Best bets for RSM Classic, DP World Tour Championship

November 15, 2022 06:07 PM
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Tony Finau won his third event of 2022 Sunday at the Cadence Bank Houston Open. A winner at 18-1, Finau has captured all three of those events in his last seven starts. At one point on the back nine, Finau held an eight-stroke lead over the field before finishing at 16 under, four shots clear of 34-year-old PGA Tour rookie Tyson Alexander and five ahead of Englishman Ben Taylor, who like Alexander earned his card on the Korn Ferry Tour this year. Alex Noren, Trey Mullinax and Alex Smalley rounded out the top 5 in Houston.

After 45 events, the PGA Tour concludes its official event schedule this week at the RSM Classic. Finau (9-1) was scheduled to return for the season finale as the short favorite and at half the price he was last week for his Houston victory. However, Finau was a Tuesday morning withdrawal from the event.

Brian Harman (18-1), now the field's shortest price, is part of a cavalcade of players in this week's field who live in Sea Island, Ga., this week's locale, and was the runner-up at Mayakoba two weeks ago. Seamus Power (25-1), who won three weeks ago in Bermuda and followed up with a T-3 at Mayakoba the following week, was T-4 here last year. Taylor Montgomery (25-1) finished 57th in Houston, ending his streak of nine consecutive events (PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour) with a top-15 finish or better. 

Jason Day (22-1) follows on the odds board along with Tom Hoge (25-1), who finished T-4 last year. Denny McCarthy (33-1) has two top-10s here in the last three years. Joel Dahmen (35-1) finished T-9 last week in Houston after a T-3 at Mayakoba. Keith Mitchell (30-1), another Sea Island resident, was also in the top 10 last week. Patrick Rodgers (40-1) was the runner-up at this event in 2018. 

Kevin Kisner (50-1) and Mackenzie Hughes (40-1) are former champions here. Sea Island resident Matt Kuchar is also 50-1. 

Talor Gooch, last year's RSM champion, will not defend his title as he joined LIV Golf earlier this year.

The Event

The RSM Classic debuted in October 2010 as the McGladrey Classic and has been a permanent fixture on the PGA Tour’s Fall Series since. The tournament is organized by the Davis Love Foundation as DL3 is a resident pro of the Sea Island Golf Club, which has hosted the event every year. In 2015, the event began being played on both Sea Island Golf Club courses — Seaside and Plantation. As a full-field event, the usual perks for winning are on the line here, including the winner's share of an $8.1 million purse), spots in the Masters, PGA and Players and a two-year PGA Tour exemption.

Numerous PGA Tour players call Sea Island their home, including J.T. Poston, Brian Harman, Harris English, Patton Kizzire, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Keith Mitchell, Andrew Novak, Greyson Sigg and Michael Thompson.

The Course 

The RSM Classic is played on two courses. The Sea Island Plantation Course will be played in either the first or second rounds by all players. It was originally designed in 1928 by Walter Travis and redesigned in 1998 before a group led by Davis Love III restored it in 2019. This course plays as a par-72 of 7,060 yards and has tight, undulating Bermuda fairways into small (6,100 square feet) and slow (11 feet stimpmeter) Bermuda greens. With Love's design input, this course does have some similarities to Harbour Town Golf Links (RBC Heritage), where DL3 won five times in his career. The Plantation Course is a tree-lined parklands and rated as the sixth-shortest and 11th-easiest course on the PGA Tour last year.

Comparable courses to the Sea Island Plantation Course include Waialae, Torrey Pines North, Detroit GC, Keene Trace, Silverado, Sherwood and TPC Deere Run. 

The Sea Island Seaside Course will be played in three of the four rounds. The legendary team of Harry Colt and Hugh Alison first designed this track in 1928 before Tom Fazio redesigned it in 1998. The Seaside Course is around the same length at 7,005 yards but only plays as a par-70. The fairways have an average width of 42.8 yards, which is the fourth-widest on tour. The greens are larger on this layout, though at 7,200 average square feet (seventh-largest on tour) but will be much faster (13 stimpmeter) than the Plantation Course. Like its counterpart, the tees and fairways are a Bermuda and Paspalum mix, and the greens are TifEagle Bermuda. The Seaside Course is a bit more of a coastal and links-style layout where wind can be more of a factor. With it being a coastal design, there is a lot of water with 13 water danger holes, third most on tour. Seaside ranked as the 12th shortest and 16th easiest on the PGA Tour last year. 

