2020 RSM Classic betting preview

Dropping Dimes

The RSM Classic has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour since 2010 when it came onto the scene with a March date. It was moved into the Fall in 2013-214 and has remained a part of the Fall swing ever since. Often the last event on the PGA Schedule, the tournament also moved to using two courses in 2015 so that it could fit in a full 156-player field given the lack of daylight in November. This year the event has maintained its November date but it has gained some prestige in 2020 as the event now sits on the calendar after Augusta (for one year only) and a stronger than normal field has shown up here as a result. 

With the venue located in the state of Georgia and just a short drive the coast down from Augusta, top players like Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood and Webb Simpson–last year’s playoff loser here–all choose to make the trip down South to look for a win to cap off their 2020 PGA year. The event/location is also significant for many players on Tour as Sea Island is a popular locale for aspiring and current PGA professionals with several big names like Russell Henley, Harris English and Hudson Swafford all having at least some connection to the area. 

This event has seen an interesting blend of winners with veterans like Kevin Kisner and Charles Howell III taking wins here recently, while younger players like Tyler Duncan and Austin Cook have also broken through here for their career defining wins here over the past three years. For 2020 the fact we’ll be getting a ton of players making the drive down after the Masters should add a level of intrigue. It’s possible that some of the top players I mentioned will suffer from a “Masters hangover” but others could use the experience they gained during the week at Augusta to ride out another top finish against this much easier field and much simpler course. 

RSM Classic course details

Seaside Course/Plantation Course (Sea Island, Georgia)

Par: 70, 7,005 yards (Seaside)

Par: 72, 7,050 yards (Plantation)

  • Greens: Bermuda 
  • Design: 
  • Past Champions 
    • 2019 – Tyler Duncan (19-under par)
    • 2018 – Charles Howell III (19-under par)
    • 2017 – Austin Cook (21-under par)

We have our first and only two-course event of the Fall this week. The RSM Classic moved to having an extra course in play in 2014 so that it could allow a full field to partake here. The host course remains the Seaside venue, which is an open, almost links-style Par 70 that sits just off the ocean. The wind has a more pronounced effect on the Seaside Course than it’s sister venue and is likely its best defense of the course, overall. The venue features slower/older Bermuda greens and just one Par 4 that measures in over 450 yards in length. Despite the lack of bite on the Par 4’s the Seaside venue does play as the harder of the two courses and only features two par 5’s (the Plantation features four).

From a bigger picture perspective, the Seaside Course compares favourably with a couple of other shorter Par 70/71 venues that also sit on the ocean. Both Waialae Country Club (Sony Open) and Harbour Town Golf Links (RBC Heritage) have been good measuring sticks in the past for which types of players will have success at this week’s venues too. Webb Simpson (winner of the RBC Heritage and multiple-time runner-up on Sea Island) is likely the best example of this correlation but Kevin Kisner and Zach Johnson also stick out in that regard.

Sea Island isn’t a driver heavy course as the field here has averaged just around 274 yards per drive, which is nearly 10-yards shorter than the Tour average. Fairways and Greens are easy to find though as the field has managed to find around 71% of the fairways with last year’s winner Tyler Duncan hitting a ridiculous 89% of Fairways off the tee–and also hit 83% of greens in regulation. These types of numbers are common for winners here though as players need to be giving themselves as many birdie opportunities as possible on a venue that doesn’t present with a ton of hazards or impediments to scoring. 

Experience can also be a factor at the Seaside Course, but it is worth noting that two of the last four winners had never played in this event prior to winning here. Emphasizing solid iron play and tournament results coming in is likely a better way to go about things here as the winner will almost certainly be a player who peppers greens and fairways with relentless consistency this week. 

RSM Classic betting discussion and picks

From an odds perspective, here is where the last winner of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:

  • 2019 – Tyler Duncan +15000
  • 2018 – Charles Howell III +4000
  • 2017 – Austin Cook +8000
  • 2016 – Mackenzie Hughes +20000
  • 2015 – Kevin Kisner +3000

This event has been fun for bettors the last few years as a good blend of mid-tier and longshot winners have emerged. Kevin Kisner and Austin Cook both had close calls at other events before breaking through for a win here while Charles Howell III was a veteran win that caught most observers off guard when he won. Last year’s winner Tyler Duncan was one of the longer shot winners this event had ever seen, although in 2016 Mackenzie Hughes also broke through for a win at long odds as he was +20000 or greater on many sportsbooks. This event has seen a playoff in four of the past six years and has also seen a first-time winner in five of the past six years too. 

