The RSM Classic
Camilo Villegas followed up his runner-up finish last week in Mexico with a victory at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, his fifth career PGA Tour title, at a price of 125-1. It has been a long journey for a player once ranked No. 7 in the world. More than going nine years without winning, Villegas and his wife coped with the death of their 22-month-old daughter, Mia, who died of brain cancer in the summer of 2020. Villegas was lost on the course and finished last year at No. 654 in the world.
Alex Noren, tipped in this column last week at 25-1, finished runner-up after being the 18-hole, 36-hole and 54-hole leader. Noren, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, went 48 consecutive holes without a bogey until he made back-to-back bogeys at the turn. The Swede went from a one-shot lead to a one-shot deficit, and he never caught up.
This week, the PGA Tour plays its 2023 finale at the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga. Ludvig Åberg (14-1) has been on a tear this fall with a victory on the DP World Tour in the Omega European Masters, a runner-up at the Sanderson Farms, a top-5 at the Czech Masters and four other top-14 finishes dating to the Wyndham Championship. He was also a member of the victorious Team Europe in the Ryder Cup. The Swede, currently No. 53 in the OWGR, is trying to fight his way into the Top 50 by the end of the year to earn an automatic Masters invitation.
Brian Harman (20-1), part of a large contingent of Sea Island residents, had his career this year having won the British Open. He has not played since being part of the losing Team USA in the Ryder Cup but has to feel he has unfinished business in his home event finishing runner-up here last year.
Much was expected of Cameron Young (20-1) in 2023, but he’s gone winless, so this is his last opportunity to earn his first PGA Tour victory this year.
It has been a year and a couple of weeks (2022 WWT Championship) since Georgia native Russell Henley (22-1) was last in the winner's circle.
Corey Conners (28-1), Noren (33-1), J.T. Poston (33-1), Si Woo Kim (33-1), Eric Cole (35-1), Justin Suh (35-1), Denny McCarthy (40-1) and RSM Classic defending champion Adam Svensson (40-1) follow on the odds board.
Last week's winner Villegas was slated to be in this field on a sponsor's exemption, but now he has a two-year PGA Tour exemption and is in the field at 66-1.
The RSM Classic debuted in October 2010 as the McGladrey Classic and has been a fixture on the PGA Tour’s Fall Series ever 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 a $8.4 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.
Eleven of the OWGR Top 50 are in this week's field.
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 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 plays as a par-70. The fairways have an average width of 42.8 yards, which makes them 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 play more of a factor. With it being a coastal design, there is a lot of water with 13 water danger holes, the third most on tour. Seaside ranked as the 10th-shortest and 15th-easiest course on the PGA Tour last year.
Comparable courses include coastal courses like Waialae, Port Royal, El Camaleon, and Monterrey Peninsula. Others based on similar length include TPC River Highlands, Sedgefield and Silverado.
2022: Adam Svensson (-19/263); 150-1
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 - ******
Last year, six of the top 15 players on the leaderboard lost to the field in driving distance, seven of the top 15 lost in driving accuracy percentage, but only two of the top 15 lost in good drive percentage. Good Drives Gained is probably the best way to incorporate anything off the tee here as approach play should make up the bulk of any stat model this week.
Good Drives Gained (Last 50 rounds)
- Matthew NeSmith 53.7
- Russell Henley 49.4
- Si Woo Kim 40.6
- Doug Ghim 39.7
- Denny McCarthy 36.4
- Brendon Todd 35.4
- Ryan Armour 33.4
- Doc Redman 33.3
- J.J Spaun 32.2
- Brice Garnett 31.1
- Corey Conners 31.1
- Carson Young 30.8
- Satoshi Kodaira 30.2
In four of the last eight years, the RSM winners have ranked top 5 in Strokes Gained: Approach during their respective winning weeks (2021: Gooch second; 2019: Duncan third; 2017: Cook fifth; 2015: Kisner second).
