This event marks the final leg of the Fall swing for the PGA TOUR. We head into Saint Simons, Sea Island this week for the annual RSM Classic, a mainstay on the wraparound portion of the PGA TOUR that has been around since 2010. This event features dual courses in play with the event using both the Plantation Course and Seaside Course on Thursday and Friday, with the Seaside Course hosting play on the weekend.
The venue shifts dramatically from what we saw last week in Houston where a longer, tough golf course produced much higher winning scores than we’ve seen over most of the Fall. The Sea Island Courses play on the short side for PGA TOUR standards and have produced winners who tend to have more varied skill sets with better technical around the green games and with their short irons. While the Plantation Course plays as a short par 72 with four par 5s, the Seaside Course plays around the same yardage but as a par 70, making it slightly more difficult for scoring purposes.
The Seaside Course is also where players will be putting in most of their work as it will host three of the four rounds this week. From a setup perspective, par 4 scoring becomes important here as there are only two par 5s (par 70 setup) and the venue features 12 par 4s strewn throughout. 400-450 yards is a key range in terms of efficiency stats as nine of those said par 4s fall within those ranges. That means lots of short and mid-iron approaches will be on tap for the players, so looking at golfers with good proximity from 175 yards and in will be key as well. From an approach perspective, the most popular approach ranges tend to be from 125-175 yards.
The Seaside venue is also quite open and winds off the coast can come in and play a huge factor. The greens aren’t overly difficult to hit, but if the wind gets up, those percentages will get lower and short games here always tend to get stressed at some point during the week. Scrambling rates still tend to be lower than average at this event, so players with good short games who are used to working their way around shorter courses tend to pop up at this event every season. Past winners at Sea Island include Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson, all multi-time PGA TOUR winners who have also had lots of success at other technical venues like Waialae and Hilton Head over their careers. It’s a good week to emphasize course history and also look at results at other similar venues when making DraftKings daily fantasy golf lineups.
Tom Hoge ($9,800)
Hoge is coming into this event off a missed cut in Mexico but has had a solid Fall swing and isn’t a player we should overlook this week. His only PGA TOUR win came at another short seaside venue in Pebble Beach last Winter and he ranks second in long-term form and first in short-term form in strokes gained approach stats in this field. Hoge’s strengths are undoubtedly his iron play and he tends to get more elite as he gets closer to the hole, ranking out 3rd in proximity stats from 125-150 yards. It’s worth noting too that Hoge has had success at Sea Island throughout his career, even getting himself in contention way back in 2015 (when he was still struggling with consistency) when he posted a T9 for the week. His T4 at this venue last season saw him gain 4.4 strokes on approach and over a stroke putting and around the green. Coming off a couple of weeks of rest, he’s a player who has the goods to put in a ceiling type of performance at this shorter venue.
Matthew NeSmith ($9,000)
NeSmith is another player who comes in with solid momentum from a great Fall swing. The American has posted four top-10 finishes across five Fall swing starts and has shown he has the kind of elite approach game necessary to challenge for the win at the type of venue in play this week. Since February, NeSmith has gained over 5.0 strokes on approach six times in a PGA TOUR event and posted a career-best 3rd place at the Valspar in 2022. While the rest of his game isn’t as consistent as some of his peers, he’s shown more confidence with the putter throughout the Fall, gaining strokes with the flatstick in five out of six starts. The South Carolina native is very familiar with this part of the world and will undoubtedly like the change in venues and slower Bermuda greens that the Seaside venues provide. He’s finished T29 or better at this event in three career appearances and is a solid mid-tier target to build around this week on DraftKings.
Aaron Rai ($7,800)
Rai is coming off an interesting week at the Houston Open, where he finished T7 and gained an absurd 12.6 strokes putting + around the greens combined. To say Rai relied on his short game to carry him is an understatement, but the fact he’s carrying some confidence in that portion of his game this week into a venue where elite putters and short game specialists have thrived in the past isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His iron play is likely to improve this week and he did gain 7.0 strokes on approach at the Shriners (on another shorter venue) back in October. Rai is a former European Tour winner who has made five of six cuts over the Fall and finished T16 at this event last season. He sets up as an extremely solid value target this week at under $8,000.
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