Betting favorites to win the 2020 RSM Classic

Webb Simpson +975

Webb comes into this year’s version of the RSM Classic off a solid T10 finish at the Masters last week. The 35-year-old has now finished T17 or better in his last seven starts, which includes top-10 finishes at the last two majors. To say he’s done well at this event has been an understatement. Simpson has now finished 2nd and T3 here the last two years, and was an unlucky loser here last season as only a 25-foot birdie putt by Tyler Duncan on the 72nd hole of the week, stopped him from getting the win. The price here is short but fully expect him to be in the hunt come Sunday. 

Tyrrell Hatton +1700

Hatton struggled again to find some kind of rhythm at Augusta as the Englishman missed the cut there and has yet to finish inside the top-20 at that major. Sea Island should be a good setup for Hatton though, who typically relies on his iron play and putting to get around. His T3 finish from the RBC Heritage earlier in the season is likely a good example of what his upside is this week considering the similarity between the Seaside Course and Harbour Town GL. His price is more palatable here due to the missed cut and he does have three top-10’s in his last six starts–even with the hiccup at Augusta. 

SungJae Im +1850

Im had a magnificent first showing at the Masters last week, taking home runner-up honours in his first visit to the course. The South Korean was struggling mightily with his short game and putting prior to Augusta so the positive flip was a touch surprising. This will be his second time playing on Sea Island as he finished T37 here back in 2018. It’s hard to tell how the big Masters finish will affect him here but the confidence gained will certainly lead to more good things soon. Im’s also one of the best Bermuda Grass putters in the field as he’s gained +34 strokes putting on the surface over his last 50-rounds. He’s not a bad way to start betting cards if you’re wanting to back one of the favorites this week.

Tommy Fleetwood +2000

Fleetwood surprisingly made the journey over from Augusta this week and will be playing in his first RSM Classic here. The Englishman’s ball-striking has been uncharacteristically poor for much of the summer and Fall and has led to several uneven results. Coming into Augusta he’d lost strokes on his approaches in six straight events so his T19 finish there did come as a slight surprise. Fleetwood has always elevated well as majors but at these smaller events he’s not someone who has been a great bet at shorter odds. 

Jason Day +2900

Day is an interesting entrant into the field this week. He’s making his second career start at the RSM Classic but hasn’t played here since 2012 when only one course was in play. The Aussie went off in the final group two weeks ago in Houston but missed the cut last week at Augusta by a few strokes. Day’s hit a point where we really have no idea what to expect on a week-to-week basis. His odds have risen above many of the other top players which makes him an intriguing value candidate but there’s probably too much going on here to really count on him to grab a win, even against a weaker field. 2021 will hopefully be a touch kinder on the former world number one. 

Russel Henley
Apr 8, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Russell Henley hits from the fairway on the 1st hole during the third round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)

For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more).

Russell Henley +2800 or better 

Henley should be revved to go here after being excluded from the Masters last week. The Georgia native has played at Augusta numerous times in his career, finishing as high as T11 there in 2017, his personal best in a major. Why all this Masters conjecture? Well the 2021 version of the event is less than six months away now and a win this week would ensure Henley gets back in the event for next season. 

Currently sitting at number 58 in the world he comes into the RSM Classic having finished T3 and T4 in two of his last three starts on Tour and ranks first in this field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Ball Striking stats over the last 50-rounds. While his putter is still extremely hot and cold–he gained +9 strokes at the CJ Cup and lost -5.3 the next week at the Zozo–the rest of his game continues to hum and he’s more than familiar with this week’s venue. A resident of Sea Island now, Henley has finished T10 or better here in three of six visits to this event and gained over +2-strokes putting on the greens here in 2014, ‘15 and ‘16. 

Henley comes in rested, and onto a course which should suit his precision driving and iron game. Considering his recent success in the Fall he actually looks undervalued here and in a great spot for an outright bet. 

