The nine-tournament fall leg of the 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule concludes on the weekend before Thanksgiving in the United States with the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Golf Club in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. This has been an unpredictable and exciting event in recent years, as five of the last seven winners here were first-time winners on the PGA Tour while four of the last five events have been decided by a playoff.
Last year, Robert Streb became the first two-time champion of this event when he nearly holed out for eagle on the second playoff hole, edging Kevin Kisner, who reached the playoff by shooting a final-round 63. Streb won the tournament in 2014, while Kisner won in 2015—while setting the tournament record at a 22-under 260—so one or the other was going to become the first multi-time winner at Sea Island.
The event debuted in 2010 with Heath Slocum winning by a stroke over Bill Haas. Resident pros Davis Love III and Zach Johnson had a hand in organizing the event, and the Davis Love Foundation remains tied to the tournament.
Streb is back to defend his title and looking for his third-career win on tour, as both have come here. He’s not among the favorites, however.
The winner will get a full 500 FedEx Cup points, around $1.3 million for the winner’s share of the purse, and all of the exemptions of a full PGA Tour event even though it’s being contested opposite the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which is the European Tour’s finale. It has drawn PGA Tour stars like Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and more to play in that tour’s richest event.
Since 2015, the tournament has been contested on both the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island after the field expanded to a full 156 players. Seaside opened in 1929 as a nine-hole course with an additional nine added in 1973. In 1999, the course was redesigned by Tom Fazio and is a par-70, 7,005 yard track. The Plantation course was renovated by Love III and his brother Mark in 2019 and is 7,060 yards but a par 72. Players play one round on each course in the opening two rounds, and those who make the cut play the final two rounds on the Seaside course. The geographical features of the low country come into play here, as the courses have marshes and sandy waste areas throughout.
The signature hole on the Seaside course is the par-4, 407-yard 16th. A creek runs along the left side of the fairway, but the further right you go, the longer it is to shoot into the well-protected green. Players content with bunkers throughout the par-3 17th, and then plenty of water on No. 18. If golfers can avoid the water and fairway bunkers on either side leading into the hole, it provides a birdie opportunity for those who need it on the last hole.
Is a co-favorite at +1100 with Webb Simpson, and Scheffler is getting tantalizingly closer and closer to his first PGA Tour win. After playing well and contributing to the United States’ win at the Ryder Cup, Scheffler led after 54 holes at the Houston Open last week before settling into a tie for runner-up, which was his fourth-career second-place finish. The week before, he was fourth at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. He’s also finished fifth in his only appearance in this tournament, which was back in 2019. Given the fact that this event has a propensity to produce first-time winners, the 25-year-old may get his long-awaited moment here and have something extra to be thankful for next week.
Simpson is a co-favorite based on his history at this event, which includes playoff losses in 2011 and ’19 along with a third-place finish. Of his 34 rounds at Sea Island, 31 have been under par and 29 were in the 60s.
“I feel comfortable on both courses, especially Seaside. We’re close to the beach; I grew up at the beach, I love the water, so I feel like I’m relaxed here,” Simpson said. “Being relaxed is a good thing, and that’s how I feel around this golf course.”
Simpson won twice in 2020, including a coastal win at the RBC Heritage, but hasn’t won since. His last tournament was The CJ Cup at Summit in Las Vegas last month, where he finished tied for 14th after shooting four rounds in the 60s.
Kevin Kisner is at +3000 despite being the all-time money earner in this event, posting a win in 2015, a runner-up last year, and three other top 10s. He’s off to a slow start in the fall season, but he’s only three months removed from winning the Wyndham Championship. Kisner, a University of Georgia graduate, is a resident of nearby Aiken, South Carolina. His last four starts have not been great, which is why his odds are a bit longer, but if course history is any indication, he can bounce back, especially with a month having gone by since his last tournament (The CJ Cup).
Cameron Smith (+1600) has quietly posted solid results this year, including at big events. He has top-11 finishes at the Masters, the WGC-Workday Championship at the Concession, and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and finished second in a playoff to Tony Finau at The Northern Trust. He’s played in two events this season—a ninth at The CJ Cup and 15th last week at the Houston Open. Seven of his eight rounds have been in the 60s this year, so eventually, that consistency will pay off with a win once again for the Australian.
Harris English, teeing off Thursday at +1800, came in sixth here last year (including a final-round 62) and is a resident of Sea Island. He won twice last season, led the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational after each of the first three rounds before settling for fourth, and was third at the U.S. Open. After participating in the Ryder Cup, he struggled in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and The CJ Cup in Las Vegas, missing the cut at the Shriner’s and withdrawing from the CJ Cup in the final round due to a sore back. He’s been able to rest for a month and won’t be required to travel for this event, so it could be a comeback tournament for the University of Georgia graduate.
Corey Conners (+1800) has made the cut in both events he’s played in this season and hasn’t shot above a 70 in eight rounds. At Sea Island, he’s played here three times and improved each time out. The Canadian started with a 37th place finish in 2018 and followed that up with a 23rd in 2019. Last year, he cracked the top 10, finishing 10th after a final-round 64. All of his rounds here have been at par or better, so like Smith, you’re betting on consistency with Conners and hoping that he can post a couple 64s like he did in his Sunday rounds here in both 2019 and ’20.
