DraftKings PGA: The RSM Classic Picks and Strategy

DraftKings PGA: The RSM Classic Picks and Strategy

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

THE RSM CLASSIC

Purse: $8.1M 
Winner's Share: $1.458M 
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner 
Location: St. Simons Island, Ga. 
Courses: Seaside (primary) and Plantation at Sea Island Golf Club
Yardage: 7,005 Seaside/7,060 Plantation
Par: 70/72
2021 champion: Talor Gooch

Tournament Preview

One day, the 2022 RSM Classic will be a golf trivia question: What was the last wraparound tournament ever?

We've reached the ninth and final PGA Tour event of the 2022 portion of the 2022-23 schedule. With the Tour reverting to a traditional calendar season for 2024 -- January to August -- the fall swing as we know it is ending.

For the past 10 years, fall events have been part of the FedExCup points race. Starting next year, that won't be the case. Oh, there will still be Tour events played in the fall, but not as many -- the talk has been maybe six -- but they will have no points and not be a part of the playoff chase. The scuttlebutt is that some of the tournaments will played internationally, such as the ZOZO Championship in Japan. And it's a good bet that the RSM sticks around, too. It was first played in 2010 and now is hosted by Davis Love III, which counts for a lot in the Tour's Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters. Besides being a Hall of Fame player, Love has been one of the most vocal and prominent proponents of the PGA Tour in its ongoing public relations battle with LIV Golf.

Love usually helps attract a semi-decent field considering it's the week before Thanksgiving in what traditionally has been the final Tour event before the winter break. There are still tournaments to come, such as Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge in early December, but officially the next event will be the Sentry Tournament of Champions after New Year's. The season-ending DP World Tour Championship will also be played this week, with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm heading the field.

There are no top-25 golfers in this week's field -- Tony Finau withdrew -- but as usual there are a bunch of golfers connected to St. Simons Island, and Love does a good job of rounding them up. The Georgia contingent includes the highest ranked player in the field -- No. 26 Brian Harman -- as well as No. 31 Kevin Kisner, No. 52 Harris English, Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson and even Love himself in his seventh PGA Tour start in 2022 (he's missed every cut). Non-Georgians of note include Sahith Theegala, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Tom Hoge, Seamus Power, J.T. Poston and Taylor Montgomery. Akshay Bhatia led the four Monday qualifiers to reach the main draw.

The field is a maxed-out 156 for the first time this fall season. The RSM used to be 132, but seven years ago they added a second course to help beat darkness, and with it two dozen scrubs to make our jobs constructing lineups that much harder. Bringing up the rear will be almost all 50 Korn Ferry grads, along with other assorted sponsor invites, medical extensions, career money exceptions, 126-150s and the like.

Golfers will play the Seaside and Plantation courses once each over the first two days before sticking to Seaside for the final two rounds. Both courses are incredibly short, especially Plantation considering it's a par-72.

Seaside dates to 1929 with a Tom Fazio renovation in 1999. It is a links-style, oceanfront par-70 with wide fairways and big Bermudagrass greens, averaging 7,200 square feet. There are only two par-5s. Of the 12 par-4s, nine of them are under 430 yards. Driver will not be needed much. There is water on 13 holes. 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. Wind is the course's biggest defense.

Plantation is more of a parkland-style track with lots of trees, and three years ago it reopened after a complete yearlong overhaul by Love and his design company. We won't focus heavily on the changes, since the course is used for just one round, but the greens also are Bermudagrass though smaller than Seaside, averaging only 6,100 square feet. There is water on 10 holes. Last year, both tracks ranked near the middle of the pack in terms of most difficult courses.

Weather-wise, it appears the golfers are in store for some autumn conditions. The high temperature is not forecast to exceed 60 degrees on any of the four days, with an increasing chance of rain as the week progresses, including showers on Sunday morning. The wind will be moderate, however.

