter - ranking only 57th. Over the first seven years, the average DD ranking of the six winners is 37.3.

Accuracy is slightly more important from the tee. Kisner ranked 17th and Hughes 11th and the average Driving Accuracy ranking of the seven winners to date is 26.86.

And here are the average rankings for all the other key stats for the seven tournament winners to date.

Greens In Regulation 26.7
Scrambling 11.7
Putting Average 7.7
Putts per Round 4.57
Strokes Gained Putting 4.6 *
*SGP - last five events only

The last two winners have both ranked number one for Putting Average and they've both made more birdies than anyone else so it's basically a putting competition but for those that can handle the Bermuda greens.

Is There an Angle In?

Last year's winner is Canadian but the locals do well here. Kisner went to University in Georgia and he lives in the neighbouring state of South Carolina.

The 2013 winner, Chris Kirk, who said he'd played the Seaside Course at least one hundred times previously when he won, and inaugural winner, Heath Slocum, both live in Georgia and a number of players that have gone close in the event have a connection with the area.

The problem with looking for the local angles is that you'll find plenty of them. Tournament host and Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III, has been instrumental in getting this event up and running and he's also been the driving force behind making Sea Island a place professionals want to live and work.

If you're looking for courses that correlate well with the Seaside Course, you're spoilt for choice. Look at form at three other par 70 Bermuda tracks - Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Hawaii, Colonial Country Club, venue of the Dean & Deluca Invitational (Kisner won the Dean & Deluca this year after winning here in 2015 and Kirk doubled up in 2013 and 2015 too) and TPC Southwind, which hosts the St. Jude Classic but the two I like best are the par 71 Harbour Town Links in neighbouring South Carolina, which has hosted the RBC Heritage since its inception in 1969, and PGA National - home of the Honda Classic since 2007.

The first three winners of this tournament all had a top-six finish in the RBC Heritage and an ever increasing number of players have performed well in both this event and the Honda Classic. One of the four men to be beaten in the playoff last year, Camilo Villegas, romped to a five stroke victory at the Honda in 2010.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Three of the last four winners have been in their 20s and Kisner was only 31 when he won two years but with distance irrelevant this is a tournament that gives the old guys a chance and outsiders have a great record.

Having finished fourth here in 2014 and runner-up in his previous start, Kisner went off at around the 20/1 mark two years ago but he was by far the shortest winner of the tournament to date.

The first two winners, Heath Slocum and Ben Crane, both went off at around [60.0] to [70.0] and the 2013 winner, Chris Kirk, was a similar price, going off at [50.0], having been matched at a high of [60.0]. Very few backed the 2012 winner, Tommy Gainey, Robert Streb was matched at [110.0] in 2014 and the four playoff protagonists that made it through to Monday's playoff were all big-priced outsiders.

The winner, Hughes, was matched at [600.0] before the off (and again in the playoff! - see below) Villegas was matched at [280.0] before the off, Henrik Norlander was a [450.0] shot and Blayne Barber was backed at [500.0].

In-Play Tactics

Kisner was the shortest priced winner and he was by some distance the easiest winner too - romping to a six stroke victory after skipping to the front during round three - but that was by some distance the dullest finish we've had so far.

If you enjoy backing an outsider on a Sunday evening who could just put in a charge form off the pace, then this is most definitely the event for you. We've only had seven renewals but already we've seen winners come from five off the pace (twice) and from seven strokes back with a round to go.

Like the last two winners, Heath Slocum won the inaugural event from the front after round three but a year later, Tommy Gainey hit 60 in round four to win by a stroke, before Ben Crane came from seven shots back to win in 2012. Robert Streb began the fourth round trailing by five strokes and trading at [110.0] before he went on to win in 2014 and 12 months earlier, Tim Clark very nearly did the same thing. He also began round four trading at a triple figure price and five off the lead and he was matched at just [4.0] after he'd shot a final round of 62 (one better than Streb and Crane). He would have made a playoff had Kirk not birdied the penultimate hole and I'll definitely be looking to side with a few from off the pace after round three again.

With four of the previous seven renewals going to extra time, a tight finish and dramatic finish can be expected but I'll be amazed if we get anything quite as bizarre as the finish to last year's tournament.

As darkness fell, Billy Horschel eliminated himself on Sunday with this unbelievably bad putt on the 18th green before Monday saw a simply crazy conclusion.

Incredibly, Hughes won the event at the third extra hole, despite never finding the par three 17th green! All four remaining playoff protagonists missed the green completely and Hughes was somehow matched at [600.0] when his second shot still failed to make the dancefloor but his three rivals all failed to get-up-and-down for par after the Canadian holed out from just off the green for par.

Market Leaders

Kevin Kisner was in poor form when he missed the cut here when defending the title 12 months ago. We can completely ignore that performance and he's the right man to head the market this time around.

He hasn't played since he finished third at the Tour Championship two months ago so his wellbeing is something of a mystery but if he returns to the fray in the same form that he signed off for the last season, he's most certainly the man to beat.

US Open runner-up, Brian Harmon, has begun the new season nicely with a top-five finish in Korea and an eighth place in China and being a Sea Island resident, he knows the courses well but in five tournament appearances, 10th is his best performance and he's missed the cut in each of the last two years.

Matt Kuchar
and Webb Simpson are both plausible candidates and they've both played well in the event previously but neither wins with any sort of regularity and I'm happy to swerve them both.

Charles Howell III is playing in the event for the eighth time and he already has three top tens but he's even harder to get across the line than Kuchar and Simpson and he's half the price he was last week in Mexico.

Selections

As highlighted in yesterday's De-Brief, Si Woo Kim is a player I'm keen to keep onside and I was happy enough to take [70.0] about him at a venue that looks sure to suit. His price has collapsed since the early market skirmishes but he's a top-class player and the early prices were miles out.

Russell Knox found some form at a venue he likes last week and I've also chanced Brian Stuard again after his tied ninth alongside the Scotsman in Mexico but that'll do me before the off. There are a number of players at huge prices that I could easily fall for but I'm going to leave it at three for now.

Selections:
Si Woo Kim @ [70.0]
Russell Knox @ [80.0]
Brian Stuard @ [140.0]


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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