Comparable courses include coastal courses Waialae, Port Royal, El Camaleon and Monterrey Peninsula. Others based on similar length include TPC River Highlands, Sedgefield and Silverado. 

Recent History/Winners

2021: Talor Gooch (-22/260); 40-1

2020: Robert Streb (-19/263); 350-1*

2019: Tyler Duncan (-19/263); 200-1**

2018: Charles Howell III (-19/263); 50-1***

2017: Austin Cook (-21/261); 90-1

2016: Mackenzie Hughes (-17/265); 250-1****

2015: Kevin Kisner (-22/260); 22-1

2014: Robert Streb (-14/266); 75-1*****

2013: Chris Kirk (-14/266); 50-1

2012: Tommy Gainey (-16/264); 200-1

2011: Ben Crane (-15/265); 66-1******

2010: Heath Slocum (-14/266); 50-1

* playoff win over Kevin Kisner

** playoff win over Webb Simpson

*** playoff win over Patrick Rodgers

**** playoff win over Blayne Barber, Billy Horschel, Henrik Norlander and Camilo Villegas

***** playoff win over Brendon de Jonge and Will MacKenzie

****** playoff win over Webb Simpson

Statistical Analysis

In four of the last seven years, the RSM winners have ranked top 5 in Strokes Gained: Approach during their respective winning weeks (Gooch second in 2021; Duncan third in 2019; Cook fifth in 2017; Kisner second in 2015).

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tony Finau 33.2 - WD
  2. Tom Hoge 29.6
  3. Mark Hubbard 26 - WD
  4. Matthew NeSmith 21.2
  5. Chesson Hadley 20.4
  6. Lee Hodges 19
  7. Trey Mullinax 14.5
  8. Sam Ryder 14
  9. Adam Schenk 13.9
  10. Ben Griffin 13.1
  11. Kevin Streelman 12.9
  12. Brian Harman 12.8
  13. David Lipsky 12.7
  14. Davis Riley 12.7
  15. Stephan Jaeger 12.4
  16. Callum Tarren 12.3

Four of the last five winners here have rated fourth or better for Greens In Regulation during their respective winning weeks.

Greens In Regulation Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tony Finau 47.8 - WD
  2. Matthew NeSmith 32
  3. Tom Hoge 31.8
  4. Will Gordon 30.4
  5. Augusto Nunez 28.2
  6. Justin Suh 27.4
  7. Adam Schenk 26
  8. Chesson Hadley 25.9
  9. Trevor Cone 23.3
  10. Hayden Buckley 23
  11. Adam Long 22.9
  12. Greyson Sigg 22
  13. Taylor Pendrith 21.8
  14. Trey Mullinax 21.6
  15. Russell Knox 20.6
  16. Cameron Champ 20.1
  17. David Lipsky 20.1
  18. Brian Harman 20

Almost half of the approach shots will come from 125-175 yards. 

Proximity Gained 125-150 Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tom Hoge 9.3
  2. Jason Dufner 8.9
  3. Chris Kirk 8.6
  4. Russell Knox 8.6
  5. Brian Stuard 7.8
  6. Will Gordon 7.8
  7. Troy Merritt 7.7
  8. Mark Hubbard 7.3 - WD
  9. Ben Martin 6.9
  10. Francesco Molinari 6.5
  11. Matt Wallace 6.2
  12. Zac Blair 6.2
  13. Justin Rose 6

Note: Feet Gained Per Shot

Proximity Gained 150-175 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Justin Lower 480.3
  2. Justin Rose 476.8
  3. Mark Hubbard 418.9 - WD
  4. Vaughn Taylor 321.5
  5. Joel Dahmen 294.5
  6. Ryan Moore 286.6 -WD
  7. Scott Piercy 280.1
  8. JJ Spaun 271.7
  9. Jason Day 259.6
  10. Matthew NeSmith 243.3
  11. Austin Cook 234.8
  12. Doc Redman 234.5
  13. Davis Thompson 233.5

Note: Total Feet Gained 

On these shorter courses, players do not have to use driver as much and can club down with 3-woods, hybrids and longer irons. 

