PGA Preview – Webb Simpson Favored at RSM Classic at St Simons
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
One of the most interesting aspects of the RSM Classic is that it takes place on two courses prior to the cut. It’s a necessary step as the sun sets quicker during this time of year and it’s proven to be a fascinating twist for players and fans – not to mention TV coverage! But, in the end, we still must pick a few favorites and this year Webb Simpson is at the top of the list!
Simpson comes into the RSM Classic far ahead of the rest of the field at +900 followed Cameron Champ and JJ Spaun who are both resting at +2000. Here’s a look at the top-ten plus one from Intertops. The jump from Simpson to Kevin Kisner is a large one.
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Simpson comes into the tournament as a clear favorite for several reasons. First, he’s the highest-ranking golfer on the Official World Golf Rankings in the field. Simpson has held the No. 20 spot for the last several weeks after jumping up the list from No. 43 in 2017. Secondly, he capped off last season by winning the 2018 Players Championship.
Then, there’s the rest of the field. It seems that oddsmakers may be having an issue clearly separating the rest of the quality players also teeing it up on St Simon’s Island on the coast of Georgia. And, the fact that there are two courses involved may be on of the reasons.
Tight odds from Two Courses?
Daylight is at a premium this time of year with the sun setting around 5:30 pm in the Eastern Time zone. So, to eliminate slow play and groups backing up, The Seaside Course will serve as the main location with players taking at least one round a few miles away at the Plantation Course. Here’s where things get interesting.
The Seaside Course plays just at 7000 yards, is known for wicked winds of the ocean and large greens. The larger than normal greens, at least when it comes to PGA Tour play, are needed because of those winds! Then there’s the Plantation Course which is just slightly inland, plays completely different from the Seaside Course, and has smaller greens. Two courses demanding two different approaches during the same event! Oddsmakers may have taken the easy route by going with the highest-ranking golfer in the field, which is Simpson and letting the other strong players trail behind.
That could explain the gap between Simpson and both Champ and Spaun. And it could be the reason Austin Cook, Zach Johnson, Joaquin Niemann, and Kevin Kisner are all packed together at +3300.
First Win Factor
The RSM Classic is a newer event on the PGA Tour schedule and it’s already known for being a tournament the produces first-time winners. The tournament, formally known as the McGladrey Classic, has been on the schedule for only eight years. Players grabbing their first PGA win have won five times!
Austin Cook nabbed his first PGA win last year and is the defending Champ. Other first-time winners at St. Simons are Mackenzie Hughes 2017, Kevin Kisner 2016, Robert Streb 2015, and Tommy Gainey who won in 2012. The same could happen this time around. The odds for a repeat winner have to be improving as every former RSM Classic Champion is in the field this year except for Heath Slocum who won the inaugural event in 2010.
Seaside Course / Plantation Course by the Numbers
First, both courses are stunning! The Seaside Course began as two nine-hole courses, Seaside and Marshside, which was remade into a full 18-hole PGA level venue by Tom Fazio. The links have an amazing resemblance to ocean courses in Europe including St. Andrews. Some of the fairways take on ocean winds with native seagrass skirting the rough.
Then, as players move along, the course takes on a completely different feel. More trees come into play along with the fairways, which cut down crosswinds. The greens on many of the holes are larger than normally seen on the PGA schedule due to the winds which offer players salvation on second shots if their tee-shots are off target. Bunkers, some of which are massive, and water hazards dot the course.
Location: St. Simons, Georgia Designers: Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison Tom Fazio Established: 1929 Par: 71 for PGA Play Length: 7,005 yards for PGA Play Course rating: 73.1 Slope rating: 141 Grass: Bermuda, with native & seaside grasses
In stark contrast to the Seaside Course is the Plantation Course which offers some of the same waterfront features as Seaside but offers more protection from crosswinds. The fairways are similar to Seaside as they both have gently rolling terrain. The greens are more along the line of those found on other PGA Tour stops when it comes to size.
The major difference between Seaside and the Plantation Course is the length. Plantation is a shorter course which offers opportunities for birdies depending on hole locations. Many of the greens are protected with Tidal creeks and small lakes serving as water hazards with bunkers lining landing areas off the tee.
Location: St Simons Designers: Original, Rees Jones and Walter Travis Redesigns, C.H. Alison, Dick Wilson, Greg Muirhead, H.S. Colt Established: 1928 Par: 72 for PGA Play Length: 6,687 yards Course rating: 73 Slope rating: 133 Grass: Bermuda