Key Stats to Winning at Seaside

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation 
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green 
• Strokes Gained: Putting 
• Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards 
• Approaches from 125-150 yards

Past Champions

2021 - Talor Gooch 
2020 - Robert Streb
2019 - Tyler Duncan 
2018 - Charles Howell III 
2017 - Austin Cook 
2016 - Mackenzie Hughes
2015 - Kevin Kisner 
2014 - Robert Streb
2013 - Chris Kirk 
2012 - Tommy Gainey

Champion's Profile

Let's not even talk tee balls. Let's start from the fairway, the wide fairways of Seaside. Gooch won last year by three shots over 2016 champ Hughes and four over Sebastian Munoz. None of them averaged 300 off the tee or were especially accurate, but all three ranked in the top-five in the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green. Those two stats dominated. Of the top-nine guys on the leaderboard, seven of them were in the top-eight in Approach and all nine were in the top-12 in Tee-to-Green. The difference for Gooch was ranking sixth in the field in SG: Putting to Hughes' 41st and Munoz's 19th. In 2020, there was an anomaly in that Streb was not highly ranked in either greens in regulation or SG: Approach. But before that, Duncan was fourth in GIR, Howell was first and Cook was second. In looking at what golfers have said about the tournament in past years, quite a few of them say that experience matters, that the greens are tricky and fast (13 on the Stimpmeter). Maybe so, but five of the 11 champions won the tournament in their first visit -- Cook, Hughes, Streb, Ben Crane in 2011 and Heath Slocum in 2010 (obviously Slocum, because that was the maiden RSM). The winning score is usually in the mid-teens, a number that Gooch blew by last year to tie Kisner's record 22-under total. The over/under on the winning score at golfodds.com this year is 262.5 -- 19.5 under par.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Brian Harman - $10,300 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1600) 
Harman is part of the Georgia connection and plays here every year. He's had some very good results -- 10th in 2013, fourth in 2017, 14th in 2019 -- but also quite a few clunkers, including a missed cut two years ago and T61 last year. There's no mistaking how well he has been playing the past few months, most recently as runner-up to Russell Henley two weeks ago at Mayakoba. Harman is ranked 12th on Tour in approach shots from 125-150 yards.

Tom Hoge - $9,800 (+1800) 
When Hoge finished tied for fourth here last year, little did we know that he was embarking on the best 12 months of golf in his career. Since then, he has moved from 124th in the world rankings to 36th. He ran off five straight top-13 cashes from the TOUR Championship through the CJ Cup before missing the cut last time out at Mayakoba. You want stats? Hoge is ranked third on Tour in SG: Approach, ninth in GIR and top-25 in both SG: Tee-to-Green and Putting. What a well-rounded player he has become.

Jason Day - $9,400 (+2000) 
This is semi-embarrassing. It couldn't have been more than a month ago that we referred to Day as "still irrelevant" despite a good tournament showing earlier this fall. Well, now he's run off four good tournament showings in a row -- his finest stretch of golf in years -- and not only finds himself among our picks but at a big price on the edge of Tier 1. Day avoided this event for years but came back two years ago and tied for 12th. He's ranked top-20 on Tour in SG: Approach, GIR and SG: Tee-to-Green.

Tier 2 Values 

Matthew NeSmith - $9,000 (+2500) 
Before tying for 53rd last week in Houston, NeSmith had a string of three straight top-10s, highlighted by his runner-up at the Shriners. That is part of the reason for his big price this week, but it's also because he's finished 29-15-14 here the past three years. NeSmith's strength is his iron play -- he's ranked 24th in greens in regulation, which helps him also rank top-25 on Tour in birdie average. After ranking outside the top-140 in SG: Putting the past two seasons, NeSmith stands 71st in 2022-23.

Sahith Theegala - $8,800 (+2500) 
At No. 53 in the world rankings, Theegala has a lot riding on what likely will be his final start of 2022. A top-50 spot at year's end is the goal. He's inched closer with a good fall season that's included a T6 at the Fortinet, a T5 at the ZOZO and a T22 last week at Houston. Theegala a bit surprisingly has been terrible off the tee -- short and wildly inaccurate. This week, he should improve greatly just by leaving driver in the bag. Despite those issues, Theegala is ranked 38th in birdie average this season.