Strokes Gained Approach (Last 50 rounds)
- Mark Hubbard 45.9
- Russell Henley 39
- Sam Ryder 36.6
- Alex Smalley 35.4
- Adam Schenk 34.9
- Eric Cole 33
- Kevin Roy 30.1
- Corey Conners 27.7
- Kevin Streelman 26.7
- Ryan Moore 26.1
- Nate Lashley 24.5
- J.J Spaun 23.1
- Luke List 21.2
- Chesson Hadley 20.3
60% off all approach shots come from 125-200 yards. These are short- to middle-iron courses.
Proximity Gained 125-150 Yards (Last 50 rounds)
- Chris Kirk 11.7
- Charley Hoffman 10
- Chesson Hadley 9.4
- Satoshi Kodaira 7.9
- Akshay Bhatia 6.3
- Ryan Moore 6.2
- C.T. Pan 5.7
- Russell Henley 5.7
- Cameron Young 5.6
- Corey Conners 5.6
- Nicholas Lindheim 5
- Camilo Villegas 5
Proximity Gained 150-175 Yards (Last 50 rounds)
- Russell Knox 14.4
- Ryan Moore 12.4
- Adam Schenk 11.2
- Ben Martin 9.2
- Jason Dufner 9
- Callum Tarren 8.6
- Brandon Wu 8
- Si Woo Kim 8
- Doug Ghim 7.7
- Sam Ryder 7.2
- Kevin Chappell 7.1
- Eric Cole 7
- Scott Piercy 7
Proximity Gained 175-200 Yards (Last 50 rounds)
- Will Gordon 10.6
- Marty Dou 10.4
- Justin Lower 10.3
- Eric Cole 9.7
- Taylor Pendrith 9.4
- Austin Eckroat 9.2
- Sam Ryder 8.2
- Nate Lashley 7.9
- Greyson Sigg 7.8
- Stephan Jaeger 7.3
- Carson Young 7.1
- Matthew NeSmith 7
NOTE: Above numbers indicate the average feet gained per shot toward the hole from the designated distance.
The Bermuda greens on the Seaside Course are fairly fast (12.5-13 on the stimpmeter).
Strokes Gained Putting Fast Bermuda Greens (Last 50 rounds)
- Chesson Hadley 38.2
- Kevin Kisner 38.1
- Alex Noren 34.8
- Brendon Todd 32.2
- Denny McCarthy 30.6
- Ben Taylor 30.2 (34 rounds)
- Billy Horschel 29.8
- Cody Gribble 26.3
- Nicholas Lindheim 24.5 (38 rounds)
- Matt Kuchar 22.8
- Ben Kohles 21.4 (29 rounds)
- Ben Griffin 21.4 (36 rounds)
- Scott Stallings 20.3
- Kevin Tway 19.6
- Justin Suh 18.9 (33 rounds)
- Russell Henley 18.9
- Camilo Villegas 18.6
Opportunities Gained measures how many birdie opportunities players can generate inside of 15 feet.
Opportunities Gained (Last 50 rounds)
- Eric Cole 48
- Alex Smalley 35.7
- Chris Kirk 34.3
- Kevin Yu 30.6
- Ludvig Åberg 30
- Kevin Roy 26.7
- Russell Henley 25.8
- Charley Hoffman 25.7
- Ryan Palmer 25.2
- Luke List 23.8
Birdie or Better Gained measures which players convert said opportunities.
Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 50 rounds)
- Eric Cole 52
- Ludvig Åberg 33.2
- Luke List 24
- Justin Suh 24
- Camilo Villegas 23.3
- Taylor Montgomery 23.3
- Corey Conners 22.2
- Stephan Jaeger 22
- Marty Dou 21.5
- Scott Piercy 21.5
- Russell Henley 20.8
- Cameron Young 20.1
Both the Seaside and Plantations courses are under 7,200 yards.
