The final men’s major of the year may be in the books, but the 2020 golf schedule rolls along.
The RSM Classic is usually a sleepy stop by PGA Tour standards, with a hearty local element and many players in the field thinking more about Thanksgiving turkey than birdies and bogeys. It’s an event where five of the last six winners have made this their first career Tour win, with the lone outlier in that stretch (Charles Howell III) breaking a lengthy victory drought.
But this year’s proximity to the Masters, both in terms of date and location, means a little different feel on Sea Island. Several notable Europeans are making the short trek south from Augusta, with players like Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood all teeing it up for the first time. It’s a big reason why this week’s field is by far the strongest in the tournament’s 11-year history.
Webb Simpson (+900) is an understandable favorite, coming off a playoff loss last year and a third-place showing in 2018. But the price is a little too shy for my liking, so here’s a look at some of the players who did make the cut for selection in the year’s penultimate event:
To Win (odds via PointsBet SportsBook)
Kevin Kisner (+3500): This is where it all began for Kisner, who earned his first Tour win on the Seaside Course back in 2015. It’s the high point of a strong run of form in this event, with four top-7 finishes in his last six starts. Kisner has been relatively quiet in the new season and missed the cut last week at the Masters, but that shouldn’t detract from his potential at this particular stop. Sea Island fits his game much better than Augusta National, and the recent form isn’t that far off: just a couple weeks ago he finished T-14 at the Zozo Championship while ranking fourth among the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. A similar effort this week with the irons will produce plenty of birdie chances and could put Kisner in position to contend for a second win here.
Ian Poulter (+5000): Wins in the U.S. are a rarity for the Englishman, but there’s reason to expect he might have a strong showing this week. Poulter’s T-25 finish at the Masters was actually his worst result in his last four starts, including a T-12 finish at the CJ Cup when he leaned heavily on his short game. His iron play is usually a relative strength, so if he sees a modicum of improvement there he could contend as he makes his first RSM start since a T-36 finish in 2016. Poulter also has some extra incentive this week, as he enters ranked No. 47 in the world and needs to remain inside the top 50 by the end of the year to clinch a trip to next year’s Masters. Don’t be surprised if that proves to be just the nudge he needed.
Doc Redman (+6000): Once more into the fray with Redman, who remains one of the top winless candidates to break through. The former U.S. Amateur champ has been particularly strong in recent weeks on courses that emphasize accuracy and iron play over prodigious length off the tee: T-3 finishes at both Wyndham and Safeway, plus a T-4 showing in Bermuda. That recipe should hold once again this week at Sea Island, where Redman finished a respectable T-23 last year in his debut despite a disappointing 73 in the final round. Redman has plenty of experience playing in this part of the country, having grown up in North Carolina and having played at Clemson, so it would be a fitting location for a potential watershed performance.
Top-10 Finishes (odds via PointsBet)
Sebastian Munoz (+420): Munoz struggled Sunday in Augusta but still posted a T-19 finish in his Masters debut. That’s his third straight top-20 showing, a run that includes a ninth-place finish at the CJ Cup against a strong field. The Colombian continues to demonstrate that his win last year at the Sanderson Farms was no fluke, having advanced to the Tour Championship and now establishing himself as a regular contender. He finished third at this event a year ago, thanks in large part to a second-round 63 on the more difficult Seaside Course, and brings with him plenty of momentum this week as he looks to improve upon that result.
Chris Kirk (+1300): It’s been seven years since Kirk won this event, and he’ll be the first to tell you that he is a far different person than he was in 2013. Once a part of the so-called Sea Island Mafia, he has moved north to Athens and had a breakthrough win this summer after battling depression and alcoholism. The veteran maintains strong ties to this event, with a pair of T-4 finishes since his win plus a T-18 result back in 2015. He’s been relatively solid in recent weeks, with five made cuts in his last seven starts, and while none of them translated to top-40 finishes this is still an enticing price on a player who has had great success at this event and should have plenty of motivation to put up a good showing as a past champion.
Ryan Armour (+1800): Armour doesn’t have a ton of big weeks, but they tend to come on courses like this and he tends to make the most of his opportunities. The veteran has a solid track record at this event, with four straight finishes of T-37 or better including a pair of top-25s. And while he has only made six cuts since the break, three of them have gone for top-10 results. That includes a couple weeks ago in Bermuda, where he contended the entire week and finished T-8. Armour can’t bomb it off the tee with the best on Tour. But this week he doesn’t have to, and strong showings at events like Travelers and Rocket Mortgage show that he’s able to maximize his opportunities to battle on a more level playing field.
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