Mackenzie Hughes - $8,600 (+3500) 
Hughes has quite the history here: runner-up last year and a win in 2016 sandwiching three missed cuts and a T61. We can't explain the dichotomy, but there's no doubt the tournament is a good fit for him. It's short, and he's a short-game specialist, currently ranked ninth on Tour in SG: Putting.  Hughes has followed up his win at the Sanderson Farms last month with two top-25s, including a T16 last week at Houston. A very good sign.

Kevin Kisner - $8,300 (+4000) 
Kisner has had so many good results at the RSM that it's hard to turn away, even though he's missed the cut two of the past three years. In between, he was runner-up in 2020, which was his fifth top-seven showing there through the years, highlighted by a win in 2015. To summarize the past eight RSM years: five top-sevens and three missed cuts. It's enough to give you whiplash. Kisner has played only once this fall (outside of the Presidents Cup). That was at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, so he has been staying close to home.

Tier 3 Values 

J.J. Spaun - $7,800 (+3000) 
Spaun is about to put the finishing touches on a terrific fall season, one in which he has three top-25s in five starts, which followed another top-25 at the BMW Championship last season. Spaun has made the cut in five of the past six RSMs, including a T16 last year and a runner-up back in 2017. He's very good at getting the ball in the fairway, and he's ranked top-50 on Tour in approach shots from 125-150 yards. For what it's worth, you almost never see a Tier 3 golfer with such short odds.

Aaron Rai - $7,800 (+5500) 
Rai has been pretty solid this season, and the short hitter from England should welcome these two tiny courses. In fact, he did so last year, when he tied for 16th in his RSM debut. Rai is coming off a top-10 last week in Houston, a bit of a surprise considering how long that course is. He is ranked 25th on Tour in SG: Putting and 29th in SG: Total.

Nick Hardy - $7,600 (+5500) 
Hardy fulfilled the requirements of a minor medical extension at the Fortinet, so he will have his card all season. He's started out the fall season a better golfer than he ended last season. He's made all five of his cuts this fall, with top-25s in his past two starts and a T5 at the Sanderson Farms. Iron play has been at the heart of his sound play, as he's ranked eighth on Tour in SG: Approach and 30th in Tee-to-Green. Hardy is T5 in approaches from 125-150, which could help him improve on some very weak putting numbers.

Davis Thompson - $7,400 (+9000) 
We were intrigued with Thompson last week, and he made the Houston cut to give him four cashes in four starts this season, two of them top-12s. Even though he's only 23 years old, he's played this tournament three times already because he was a Georgia Bulldog. He finished T23 in his RSM debut before missing the cut the past two years. Thompson is a big hitter off the tee, so it will be interesting to see how he attacks Seaside. He's ranked T33 in approaches from 125-150.

Long-Shot Values 

John Huh - $6,900 (+13000) 
There aren't many weeks to consider the short-hitting Huh, but the evidence says this is one of those weeks. He's finished 12th here the past two years, and he also has a previous top-10 on his RSM ledger. Huh has made four cuts in a busy seven starts already this fall season, with a best of T27 at another short track at Mayakoba.

Zach Johnson - $6,900 (+15000) 
Johnson has not played much of late as he has shifted his attention to his upcoming Ryder Cup captaincy. But he's good about reaching the weekend and he's been especially good at the RSM, where he's gone 16-6-61-7-8 the past five years. Johnson got back into action for the first time in three months with a made the cut last week at an uber-long Houston course. He should welcome the shorter RSM tracks.

Nate Lashley - $6,500 (+25000)
Lashley has played the RSM four times and made every cut, albeit without a high finish. That's sort of his M.O. He has made three of five cuts this season -- again, minus a high finish. What we like is that Lashley does better on shorter tracks, and he's ranked 20th on Tour in approaches from 125-150 yards. He's also in the top-third or so among putters, ranked 74th.

Brian Stuard - $6,300 (+30000) 
Stuard has made all three of his cuts so far this season, beginning with a T12 at the Fortinet. He is an incredibly short hitter, averaging only 267 yards off the tee, almost unheard of these days, which puts him at a huge disadvantage over just about every other golfer. He won't be at a disadvantage on these two tiny tracks, though. Stuard is ranked 13th on Tour in approaches from 125-150 yards, and he's top-50 in SG: Putting. He has made the cut in three of the past five RSMS, with a top-10 and another top-25.

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The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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