Strokes Gained Total Courses < than 7,200 Yards (Last 50 rounds)
- Russell Henley 85.3
- Brian Harman 81.8
- Corey Conners 77.2
- J.T. Poston 76.4
- Eric Cole 68.3
- Keith Mitchell 52.8
- Brendon Todd 52.5
- Maverick McNealy 51.2
- Kevin Kisner 50.7
- Denny McCarthy 50.4
Nine of the par-4s on the Seaside Course measure 400-450 Yards, so it is prudent to look at Par-4 Scoring.
Strokes Gained Par-4s (Last 50 rounds)
- Russell Henley 61.9
- Denny McCarthy 57.1
- Corey Conners 44
- Alex Noren 42.5
- Chesson Hadley 39.9
- J.T. Poston 37.9
- Nicholas Lindheim 37
- Kevin Streelman 30.6
- Ludvig Åberg 30.5
- Brian Harman 28.7
- Eric Cole 27.8
- Doug Ghim 27.2
Strokes Gained Par-4s 400-450 Yards (Last 50 rounds)
- Russell Henley 29.6
- Denny McCarthy 26.4
- Doug Ghim 21.2
- Nicholas Lindheim 19.9
- Callum Tarren 17.5
- Brendon Todd 17.5
- Alex Noren 16.1
- Thomas Detry 15.9
- Stephan Jaeger 14.6
- Chesson Hadley 12.9
- Davis Thompson 12.7
- Matti Schmid 12.4
Alex Noren (41-1, Circa Sports)
Two weeks ago, Camilo Villegas finished runner-up at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico. Then he won last week at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Perhaps it can work out the same way for the man he defeated last week in Noren, who had to settle for runner-up last weekend in Bermuda when he was the 18-, 36- and 54-hole leader.
Noren has a top-10 back in 2018 and is always one of the best putters on the tour on fast, Bermuda greens.
He can also get into that FedEx Cup 51-60 (currently 64) and earn a spot at Riviera and Pebble Beach for the first two PGA Tour designated events next season.
Matt Kuchar (45-1, Circa Sports)
Kuchar has long been a resident of St. Simon's Island as part of the "Sea Island Mafia." Surprisingly, Kuchar has never won here on courses that are perfect for his game.
A couple of big finishes this fall — seventh at the Fortinet and a runner-up two weeks ago (tied with Villegas) in Mexico — has Kuchar up to No. 52 in the OWGR. The OWGR Top 50 at the end of the calendar year get Masters invitations. Kuchar just missed out on playing at Augusta this year, which was his first time missing the field since 2009.
"Kooch" could add to a long list of players in 2023 who have won after prolonged winless periods.
Billy Horschel (45-1, DraftKings)
Horschel is another player just outside the OWGR Top 50 (54) looking to get back in to earn that return trip to the Masters.
He missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs but finished the regular season with a fourth at the Wyndham and has stayed active playing in Europe, where he posted three top-20s in four events.
While not a Sea Island resident, Horschel's coach, Todd Anderson, is based here, so he has plenty of experience here and was the runner-up in 2016.
Taylor Pendrith (55-1, Circa Sports)
Pendrith has had a solid year, including seven top-20s but has found his best run of results coming across his last three starts. He finished third in the Shriners Open around a month ago and has followed that with finishes of 15th in Mexico and eighth in Bermuda in the last two weeks. He has failed to break 70 only once in his last 12 rounds.
He is now comfortably in the Top 125 (No. 86) and can just focus on going for the win.
Ben Griffin (80-1, Circa Sports)
Griffin is another Sea Island resident who sits No. 54 in the FedEx Cup points.
He ranks fifth in putting and top 15 on approach over the last three months.
He settled for runner-up five weeks ago at the Sanderson Farms, where he entered the final round with a three-shot lead. A home game would be the perfect venue for his first PGA Tour victory.
Ryan Moore (145-1, Circa Sports)
Moore finished fifth on debut in Bermuda last week and makes his RSM debut this week.
He is No. 128 in the FedEx Cup standings, so he is playing these late fall events to keep his status on tour as part of the Top 125.
Note: Any matchups or finishing position bets will be put up at VSiN.com/picks