The RSM Classic Preview

·7 min read

The 2021 PGA TOUR schedule comes to an end this week at The RSM Classic. Well, there is still the Brooks vs. Bryson match and the Hero World Challenge, but this week will be the final FedExCup event of the calendar year.

Daylight is scarce at this time of year, but with the use of two courses, this event is able to pack in a full field of 156 golfers. Golfers will play each course once before a 36-hole cut takes place with the top 65 and ties advancing on to play the weekend.

The location this week is Sea Island, Georgia. We can't forget about the Sea Island Mafia when doing our research this week. If you are unfamiliar with the term, the Sea Island Mafia is a large group of PGA TOUR pros that call this area home. The top-notch facilities are a big reason why so many pros decide to call this home.

Let's get right to it, and talk about the courses being played this week at the RSM.

The Courses

The host course this week is the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. It has hosted this event since the inaugural 2010 edition and starting splitting duties with the Plantation Course in 2015.

The Seaside will be played once by each golfer over the first two rounds as well as the final two rounds. Three rounds total on the Seaside for anyone who makes it through the cutline.

This Harry Colt and C.H. Alison design was built back in the late 1920s and it was renovated by Tom Fazio in 1999.

For tournament week, it plays as a par 70 that checks in at 7,005 yards on the card. That is short by PGA TOUR standards, even as a par 70.

With water in play on 13 holes, it becomes a course where precision is rewarded more than the average PGA TOUR venue. If you look at the list of winners at this event, it becomes clear very quickly that distance is not a requirement.

Off the tee, golfers will be able to club down and take less-than-driver on a fair amount of par 4s. From there, golfers will see generous landing areas with greens that are an average of 7,200 square feet.

For grass types, the course features bermudagrass and paspalum from tee-to-green with TifEagle Bermuda greens that are 22 years old. The course was closed for overseeding during the first week of October.

I mentioned that the Plantation Course joined the RSM rotation back in 2015 and it remains part of the equation this year.

Similar to the Seaside, this was also laid out by Colt and Alison back in the late 1920s. It received a recent renovation by Davis Love III and his team (2019).

The renovation restored the course to make it "look more historic." Players talk plenty about the changes to the greens and how the Plantation Course is no pushover anymore. Despite it being a par 72 that plays to 7,060 yards (short) the Plantation Course actually yielded a tougher scoring average last year compared to the Seaside Course.

Peter Malnati had this to say about those changes:

"The Plantation course, the greens on the Plantation course have added a lot of challenge since they just redid them. It's very tough to keep the ball close to the hole... Seaside is a course that's a classic and in the wind it is absolutely brutally difficult, but the landing areas in lieu of target areas of the greens I think are smaller over on Plantation now, so it's not by any means I wouldn't call Plantation an easier course anymore."

The field scoring average at the Plantation Course last year was still 0.66 shots under-par so it's not a tough course by any means, just a bit harder than it was before the renovation.

As for the grass at the Plantation Course, it also features bermuda and paspalum from tee-to-green with TifEagle Bermuda greens. The Plantation was closed for overseeding on the second week of October.

Overall, gamers should expect a relatively easy scoring environment, barring nasty weather, with a laidback atmosphere as golfers ready for the holiday break.

Editor’s Note: Play for FREE! Download the NBC Sports Predictor app, make picks and win huge, weekly jackpots. Get started here!

Quotes on the Course

Kyle Stanley: "I think the Seaside is probably a little bit more exposed. Once you get out on the Plantation you don’t feel the wind as much with the trees kind of blocking it and whatnot."

Vaughn Taylor: "You’ve got a lot of wedges in and short irons, so you immediately get aggressive."

Austin Cook: "I mean, distance helps, but it’s not necessary on this golf course to play well, but straight ball-striking is."

Blayne Barber: "We played the SEC Championship here every year when I was in school and I had success here last year. I just play well kind of on bermudagrass in the southeast, it’s just what I grew up with."

Cameron Champ: "Length on this course is pretty much irrelevant. I’m just trying to find the fairways and middle of the greens and take my 20-footers and having to push or pull one to the pin, I’ll take it."

Correlated Courses

We have just one year of data to look at but I plugged in the top performers from last year and these were the courses that showed the highest consistency of crossover success:

TPC Deere Run
Waialae CC
Sedgefield CC
Quail Hollow
TPC Summerlin

The main themes this week are shorter courses that give you a lot of wedges and short irons.

The Weather

Thursday: Mostly Cloudy with a high of 77 degrees. Winds at 6 to 9 MPH.

Friday: Sunny with a high of 68 degrees. Winds at 12 to 16 MPH.

It looks pretty calm on Thursday but winds could pick up on Friday. With the use of two courses, there isn't much of a tee-time split but you can look targeting a specific course on Friday if you think one of the courses plays tougher in the wind.

Golfers to Watch

Webb Simpson
Simpson is one of the first names that pops to mind when someone mentions a short, easy course with bermudagrass greens. He's showcased that skill on more than one occassion, posting four top 10s in nine tries at the RSM, with three of those doubling as podium finishes. More recently, he's sandwiched a missed cut in between a pair of top 30s to open the new season.

Scottie Scheffler
The Texan arrives with back-to-back top 5s and also posted a top 5 in his lone appearance at The RSM Classic. It's easy to see why he arrives as the pre-tournament betting favorite.

Kevin Kisner
Similar to Simspon, Kisner has a repuation for crushing on short, easy, bermuda tracks. Kisner lived in the area for a year after college and considers this somewhat of a home game. He's backed that up with a win and four other top 10s in 10 appearances at the RSM. The problem? His recent form is slouching since winning the Wyndham in August.

Chris Kirk
Just like Kisner, Kirk has plenty of course knowledge and had this to say back in 2017, " Thankfully I’ve played this course in every direction and velocity of wind possible. I’ll bet I’ve got 300-plus rounds in on seaside, so I’m not saying that will make me do any better, but at least I’ll know what to expect. The Georgia Bulldog is 8-for-11 overall at this event with a win (2014) and T4 (2018) being the notable finishes.

Zach Johnson
How much does the Sea Island Mafia impact a player's performance? We will find out with someone like ZJ this week. He arrives wtih nothing better than a T25 over his last 16 starts but he'll get a home game this week and he's converted that local knowledge into top 10s in three of his last four starts here. Back in 2019 he had this to say about Sea Island and the RSM, "I’m excited to be here. I love everything about this tournament. Everything. I love the golf courses."

Ranking the Field

1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Louis Oosthuizen
3. Webb Simpson
4. Cameron Smith
5. Corey Conners
6. Harris English
7. Joaquin Niemann
8. Adam Scott
9. Alex Noren
10. Russell Henley
11. Talor Gooch
12. Justin Rose
13. Taylor Moore
14. Seamus Power
15. Kevin Kisner
16. Chris Kirk
17. Mito Pereira
18. Keegan Bradley
19. Chad Ramey
20. Brian Harman