Another big name entered here sits at +1800, and that’s South African Louis Oosthuizen. He missed the cut here last year after struggling on the Plantation course with a 73, but he hopes that experience will help him on the track this year. It also remains his only missed cut since June 2020. The eight-time winner on the European Tour, his only PGA Tour win remains the 2010 Open Championship, but he was oh-so-close a number of times this past spring and summer. He had four runner-up finishes, including at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, and he set a 36-hole record of 129 at The Open Championship before finishing third. He battled an injury in late August but has only played four times since then, so he’s had plenty of time to heal and recapture the form he showed in the summer.
Russell Henley (+2000) isn’t a name that will turn heads, but he’s played well in this fall season, leading after 18 holes last week at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open before finishing seventh, giving him three top-25 finishes in four starts this season. Another University of Georgia graduate from nearby Macon, Henley has played in this event seven times, recording top-10s each year from 2015-17. After struggling in ’18 and ’19, he finished 30th last year with each round improving over the last. Henley has three wins on the PGA Tour but none since winning the Houston Open in 2017.
Alex Noren and Joaquin Niemann are at +2500. Noren has made the cut in each of his last seven tournaments, finishing in the top 20 in each. At Sea Island, he debuted with a top-10 finish in 2019 and was 18th last year. The Swede won 10 times on the European Tour before joining the PGA Tour in 2018, and his best finish this season is an 18th at the ZOZO Championship in Japan last month.
Niemann has been a workhorse, competing in five of the previous six weeks, earning a fifth-place finish at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba two weeks ago. He suffered his first missed cut last week at the Houston Open. The 23-year-old Chilean already has a win on the PGA Tour and fell twice in playoffs last year, so he is no stranger to stringing together four good rounds of golf.
Along with Kisner, Talor Gooch and Adam Scott are at +3000. Gooch slipped a bit in Houston, finishing 60th, but he has had a great overall start to his 2021-22 season, finishing no worse than 11th in his four previous starts prior to the Houston Open. Included in that are a fourth-place finish at the Fortinet Championship and a fifth against a strong field at The CJ Cup.
Scott has just one win (The Genesis Invitational in 2020) in the last five years, but he was also fifth at The CJ Cup. He also was looking like he had a win wrapped up at the Wyndham Invitational at Sedgefield, which is a similar course, but his putter betrayed him, leading to a playoff loss. This will be his first trip to Sea Island, which may give some bettors pause.
Any discussion of longshots at Sea Island has to start with defending champion Robert Streb, who can be had at +6000. Not only is he the only two-time winner at this event, but he’s playing well leading into this year’s edition. He’s made four-straight cuts and has top-10 finishes in two of this last three tournaments, including a ninth at The CJ Cup and a seventh last week at the Houston Open. Working against Streb is his performance here in the five tournaments he did not win—his best finish in those five events at Sea Island is 25th.
Charles Howell III is another recent winner here who is at +6000. A native of Augusta, Georgia, Howell III won here in 2018 and has three other top-10 finishes here since 2010.
Par-70 courses always require good putting, and Denny McCarthy (+11000) is one of the best putters on Bermuda grass on tour. He shot a 64 last Sunday to finish 11th in the Houston Open and was tied for eighth here two years ago.
Justin Rose (+6600) is a name that we haven’t heard too much of the past few years after winning the FedEx Cup in 2018 and claiming 10 PGA Tour victories from 2010-19, but he’s still effective on par-70 courses. He’s second in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on par-70 courses that feature Bermuda greens. He also came in 10th at Sedgefield last year.
Seamus Power (+5000) doesn’t have the best history here and missed the cut in Houston last week, but he posted three-straight top-25 finishes before that. During the spring and summer, Power had four top-10s in six events (the other two were a pair of 19th-place finishes) and won the Barbasol Championship in July.
Henrik Norlander is at +11000 but has played well here. Before missing last year’s event due to a positive COVID-19 test, Norlander was fifth in 2019 and lost in a playoff in 2016. The Swede doesn’t have a PGA Tour win to his credit, but he’s made the cut in all five of his tournaments this season, logging a fourth-place finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship in early October.
The Davis Love Foundation is the charitable arm of this event, as the Friends of Davis Love Foundation was set up to help raise money for charities in the area participating in the program. The main fundraiser is through a raffle that sells $20 tickets to win a new car, where 100% of the money raised in the raffle is distributed to the participating charities.
In addition, the Birdies Fore Love program donates over $1 million each year to charities through an on-course competition that takes place throughout the fall. The top-three golfers who accumulate the most birdies during the 2021-22 PGA Tour’s fall events earn money to be distributed to a charity of their choice. Last year, Corey Conners won the program, followed by Sepp Straka and Sungjae Im. Cameron Tringale leads the standings this year.
It’s tough to ignore the momentum that Scheffler has been building. He’s the kind of golfer that will knock at the door for a while before busting it down, and it seems like just a matter of time before he breaks through and wins. English and Oosthuizen at +1800 are bets that provide value given how the pair played over the summer, which was only a few months ago. Due to their history on this course, Kisner and Streb can’t be ignored either, especially—in Streb’s case—because he’s currently playing fairly well on the tour. And the course seems to suit Henley’s game well, and it doesn’t hurt that he finished strong in Houston last week.
Outside of some non-official money events, this is the last event on the PGA Tour until January, so the pros will want to end up with a strong finish here so they can feel good about things before the season ramps up in earnest next year.
|GOLFER||ODDS TO WIN THE 2021 RSM CLASSIC|
|Adam Scott / Talor Gooch||+3000|
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