Zach Johnson +5000 or better 

It’s easy to forget, but Johnson did find himself hovering just off the main leaders last September at the US Open where he eventually went on to finish in a T8 position. While much of his finish there was due to a hot putter, his iron game has shown flashes of sharpness of late too and he notably gained over +4.5 strokes in consecutive starts at the Shriners Open and Sanderson farms events, which both drew top-25 finishes.

Never a big hitter, even at his peak, Johnson has dominated at certain shorter venues like TPC Deere Run and Colonial throughout his career and the easy to hit fairways and shorter Par 4’s/5’s of the Seaside and Plantation Courses should offer him up another good shot at claiming a late career win. The 2015 Open Champion will be playing the RSM for the ninth-time this week and he’s landed top-10 finishes here in two of the last three years.

We’ve seen some savvy veterans win this Fall already in Sergio Garcia, Stuart Cink and Brian Gay, and ZJ’s course experience at Sea Island this week could prove vital, especially if the wind gets up. With him being discounted here somewhat after a lacklustre Masters, I like taking a shot with him on an each-way at a venue where he should still be able to compete for the win.

Doc Redman +6000 or better (each-way)

Much like past winners Austin Cook and Kevin Kisner, Doc Redman comes into this year’s version of the RSM Classic off some strong play in the Late Summer/Fall events. Redman has now posted top-5 finishes in three of his last seven starts, including a T4 in Bermuda just a few weeks ago at a venue that has quite a few similarities to the one he’ll be playing here. The 22-year-old has shown that he can compete consistently on these trickier Bermuda green venues as his propensity for hitting a huge number of greens and fairways (13th in Driving Accuracy last year and 12th in Greens in regulation) plays extremely well on courses where finding fairways is paramount over power. 

While he struggled somewhat in his last outing it’s that struggle that has led to his betting number here getting inflated to the point where he now becomes a near auto-bet for me in the outright department. This is a player who has bounced back quickly from bad performances too as he missed the cut prior to both his T4 finish in Bermuda and his T3 at the Safeway Open. Redman should be a great fit at venues like this for years to come and taking a piece of him at solid prices this week makes too much sense. 

Matchups 

Kevin Kisner
February 7, 2020; Pebble Beach, California, USA; Kevin Kisner hits his tee shot on the 13th hole during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament at Monterey Peninsula Country Club – Shore Course. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Johnson over Kevin Kisner  

We have a couple of veterans going up against each other here and two players who typically dominate on venues like the Seaside Course. Kisner is a former winner of this event but he’s also failed to make the weekend here on more than one occasion, so the two course format may not sit all that great with him. Kisner also comes in with two missed cuts in his last four starts while Johnson has been far more consistent of late (as outlined above). At even money, I like siding with ZJ who feels ready to burst for a decent week here.

SungJae Im over Matthew Fiztpatrick 

There’s no doubt that Im has struggled a bit with consistency over the last couple of months, but the same can be said of Fiztpatrick who managed just a T46 last week at Augusta. Both men are great Bermuda putters but Im’s compiled a far better PGA Tour record over the last couple of seasons and should be confident coming off a massive week at Augusta. Taking the smaller odds here to back the better, more reliable player–who is in better form–seems prudent.

Clark is another player who missed the cut in Houston and is now available at a discount here. The 27-year-old lost out in brutal fashion in a playoff at Bermuda when a couple missed putts from inside 10-feet gave the title to Brian Gay. Clark’s approach game has started to come around of late as he’s gained strokes on his approaches in five of his last seven starts now. Ranked 22nd in this field in SG:Putting, his odds seem to have popped far too high here on a course that shares a lot of similarities to the one he nearly won in just a few weeks ago.

Long Shots and Top-20’s

Matthew NeSmith +12500 each-way and +550 Top-20

NeSmith had a terrible time of it in Houston, where he missed the cut by multiple shots and lost -7 strokes around the green and -3.5 strokes putting. His approach and off the tee game there was top notch, however, as he gained multiple strokes in each category and was +4.5 strokes in the ball striking department. It’s these kinds of huge splits which have him on the radar here as Sea Island has easy to hit greens and fairways which should mean far less scrambling for the 27-year-old. He finished T14 here last year as well and was T8 in his last start before Houston making both his top-20 and outright odds look pretty inviting this week. 

Wyndham Clark +10000 each-way and +550 top-20

Dropping Dimes