After five weeks with as many tournaments abroad (despite a week off), the PGA TOUR returns to the United States to wrap the fall portion of the 2019-20 season. A 156-man field has descended on the Golden Isles of Georgia for The RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort.
The par-70 Seaside Course serves as host, while the renovated, par-72 Plantation Course will share duties during the first two rounds. Each entrant gets one loop on the latter before the cut.
Continue reading beneath the projected contenders for what's at stake (quite a bit), what's new at Plantation (just about everything) and more.
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include former RSM Classic champions Chris Kirk (2013), Robert Streb (2014), Mackenzie Hughes (2016) and Austin Cook (2017) among other notables.
If you wanted to label The RSM Classic as the first checkpoint of the 2019-20 season, you wouldn't be wrong. So many of the vital components that comprise the backbone of the PGA TOUR converge this week.
This is the 10th edition of the tournament. The most recent five have anchored the fall portion of the wraparound schedule. So, obviously, it's one last opportunity to enter the break on a high note. The winner is lavished with a two-year membership exemption (or one-year extension like the one Brendon Todd secured with his victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic), 500 FedExCup points and spots in THE PLAYERS Championship, the Masters and the PGA Championship. Indeed, it includes all of the trappings for happy holidays.
The RSM Classic also serves as the finale of the first phase of the reshuffle calendar for Korn Ferry Tour graduates. After it concludes, the category will be reordered for the first seven events of 2020. Positioning determines playing time in TOUR events. Those near the bottom already might begin targeting opportunities to moonlight on the Korn Ferry Tour when it starts in January. Multiple-course tournaments beginning with The RSM Classic maximize field size, but the last of its kind this season is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February.
Birdies Fore Love also concludes this week. Over $1 million will be distributed to charities chosen by the top-three players who total the most par breakers in the first 11 events of the season (through the RSM). With 127 thus far (including two eagles), Lanto Griffin has a commanding lead over a trio with 119. All are schedule to compete.
Just as he has in all seven of his starts this season, Griffin likely will need to survive the cut to finish first in the Birdies Fore Love contest. The par-70 Seaside surrendered a scoring average of 68.839 a year ago. It was the second time in three years that the field went sub-69 for the tournament, and it's projected for another low clip this week. Dry and seasonable conditions are forecast into Saturday. A system then will move in and threaten rain into Sunday. With it, the daytime high for the scheduled finale won't climb to even 70 degrees.
Wind is not expected to impact the tournament, so the TifEagle bermudagrass greens could be prepared to quicken until a better sense of how much rain might fall is determined. (The overseed on the greens is fresh, so it's unlikely to influence reads and rolls as much as typically respected.) The primary rough on Seaside is trimmed to one-and-a-half inches.
While Seaside remains unchanged at 7,005 yards, the Plantation Course is debuting as a renovation performed by Love Golf Design. At 7,060 yards, it's 153 yards longer. Only the par-5 eighth hole measuring 529 yards is identical to last year.
Plantation remains a stock par 72, but holes 14, 15 and 16 – previously respective pars of 4, 3 and 5 – are re-routed as pars of 5, 4 and 3. It's been open for just over one month. Primary rough flanking the paspalum fairways and flat, TifEagle bermudagrass greens (non-overseeded) has been cut to less than an inch and a half.
ShotLink technology is used on Seaside only, so full-tournament data eliminates the one round those who make the cut play on Plantation. However, copying Charles Howell III's simplistic path to the top of the podium last year would be sufficient. He led the field in greens in regulation and ranked sixth in putting: birdies-or-better. As a whole, the field averaged – averaged! – a whopping 10.72 (of 14) fairways hit and 13.23 GIR per round on Seaside last year.
Suffice it to say that The RSM Classic has found its niche as a TOUR stop. One year ago today, it was announced that the corporate partnership was extended five years through 2025.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.