Good Drives Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Tony Finau 38.2 - WD
  2. Ryan Armour 30.5
  3. Tom Hoge 27.8
  4. Hayden Buckley 27.3
  5. Will Gordon 25.8
  6. Sean O'Hair 24.3
  7. Matthew NeSmith 23.7
  8. Justin Suh 23.4
  9. Aaron Rai 23.3
  10. Augusto Nunez 22.3
  11. Mark Hubbard 21.7 - WD
  12. Vincent Norman 21.7
  13. Adam Schenk 20.7
  14. Greyson Sigg 20.6
  15. Paul Haley II 20.5

Eight of the par-4s at the Seaside Course measure 400-450 yards.

Strokes Gained Par-4s 400-450 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Taylor Montgomery 32.6
  2. Andrew Putnam 18.2
  3. JJ Spaun 17.2
  4. Cameron Percy 16.7
  5. Matt Kuchar 16.3
  6. Tom Hoge 16
  7. Mark Hubbard 15.8 - WD
  8. SH Kim 15.5
  9. Lee Hodges 15.2
  10. Denny McCarthy 15.2
  11. Paul Haley II 14.7
  12. Kevin Kisner 13.5
  13. Brendon Todd 13.4
  14. Ben Griffin 13.1
  15. Samuel Stevens 13

Although the wind can blow hard here, the winning score has not been higher than 17 under par in the last seven years. Birdies are still plentiful. 

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tony Finau 39.8 - WD
  2. Taylor Montgomery 33.6
  3. Yechun Yuan 30.4
  4. Trey Mullinax 25.3
  5. Justin Suh 22.3
  6. Stephan Jaeger 21.9
  7. Nicolas Echavarria 21.6
  8. Brett Grant 20.6
  9. Dean Burmester 20.3
  10. Tom Hoge 19.8
  11. Ben Griffin 18.8
  12. Philip Knowles 18
  13. Brendon Todd 17.3
  14. Matthew NeSmith 16.4
  15. Taylor Moore 16
  16. Will Gordon 15.7
  17. Eric Cole 15.2
  18. Harris English 15.2

In 2021, 38% of the strokes gained at the RSM Classic were with the putter. 

Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Martin Trainer 39.8
  2. Brian Gay 33.7
  3. Ben Taylor 24.7
  4. Brendon Todd 23.6
  5. Kevin Kisner 23.2
  6. Justin Rose 22.9
  7. Troy Merritt 20.3
  8. Mackenzie Hughes 20.2
  9. Adam Long 19.7
  10. Beau Hossler 19.7
  11. Stephan Jaeger 19.2
  12. Sepp Straka 19.2
  13. Kelly Kraft 18.2
  14. Richy Werenski 17.8
  15. Sam Ryder 15

Selections

Taylor Montgomery (25-1, BetMGM)

Montgomery broke a streak of nine consecutive events of having a top-15 finish or better with a 57th last week in Houston. 

Perhaps he is wearing down after playing a lot of golf this fall and earning invaluable FedEx Cup Points for 2023, but he should have enough for the last event of the year.

He ranks No. 1 in this field for Birdie or Better Gained and Strokes Gained: Par-4s 400-450 Yards.

Tom Hoge (28-1, PointsBet)

Before his missed cut at Mayakoba, Hoge had finished no worse than 13th, including three top-10s, in his last five starts.

He leads the field for Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 24 rounds. 

Hoge also placed fourth here last year. 

Matthew NeSmith (40-1, BetMGM)

NeSmith has made all three cuts here at the RSM and has three top-10 finishes already this fall. 

He ranks near the top of most of the modeled categories this week including Strokes Gained: Approach, GIR Gained, Proximity and Good Drives Gained. 

​Justin Rose (45-1, Caesars Sportsbook)

Rose has battled a back injury for the better part of the last year and a half. 

Last week in Houston, where he finished T-9, he spoke of being ready to move on to 2023 since 2022 has been such a frustrating year. 

Next year might be Rose's last chance to be a member of the European Ryder Cup team and a great showing at the end of 2022 can start the run to make the team. 

Brendon Todd (60-1, BetMGM)

While Todd is not a Sea Island resident, he does live in Georgia and played his collegiate golf at UGA. 

Todd is off to a strong start this fall with two top-10s at the Fortinet Championship and the CJ Cup. 

