The PGA Tour moves from Texas to Georgia for the 12th edition of the RSM Classic - the final full-field event of the year - so Steve Rawlings is here with his comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
"The 2019 winner, Duncan, was a 450.0449/1 chance and Streb went off at 1000.0 12 months ago so this is definitely a tournament in which you can throw a few darts."
Originally staged at the Seaside Course alone, the RSM Classic, formerly known as the McGladrey Classic, became a two-course tournament six 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.
Sea Island Resort (Seaside), Sea Island, Georgia.
Par 72, 7,060
Stroke index in 2020 - 71.34
Originally designed by Walter Travis in 1926, the Plantation Course was renovated in 1998 by Rees Jones, who described the course as "parkland by the sea", and it was revamped again in 2019 by Love Golf Design.
The course is now 153 yards longer, quite a bit tougher, and the par five eighth hole is the only one unchanged from 2018. For more on the redesign, please see this article from the PGA Tour website.
Par 70, 7,005 yards
Stroke index in 2020 - 68.69
Originally made up of two separate nine-hole courses - a 1929 Colt and Alison classic and a Joe Lee 1973 creation called the Marchside Nine, the Seaside Course was created in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.
Live on Sky Sports all four days. Full coverage begins at 17:00 on Thursday and the Featured Group coverage starts at 14:30
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Robert Streb -19 (playoff) 1000.0
2019 - Tyler Duncan (playoff) -19 450.0449/1
2018 - Charles Howell III (playoff) -19 70.069/1
2017 - Austin Cook -21 160.0159/1
2016 - Mackenzie Hughes (playoff) 600.0599/1
2015 - Kevin Kisner -22 20.019/1
What Will it Take to Win the RSM Classic?
The 2018 winner, Charles Howell, ranked 12th for Driving Distance but length off the tee is absolutely irrelevant. Last year's playoff protagonists, Robert Streb and Kevin Kisner, who had both won the title previously ranked 51st and 52nd for DD.
Kisner ranked only 53rd for DD when he won in 2015, the 2016 winner, MacKenzie Hughes, was even shorter, ranking only 57th, and the 2017 winner, Austin Cook, very nearly hit the tournament average when he ranked 39th. The average DD ranking of the 11 winners to date is 37.27.
Accuracy is more important than power from the tee and although the eventual winner, Streb, only ranked 36th for Driving Accuracy 12 months ago, Kisner ranked third and the 2019 winner, Tyler Duncan ranked sixth for DA.
Howell ranked 12th in 2018, Cook ranked fourth the year before, Kisner ranked 17th in 2016, and Hughes 11th in 2015. The average Driving Accuracy ranking of the ten winners to date is 22.36.
And here are the average rankings for all the other key stats for the 11 tournament winners to date.
Greens In Regulation 18.27
Putting Average 9.8
Putts per Round 11.36
Strokes Gained Putting 9.22 *
*SGP - last nine events only
The 2018 winner, Howell, skews the figures somewhat as his stats were far from typical. He gave it a good biff off the tee, found plenty of fairways and ranked number one for Greens In Regulation but his putting was very poor compared with most winners.
Howell pushed the putting averages up considerably given he ranked 70th for Putting Average, 54th for Putts per Round and only 24th for SGP. With rankings for those same stats of 11th, 16th and ninth, Streb produced much more typical flatstick stats and had Kisner won in extra time, the averages would have been even lower as he putted even better than Streb, ranking fourth for PA, second for PPR and seventh for SGP.
The 2015 and 2016 winners, Kisner and Hughes, both ranked number one for PA and both made more birdies than anyone else so it's very often a bit of a putting competition for those that can handle the Bermuda greens.
Is There an Angle In?
Streb was born in Oklahoma, and he lives in neighbouring Kansas but the locals tend do well here. Howell is from Augusta, Georgia, 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 the 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 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 that golf 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 the recent Bermuda Championship, which is played at the par 71 Royal Port GC. The 2019 winner there, Brendon Todd, led here through three rounds a week later and last year's Bermuda winner, Brian Gay, has finished fourth and third here previously. And there are three par 70 Bermuda tracks that are well worth checking out...
Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Hawaii, Colonial Country Club, venue of the Charles Schwab Challenge (Kisner won the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2017 after winning here in 2015 and Kirk doubled up in 2013 and 2015 too) and TPC Southwind, which hosts the WGC - 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 here four years ago, Camilo Villegas, romped to a five-stroke victory at the Honda in 2010 and the surprise 2016 winner here, Hughes, was a huge outsider when finishing second to Sungjae Im in the Honda last year.
Winners here haven't always been in hot current form. In fact, it's the opposite. Kisner had finished runner-up in the WGC HSBC Champions in his penultimate start in 2015 and Robert Streb had finished 10th in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open when he won the title on the first occasion but as you'll see with the list below, most had poor form coming into the event and four of the winners had missed the cut in their penultimate start.
2020 - Robert Streb 21-MC-55
2019 - Tyler Duncan - MC-18-47
2018 - Charles Howell III - 5-61-MC
2017 - Austin Cook - 25-20-50
2016 - Mackenzie Hughes - 26-68-MC
2015 - Kevin Kisner - 25-37-2
2014 - Robert Streb - 9-31-10
2013 - Chris Kirk - 24-36-25
2012 - Tommy Gainey - 38-66-MC
2011 - Ben Crane - 51-10-MC
2010 - Heath Slocum - 65-50-45
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Experienced pros bossed the tournament to begin with and Streb was 33 when he won last year but the 2019 winner, Duncan, was only 30 and winning for the first time and had Patrick Rodgers won the playoff three years ago instead of Howell, who was 39, six of the last seven winners, and seven of the last nine, would have been first-time winners on the PGA Tour.
Inexperienced PGA Tour players have thrived of late. Duncan was playing in only his second season on the PGA Tour and the 2016 and '17 winners were PGA Tour rookies. In fact, they had remarkably similar profiles. Cook was playing in only his 14th PGA Tour event with a World Ranking of 302 and Hughes was playing in his ninth with a ranking of 287.
Again, had Rodgers beaten Howell, five of the last eight winners would have been in their 20s and the other two weren't exactly ancient. Duncan had only turned 30 a few months before he won and Kisner was only 31 when he won six years ago but with distance irrelevant this is a tournament that gives the older guys a chance and outsiders have a fantastic record.
Having finished fourth here in 2014 and runner-up in his previous start, Kisner went off at around the 20/1 mark six years ago but he's by far the shortest winner of the tournament to date.
Howell was a pre-event 70.069/1 chance, the first two winners, Heath Slocum and Ben Crane, both went off at around that price and the 2013 winner, Chris Kirk, was a similar price too, going off slightly shorter at 50.049/1, having been matched at a high of 60.059/1. Very few backed the 2012 winner, Tommy Gainey, Streb was matched at 110.0109/1 in 2014, Cook was an unexpected winner, matched at 160.0159/1 before the off four years ago, and the four playoff protagonists that made it through to Monday's playoff in 2016 were all big-priced outsiders.
The winner, Hughes, was matched at 600.0599/1 before the off (and again in the playoff! - see below) Villegas was matched at 280.0279/1 before the off, Henrik Norlander was a 450.0449/1 shot and Blayne Barber was backed at 500.0499/1.
The 2019 winner, Duncan, was a 450.0449/1 chance and Streb went off at 1000.0 12 months ago so this is definitely a tournament in which you can throw a few darts.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 - Robert Streb - led by three 2.447/5
2019 - Tyler Duncan T5 - trailing by four 48.047/1
2018 - Charles Howell III - led by one stroke 3.65
2017 - Austin Cook - led by three 1.84/5
2016 - MacKenzie Hughes - led by one stroke 6.25/1
2015 - Kevin Kisner - led by three 1.674/6
Keep a close eye on the weather here as Friday is forecasted to be much windier than Thursday so being drawn on the more-exposed Seaside Course in round two could prove problematic.
