Fantasy Insider: The RSM Classic
November 16, 2021
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
- Mackenzie Hughes is one to watch this week at Sea Island. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
The RSM Classic is the last official PGA TOUR event of 2021, so this is the last Fantasy Insider of the calendar year. The annual tradition of bridging the holiday break with all birthdays continues at the bottom of the page.
It’s also the last event of Segment 1 in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and the first of four on the season that uses multiple courses. Of additional significance is that Sea Island’s Seaside Course is a par 70, while the Plantation Course is a par 72.
As noted in Rules, score in relation to par determines bonuses for lowest and second-lowest rounds. Therefore, a 6-under 66 at Plantation will be eligible for the lowest round before a 5-under 65 at Seaside. (Only Seaside is used for the third and fourth rounds.)
As mentioned in Monday’s Power Rankings, the Plantation Course was a brute in the opening round last year. It then played more than 2½ strokes easier in the second round. The wind was about the same on both days, so consider the lower scoring average as the anomaly. History has proven that scoring will rise higher relative to par at Plantation than at Seaside.
I will revisit the forecast for the wind on Wednesday afternoon or evening (depending where you are) and share that analysis on Twitter. (You don’t have to register for Twitter to read tweets, but my tweets appear under ROB BOLTON TWITTERFEED on the Fantasy page, anyway.)
This also is the final chance for Korn Ferry Tour graduates to position themselves before the first reorder of their category.
There’s a valid argument that for the 23 KFT grads who entered the KFT Finals already having secured a 2021-22 PGA TOUR card – spots are reserved for 25, but Mito Pereira (2nd) won three times to exempt out of the Finals, and Will Zalatoris (9th) earned better PGA TOUR status via the non-member Top 125 category – their “first phase” of having a chance to elevate was in the Finals since they’re zippered in with the 25 who earned their cards in the three-event series.
All KFT grads who committed to The RSM Classic are in the field. Only Christiaan Bezuidenhout is sitting it out. This is a big deal to rookies Joshua Creel, Callum Tarren and Jared Wolfe, especially, because they’re a combined 0-for-9. They are the only three grads who haven’t made at least one cut this season. Creel has gained entry into only two fields, although he and Wolfe (four starts) elected not to play the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Because everyone starts with zero FedExCup points, the most movement occurs during the actual first phase of the season. It’s also the most important phase for the purposes of generating a schedule for the remainder of the season.
While most can book trips to four stops in the first two months of 2022, playing time abates throughout March. It’s possible that a couple (a few?) to get into only the additional events in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Moonlighting on the KFT will be possible until PGA TOUR fields expand with the promise of increase daylight in late April.
Also, when understanding the value of getting off to a good start, and considering the most recent five completed seasons, all of the top four in the first reorder in every season except 2018-19 finished inside the top 125 of the FedExCup. (The 2018-19 season was a serious outlier in this context, but it’s proof that a hot start always is a preference, not a prerequisite.)
Broadening the lens, and including all winners during the second phase or later of their respective seasons, 51 of the 73 golfers (or 69.86%) from this category who qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs were inside the top 20 entering the holidays. Crudely estimating, 70 percent of the successful were inside the top 40 percent after the first phase. Separate the anomalous 2018-19 season (in which only six of 12 were inside the top 20 after one phase) and the percentage of FedExCup Playoffs qualifiers rises to 73.77 percent.
It's the meritocracy within the meritocracy, and it’s valuable intel for gamers in leagues that allow drop-adds and trades.
Although the Fantasy Insider goes on hiatus with the holidays, I will be recapping The RSM Classic as usual with the four weekly staples on Sunday night and Monday morning. Qualifiers in particular will be updated as needed between then and the Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. I’ll also have a full-field Power Rankings for the Hero World Challenge in the week after Thanksgiving.
Until the next time you, ahem, swing by, thank you for your patronage and loyalty to all fantasy content and matters concerning the PGA TOUR. Wishing you and yours the most fulfilling and healthiest of holiday seasons.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for The RSM Classic (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Mackenzie Hughes (+5000 to win, +550 for a Top 10, +275 for a Top 20) … Even though he’s a champion of this event, he’s a contrarian for course-history buffs. Broke through here in 2016 for what’s remained his only PGA TOUR title and he’s struggled considerably on site since, but he keeps coming back for more, so I’m willing to appreciate his appreciation for the stages. Whether it’s the draw or just failing to take advantage of an easier course at the right time, the law of averages tilts in his favor to hang up another notable performance, particularly since he’s posted five top 25s during his active streak of 11 cuts made.