He finished fourth here in 2019, and if it turns into a putting contest on the Bermuda greens, there are not many better than Todd. 

Chris Kirk (66-1, BetRivers)

Kirk is a former Sea Island resident who won here in 2013 and has finished fourth here twice since. 

He also has multiple runner-up finishes at Waialae, which has a strong correlation to this week's course. 

Davis Thompson (100-1, BetMGM)

Former World No. 1 Amateur Davis Thompson lives at Sea Island. 

He earned his PGA Tour card earlier this summer with a victory on the Korn Ferry Tour. 

Thompson has made all four cuts this fall, including a T-9 at the Fortinet Championship and a T-12 at the Shriners Children's Open. While he was just T-43 last week in Houston, he rated second in the field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. 

Brady Kannon’s selections

Two weeks ago, we were at El Camaleon Golf Course for the Mayakoba Championship in Riviera Maya. I had played this course and landed correctly on Russell Henley. I have not played Memorial Park in Houston, but we nailed it once again with Tony Finau last week. That brings us to this week in Sea Island, Ga. This will be the final official PGA Tour event of the Fall Series before a six-week break. The tour officially resumes in the New Year at Kapalua, Maui, for the Tournament of Champions, beginning on Jan. 5. I have been lucky enough to play the Seaside Course at Sea Island and the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Hopefully some direct course knowledge continues to aid in our handicap this week and early next year.

Sea Island is a relatively easy course. I broke 80 when I played there a few summers ago. The fairways are wide, the course is short and the greens are big. The wind is the golf course's best defense, but the forecast looks pretty benign with nothing more than a 15-mph breeze currently listed. Accuracy off of the tee is favored here over distance. Strong approach play and proximity to the hole will be emphasized. If one can do all of this and stumble into a hot putting week, that should put them on the first page of the leaderboard. For correlated courses, I used Innisbrook, where they play the Valspar Championship, Waialae, where they play the Sony Open, and Harbour Town, home to the RBC Heritage.

Kevin Kisner (50-1)

Kisner has played just one time during this fall stretch, finishing 72nd at the CJ Cup in his home state of South Carolina. He did not play very well during the summer either, but I like that he does have four competitive rounds under his belt coming into a course where he has won before and has four additional top-5 finishes. He's a brilliant putter on Bermuda grass, is very accurate off of the tee and hits a lot of greens in regulation. He ought to feel very comfortable at a course he knows so well and plays to the strengths of his game. Kisner has also had tremendous success in the past at both the Sony Open and at Harbour Town.

Matt Kuchar (50-1)

Kevin Kisner went to the University of Georgia and Kuchar went to Georgia Tech, so like Kisner, Kooch too is very familiar with this golf course. In fact, Sea Island is in his backyard, as he lives in St. Simon's Island, Ga. I don't always like a "home game" for golfers, but Kuchar has been here and done that for over a decade. He's played three times this fall and has two top-30 finishes and one top-15, so the game looks to be fine. Again, similar to Kisner, Kuchar is one of the best putters in this field, is accurate off of the tee and hits a lot of greens in regulation. He's also had a career's worth of success at the Valspar, the Sony and the RBC Heritage, including wins in Honolulu and Hilton Head.

Chris Kirk (68-1)

More local flavor here as Kirk is a resident of Athens, where this Georgia Bulldog went to college. He's won this event in the past, finished second twice at the Sony and placed seventh at Harbour Town. Kirk is very steady across the stats that I looked at this week, pretty much residing in the top 30 in this field over the course of the last 24 rounds. He's played five times this fall with only one missed cut. He finished the summer, ranking 36th in Driving Accuracy, 53rd in Strokes Gained Approach and 28th in Scrambling on the PGA Tour.

Adam Svensson (150-1)

For our last selection, we break away from the local veterans and go to a 28-year-old Canadian. Svensson has shown an ability to flourish on these types of courses with a 39th at the Valspar, a seventh at the Sony and a 26th at Harbour Town. He missed the cut at this event last year, but I don't believe that means this course doesn't suit his game. Like Kirk, Svensson has been active this fall, missing just one cut in six starts. In fact, that was only his second missed cut since last May. He finished last season ranked 40th on Tour in Driving Accuracy, 61st in Greens in Regulation, 41st in Strokes Gained Approach and 26th in Birdie Average.

