RSM Classic presents home game for many on PGA Tour
The PGA Tour wraps up the fall portion of its 2017-18 season this week when 156 golfers tee it up beginning Thursday at the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club on Georgia's St. Simons Island.
Perhaps more than any event on the PGA Tour, the RSM Classic is a home game as more than two dozen players in this week's field -- including tournament host Davis Love III, last week's winner Patton Kizzire, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jonathan Byrd, and Harris English -- call the Golden Isles of Georgia either their full- or part-time residence or train in the area.
The roster of players this week includes past FedExCup champions Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker as well as nine players currently ranked inside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, led by Kizzire, Chesson Hadley of Canada, Whee Kim of South Korea, Ryan Armour and Charles Howell III.
They all will be battling for share of the total purse of $6.2 million, with $1.116 million and 500 FedExCup points going to the winner after 72 holes of stroke play competition.
"This is a great week, with a lot of hugs and high-fives," Kizzire said. "I'm looking forward to getting back out there and making some birdies. I've hit the ball very well since the middle of the summer, but I hadn't been able to get the putter going until last week, and putting is usually my strength. I've had some good rounds lately -- but everything kind of came together last week."
Also playing this week are four players who finished inside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings during the 2016-17 season and advanced to the Tour Championship: Kevin Kisner (who won this event in 2015), Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Brian Harman.
All seven of the past champions of the RSM Classic are also in the field, led by defending winner Mac Hughes of Canada, Robert Streb (2014), Chris Kirk (2013), Tommy Gainey (2012), Ben Crane (2011) and Slocum (2010).
There are 10 major champions here as well, including Ernie Els and Retief Goosen of South Africa, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Bubba Watson, Stewart Cink, and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.
Snedeker will play his first PGA Tour event in seven months to help him gauge his progress on recovery from sternum joint injury.
"We were going to play golf and went out there on the range and I couldn't hit about five balls and I couldn't breathe," Snedeker said about his June injury. "It's gotten to the point where the doctors were like, "We need to figure out if we have this licked or if we need to do something different.'
"I've been playing at home, but there's only so much I can do at home before I can see if I can handle five days in a row, uneven lies, rough, bunkers. I can do it fine at home, but out here it's always a little bit different."
The RSM Classic uses two courses over the first two rounds, as each of the golfers will play both the Seaside course (a par 70 at 7,005 yards designed by Tom Fazio in 1999) and the Plantation course (par 72, 7,058 yards as fashioned by Rees Jones). The final two rounds will be played on the Seaside course.
Hughes led outright each of the first three rounds of the RSM Classic in 2016 and posted a 1-under-par 69 in the final round to get to 17-under 265, joining a playoff with Camilo Villegas of Columbia, Blayne Barber, Billy Horschel and Henrik Norlander of Sweden. On the third extra hole Monday morning, the par-3 17th, Hughes rolled in a 15-foot putt to save par from off the green to claim his first career PGA Tour victory in his ninth start two days before his 26th birthday.
Six of this tournament's first seven editions have been decided by no more than one shot, the lone exception being Kisner's six-shot romp in 2015. Hughes' victory was the third resolved in a playoff.
The fall schedule typically is populated with first-time winners, but it hasn't been the trend this season. The season's first six stops produced just two -- Armour (Mississippi) and Patrick Cantlay (Las Vegas).
No golfer has played all seven weeks of the new season's fall schedule, Villegas and Kim are among a half-dozen players to head into the holiday respite with six starts.
With a break after this week's event, the season will resume in January with the traditional swing through Hawaii before moving to the West Coast. The FedExCup Playoffs once again feature four events, concluding in September with the Tour Championship and the crowning of the FedExCup champion.
Updated November 15, 2017