Joaquin Niemann (+4000 to win, +350 for a Top 10, +175 for a Top 20) … Missed the cut in Houston but he makes most and hasn’t connected missed cuts since before the pandemic, so keep the faith. His cachet also warrants going back to the well for the possibilities. Also no stranger to Sea Island where he’s 2-for-2.
Branden Grace (+8000 to win, +800 for a Top 10, +350 for a Top 20) … While his success isn’t exclusive to short tracks, a pair are directly in front of him as he returns to Sea Island after a T30 in his debut a year ago. Profiles better as a reliable own in the long-term, but he’s worth a spot start amid this week’s variables.
David Hearn (+40000 to win, +3000 for a Top 10, +1400 for a Top 20) … The last recipient of a sponsor exemption into the field will be burning his last start on a Minor Medical Extension (assuming he doesn’t withdraw before the first round). To fulfill its terms, he needs 199.051 FedExCup points for which no worse than a three-way T2 (worth 208.333 points) is required. To secure conditional status as a secondary target, he needs 45.833 FedExCup points for which no worse than a two-way T19 (worth 46 points) is required. Short of that and he’ll tumble into the Past Champions/Veteran Membership category because he’s totaled 182 career cuts made in the absence of a win. Given his success at Sea Island (7-for-8 with a trio of top 20s), he’s not that much of a longshot for the two-way T19.
Talor Gooch … He’s been loyal to The RSM Classic, but frankly, if he didn’t have nearly two months off immediately after the tournament, it wouldn’t be surprising if he opted for rest. Proved that his untimely 74 to close out Mayakoba wasn’t a concern with a 65 to co-lead in Houston after one round, but with respective rounds of 74, 75 and 72 to finish 60th, it’s fair and reasonable to wonder if the stress of being in competition the previous week caught up to him. So, this is relative in that context, but he’s also just 1-for-4 with a T23 (in 2019) at Sea Island.
Charles Howell III … It’s been a heckuva run, but Father Time is beginning to win the arm wrestle. Captured his most recent of three PGA TOUR victories here in 2018, but he’s also just slipped outside the top 200 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since May of 2001. He’s still only 42 years of age but he hasn’t delivered on what was a trademark fall flourish in some time. And since prevailing at Sea Island three years ago, he’s missed the cut (2019) and finished T30 (2020).
Danny Lee … With a T2 in Bermuda and a T7 at Mayakoba in his most recent appearances, this would seem to be the wrong section for him. However, I’m not discounting the gravity of what he achieved in his last start and the potential letdown to follow. He fulfilled the terms of his Major Medical Extension and retained status for the remainder of the season. It also begot an exemption into THE PLAYERS Championship in March. With those important goals checked off, and with a middling record at Sea Island where he hasn’t cashed since 2013, he presents as a trap.
D.J. Trahan … As of Tuesday afternoon, he was the last man in the field (when Adam Schenk withdrew) and, like Hearn in Draws above, Trahan will be exhausting his Minor Medical at Sea Island. Only a victory would cover the 318.084 FedExCup points required to fulfill its terms, so that’d obviously elevate him to the winners category, anyway. A solo third worth 190 points would be the worst result to eliminate the deficit for conditional status (164.866 points) since a two-way T3 would yield just 162.500 points. Regardless, he arrives having missed seven consecutive cuts across two tours, and he’s without a top 50 anywhere since a T22 at the Puerto Rico Open in late February. Even if he finds the kind of magic that produced a T8 here two years ago, he’s headed for a demotion to the Past Champions category.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Sung Kang … Called it quits during his second in Houston last week with a sore neck. Assuming he can give it a go at Sea Island (where he’s 4-for-7 without a top 25), it’ll be his PGA TOUR-leading eighth start on the season. Tom Hoge, Peter Malnati and Sepp Straka are the other commits also already with seven.