DP World Tour Championship

After an 11-month season, the 2022 DP World Tour season ends in Dubai with the DP World Tour Championship. Rory McIlroy (3-1) is a two-time winner (2012, 2015) here and leads the current point standings by a little over 100 points ahead of Ryan Fox (25-1). Jon Rahm (5-1) is also a two-time winner (2017, 2019) at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Matt Fitzpatrick (19-2), third in the standings, is yet another two-time winner (2016, 2020) in Dubai.

Viktor Hovland (10-1) and 2017 runner-up Shane Lowry (14-1) follow on the odds board. Tommy Fleetwood (16-1) bagged a chalky winner for us at 10-1 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week in South Africa for his first victory in three years. Tyrrell Hatton (18-1) finished runner-up here to Fitzpatrick in 2016.

In all, the Top 50 in the DP World Tour Race to Dubai standings are here with the exceptions of defending champion Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris and Thomas Pieters. 

The Event 

The DP World Tour Championship was established in 2009 as the Race to Dubai replaced the former European Tour Order of Merit. Only 50 players are in this week's field. The field will play for a $10 million purse with a $3 million share going to the winner. The Vardon Trophy, named after six-time British Open champion Harry Vardon, is awarded to the Race to Dubai points winner. 

This week, 12,000 total points are up for grabs across the field, with 2,000 going to the winner, so the points title is still to be determined. Unlike the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour, there is not a separate market for starting strokes because there are no starting strokes for this event. 

The Course

The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates has hosted this event every year since the tournament’s creation. The track was designed by Greg Norman, and it opened in 2009. The track is a monster at 7,675 yards with two of the par-5s measuring over 620 yards, the tough par-4 ninth of 500 yards, plus the 195-yard par-3 17th, which plays to an island green. Greens are large, undulating Bermudagrass that measure 12-6 on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on the final three holes and there are 99 bunkers predominantly featured in the fairways. Although the course is long, it is fairly easy to score. Nevertheless, those ball strikers that are especially good with long irons should be successful here, and being long off the tee never hurts either. 

Recent History/Winners

2021: Collin Morikawa (-17/271); 15-2

2020: Matt Fitzpatrick (-15/273); 7-1

2019: Jon Rahm (-19/269); 7-1

2018: Danny Willett (-18/270); 80-1

2017: Jon Rahm (-19/269); 12-1

2016: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17/271); 66-1

2015: Rory McIlroy (-21/267); 5-1

2014: Henrik Stenson (-16/272); 17-2

2013: Henrik Stenson (-25/263); 11-1**

2012: Rory McIlroy (-23/265); 6-1

2011: Alvaro Quiros (-19/269); 40-1

2010: Robert Karlsson (-14/274); 50-1*

* playoff win over Ian Poulter

** all-Time tournament scoring record

Trends and Angles

  • Each winner here had registered at least one top-7 finish in his previous six starts.
  • There have been four repeat winners here in 13 tournaments (Stenson, McIlroy, Rahm, Fitzpatrick). 

Selections

​Jon Rahm (5-1, FanDuel)

Rahm has played sparingly in the fall but has been terrific when he has played. He finished T-2 at Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship and then won the Open De Espana in a runaway. He last played a few weeks ago at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, finishing T-4 and was bested by McIlroy. 

The OWGR No. 5 would love to get one up on European rival McIlroy at the end of the season.

Tommy Fleetwood (16-1, DraftKings)

After three years, Fleetwood got back in the winner's circle in Sun City, South Africa, last weekend at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, where he earned his last victory in 2019. 

Fleetwood just opened his second Tommy Fleetwood Academy this week right on the Jumeirah Golf Estates property. 

Tyrrell Hatton (19-1, FanDuel)

Hatton has a strong record here, having finished in the top-10 on four occasions, with a best of second in 2016, and is no stranger to winning in the Middle East, as his last victory came in the Abu Dhabi Championship last year.

Min Woo Lee (30-1, Bet Rivers)

Australian Lee comes in with a form of third at the Open De Espana, third at the Andalucia Masters and a T-8 last week at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. 

Antoine Rozner (90-1, Circa Sports)

Rozner ranks 10th on the DP World Tour for Strokes Gained: Approach and third for Greens In Regulation. He has two wins in the Middle East, including on the Fire Course right next door at the Jumeirah Golf Estates. 

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