This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
The RSM Classic
Courses: Sea Island Resort Seaside Course (7,005 yards, par 70), Sea Island Resort Plantation Course (7,060 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,458,000 and 500 FedExCup points
The 2022 RSM Classic will be the last of the nine official PGA Tour events in the fall portion of the schedule. It will also be the final time for the foreseeable future that FedExCup points are carried over from the fall to January, as the PGA Tour will go back to a calendar-based schedule next season. With most of the top players only making one or two starts in the fall, this was the time for the rest of the competitors to get a jump, as only the top 70 will advance to the FedExCup Playoffs next August and earn a card for the 2024 campaign. With now 17 elevated events in which the top players will play together in 2023, it will make it a lot harder for some of the rookies and journeymen to collect FedExCup points. That makes this year's RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia all the more important for those players.
This week will mark the 13th edition of the RSM Classic. Robert Streb is the only player to win the event multiple times. 2021 champ Talor Gooch will not be able to defend his title this week due to his move last summer to LIV Golf. Gooch's 22-under-par winning score tied the tournament record with Kevin Kisner who won the event by six strokes in 2015. All 156 players in the field at Sea Island will get one round on the Seaside Course and one round on the Plantation Course before a 36-hole cut is made and the top-65-and-ties will play the final two rounds at the Seaside Course, which is a par-70 stretching to just over 7,000 yards.
The clear favorite going into the week was Tony Finau following his dominant win at the Houston Open, but the three-time winner in 2022 withdrew on Tuesday morning with an undisclosed injury. That leaves just six players in the Top-50 of the OWGR that will tee it up this week at the RSM Classic led by Brian Harman at No. 26. A number of those who might play the final official PGA Tour event of the calendar year are either at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai or the Dunlop Phoenix Open on the Japan Golf Tour this week.
Much of the country is dealing with temperatures starting to dip and players in the field for the RSM Classic will certainly feel that in Georgia. Temperatures will struggle to reach 60 degrees at any point during the four tournament rounds and the morning starters will be forced to deal with temps in the mid-to-low 40s. The positive is that it is projected to be dry for the most part and the winds will be more benign than we've seen at this event in recent years. This tournament always comes down to the wire with six previous playoffs over the first 12 years. The winning score has been at least 19-under-par in each of the last five editions, so we should expect a lot of birdies and eagles despite the cold temperatures.
2021 - Talor Gooch (-22)
2020 - Robert Streb (-19)
2019 - Tyler Duncan (-19)
2018 - Charles Howell III (-19)
2017 - Austin Cook (-21)
2016 - Mackenzie Hughes (-17)
2015 - Kevin Kisner (-22)
2014 - Robert Streb (-14)
2013 - Chris Kirk (-14)
2012 - Tommy Gainey (-16)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- Driving Accuracy
- SG: Putting
- Birdie Average
If you look back through the years at The RSM Classic, you'll notice there aren't a lot of bombers out there that play well at Sea Island. The courses this week favor much more on accuracy than distance. It gives a lot more players a chance due to the quantity of marshes and water hazards that force players to pull back the reigns. If players do hit the fairways, they will typically be playing from very similar positions which will put an emphasis on approach play. Giving yourself more quality birdie looks is the easiest way to keep up in a shootout.
Like last week in Houston, the greens at Sea Island on both courses are bermuda, however, these have been much friendlier to players than the greens at Memorial Park. If you think about the players who have done well in this event over the years such as Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson, and Mackenzie Hughes, they are all for the most party exceptional putters. That will definitely be an area to key in on when constructing lineups this week, as well as those who have a high birdie average given the friendly scoring conditions.
FanDuel Value Picks
Brian Harman ($11,500)
Harman fits the model perfectly for Sea Island. It's no wonder he has shown up for the last 10 years. The lefty is extremely accurate off the tee and an exceptional putter. This season Harman also ranks 17th in birdie average. He has three top-15 finishes at this event and has gone T15-T23-2nd in his three starts so far this season.
Tom Hoge ($11,100)
Hoge started the season with four consecutive top-15 finishes. He looked well on his way to another one at Mayakoba after an first-round 66, but a 73 in round two meant he missed the cut by one stroke. That shouldn't discourage from jumping right back on the Hoge train. This guy is gaining 2.2 strokes per round approaching the greens and with the putter. That will certainly play at a course he finished T4 a year ago.
Mackenzie Hughes ($10,500)
This is a fantastic number for a player who has finished top-25 in every start this season, including a victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship, as well posting a victory at Sea Island back in 2016 and a runner-up a year ago. Hughes ranks 13th in SG: Around-the-Green and ninth in SG: Putting this season.
Matthew NeSmith ($10,300)
Last Saturday at the Houston Open featured very challenging conditions and it caught NeSmith with a 78 and broke a streak of three straight events with a top-10 finish. I expect a bounce back for one of the top iron players on Tour, who has really rounded out his game this season, gaining strokes across the board. NeSmith has gone T14-T15-T29 in three starts at the RSM Classic.
Longer Shots with Value
Aaron Rai ($9,600)
The Englishman will be very comfortable playing in chilly conditions this week. He is coming off a T7 showing at the Houston Open and posted a T16 finish at Sea Island a year ago. Rai is gaining strokes in every measured category so far this season and has the accuracy off the tee that will be coveted this week.
Chris Kirk ($9,400)
It hasn't be a great start to the season for Kirk, but he has made the cut in four of five starts. Sea Island is a place that has been great to the Georgia native throughout his career. He won the 2013 event which is one of three top-5s and six top-20s. Last season Kirk ranked 20th in SG: Tee-to-Green, which is the best of any player in the field.
Alex Smalley ($9,400)
Smalley is certainly coming into his own of late. He scored a T25 at the ZOZO Championship, a T11 in Bermuda, and a T4 last week in Houston. Smalley was at least 23rd in every single strokes gained category at a very tough track in Memorial Park. He has been hot with the putter, ranking 26th in SG: Putting this season and will hope to ride that at Sea Island.
Ben Griffin ($8,600)
Griffin is definitely a golfer to keep an eye on this week. He lives in St. Simons and should have a lot of good vibes on this course. The 26-year-old is also coming off a recent T3 in Bermuda and a T16 last week at the Houston Open. Griffin ranks 15th this season in birdie average and 32nd in SG: Approach.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
With the return to a full 156-player field, going six-for-six is going to be a challenge, especially with all the hazards that lurk around these two golf courses. If you're in control of your golf ball, however, you can really score. The two most overpriced golfers in the field are Davis Riley ($11,200) and Webb Simpson ($10,600), so I will be out on both of those players. Brian Stuard ($8,000), Aaron Baddeley ($7,900), and Zach Johnson ($7,700) are a few journeymen who could really surprise.
Enjoy the last full-field PGA Tour event until the Sony Open in mid-January!