The last five winners have all been in front at the halfway stage but that doesn't tell half the story and this is definitely an event in which you can take on odds-on shots in-running and in which you can chance players from off the pace. There's nearly always plenty of drama and four of the last five renewals have gone to extra time.
Having led by two after 36 holes, Duncan trailed by four after shooting 70 on Saturday in 2019 and he went out to 48.047/1 before bouncing back to win. Webb Simpson came agonisingly close to claiming the title once again and for the third time in the tournament's history, he traded at odds-on without winning - hitting a low of 1.330/100 before losing the playoff.
In the 2018 edition Simpson was one of three players to trade at odds-on without picking up the trophy. He hit 1.84/5, Cameron Champ was matched at 1.855/6 and the runner-up, Patrick Rodgers touched 1.645/8.
Kisner is the shortest priced winner of the event and he was by far the easiest winner too - romping to a six-stroke victory in 2015, 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 that might just put in a charge form off the pace, then this is most definitely the event for you. I backed Cameron Tringale with a round to go last year at 160.0159/1 and he was matched at a low of 4.94/1 after being matched at 1000.0 when he parred the first four holes on Sunday.
We've only had 11 renewals but already we've seen winners come from four strokes back, five off the pace (twice), and from seven strokes back with a round to go.
Heath Slocum won the inaugural event after leading through three rounds but Ben Crane came from five shots back to win in 2012 and a year later, Tommy Gainey hit 60 in round four to win by a stroke, having trailed by seven after 54 holes!
Robert Streb began the fourth round trailing by five strokes in 2014 and trading at 110.0109/1 before he went on to win for the first time 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 4.03/1 after he'd shot a final round of 62 (one better than Streb and Crane). He would have made a playoff if Chris Kirk hadn't birdied the penultimate hole and we very nearly witnessed another miraculous winner three years ago too...
Patrick Rodgers was absolutely miles back before getting into the playoff. The pre-event 160.0159/1 chance was matched at 1000.0 when he trailed by 12 at halfway and he was still five back with a round to go after shooting 61 in round three. A 62 on Sunday saw him get into the playoff.
With six of the first 11 renewals going to extra time, a tight and dramatic finish can be expected but I'll be amazed if we get anything quite as bizarre as the finish to the 2016 tournament which went to a five-man playoff.
As darkness fell, Billy Horschel eliminated himself on Sunday evening with an unbelievably bad putt on the 18th green before the Monday finish 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 600.0599/1 when his second shot still failed to make the green but his three rivals all failed to get-up-and-down for par after the Canadian holed out for a three from just off the green.
Scottie Scheffler heads the market and so he should after finishing fifth here on debut in 2019 (only appearance), as well as fourth and second in each of his last two starts.
The 25-year-old Ryder Cupper is now up to number 17 in the world and he's a terrific putter. The course suits him and he's the hottest player in the field but winning that first PGA Tour event is proving problematic.
He's contended numerous times without converting (including last week when trading at odds-on) so that's definitely something to bear in mind but he may well make for a good in-play bet.
I'd love to see him sitting five or six off the lead after round three and trading at a juicy price because you can come with a late rattle here and off the pace is probably how he's going to get off the mark.
Webb Simpson's course form reads 12-2-7-41-36-W-3-2-37 so he's likely to contend but he also has a good record in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and he missed the cut in that event two starts ago. He's one than commands plenty of respect but in an event that doesn't tend to go to a fancied runner, I'm more than happy to leave him out at less than 20/1.
Cameron Smith, a former winner of the aforementioned Sony Open, is in decent form and he should take to the venue but I'm more than happy to swerve him too at the price given he's never played here before.
I have a reasonably long list of outsiders that I'm considering, and I'll go into detail in the Find Me a 100 Winner piece tomorrow.
I'm also wary of getting too involved before the draw is made as there could be quite a bias in favour of those playing on the Seaside Course in round one but I have backed one at a decent price already - Brendon Todd - who putts well on Bermuda and loves this sort of test. I thought 85.084/1 was just too big given his 11th placed finish in Mexico last time out.
Brendon Todd @ 85.084/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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