Jason Kokrak … A well-earned respite for the most recent winner on the PGA TOUR who now has three titles in 13 months after navigating nine winless seasons.
Sungjae Im … So unlike him not to play much less withdraw after a commitment, but he did the same at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Don’t read into it, though. The recent winner of the Shriners is having the time of his life, and he’s ranked second in the FedExCup.
Patrick Reed … Received an invitation to compete in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
C.T. Pan … The small-ball artist has a pair of top 15s at Sea Island, but he’s missed the cut in his last two appearances, so while he would’ve been a short-lister in our world on course history alone, recency bias here likely would’ve tilted the decision not to invest, anyway. Off to a solid start this season, however, but we’ll never know how his shares would have been dispersed.
Lee Westwood … In his only PGA TOUR start this fall, he missed the cut last week in Houston. Remember, the 48-year-old renewed his membership this season, so he’s going to contribute and appear in THE PLAYERS and the majors. Remain patient.
Henrik Stenson … Splashed this season with renewed hope after a sporty four-week stretch in Europe, but he missed the cut in both chances on the PGA TOUR.
Adam Schenk … Made noise in Houston with a second-round 64 but couldn’t pay it off and finished T29. However, he’s 27th in the FedExCup and he’s made six starts, so it’s been a job well done overall.
Seung-Yul Noh … Bowed out on the Thursday morning of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open with a sore back. Now this. With just 12 starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension to collect 265.815 FedExCup points and retain status, he needs to be frugal about when and where to give it a go.
RECAPS – HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE HOUSTON OPEN
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Sam Burns T7
2 Scottie Scheffler T2
3 Matthew Wolff T11
4 Sungjae Im T19
5 Cameron Smith T15
6 Talor Gooch 60th
7 Joaquin Niemann MC
8 Maverick McNealy T19
9 Marc Leishman T19
10 Mackenzie Hughes T29
11 Aaron Wise T26
12 Carlos Ortiz DNP
13 Tyrrell Hatton MC
14 Brooks Koepka MC
15 Seamus Power MC
Wild Card Tony Finau MC
Golfer (GolfBet prop) Result
Martin Laird (top 20) MC
Luke List (top 20) T11
Adam Long (top 20) T11
Taylor Moore (top 20) MC
Dawie van der Walt (top 20) MC
OUTRIGHT: Scottie Scheffler (+1800) T2
PROP: Adam Long Top 30 (+210) T11
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE PGA TOUR
November 16 … none
November 17 … none
November 18 … none
November 19 … Kyle Stanley (34); Max Homa (31)
November 20 … none
November 21 … none
November 22 … none
November 23 … Mackenzie Hughes (31)
November 24 … Brett Drewitt (31)
November 25 … none
November 26 … Vince Covello (39)
November 27 … none
November 28 … none
November 29 … none
November 30 … Smylie Kaufman (30)
December 1 … D.A. Points (45)
December 2 … Shawn Stefani (40)
December 3 … none
December 4 … Matt Every (38); Harry Higgs (30); Sahith Theegala (24)
December 5 … Ryan Moore (39); Lucas Herbert (26)
December 6 … none
December 7 … Luke Donald (44); Billy Horschel (35)
December 8 … Brandt Snedeker (41)
December 9 … Wyndham Clark (28); Matthias Schwab (27)
December 10 … Brian Stuard (39)
December 11 … none
December 12 … Nate Lashley (39)
December 13 … Rickie Fowler (33); Curtis Thompson (29)
December 14 … Brian Gay (50)
December 15 … Sam Ryder (32)
December 16 … none
December 17 … Tim Clark (46); Davis Riley (25)
December 18 … D.J. Trahan (41)
December 19 … none
December 20 … none
December 21 … none
December 22 … Richy Werenski (30)
December 23 … Daniel Chopra (48)
December 24 … none
December 25 … none
December 26 … none
December 27 … Charley Hoffman (45); Doc Redman (24)
December 28 … Martin Kaymer (37)
December 29 … Martin Laird (39)
December 30 … Tiger Woods (46)
December 31 … Adam Svensson (28)
January 1 … none
January 2 … none
January 3 … Charlie Wi (50)