You know you’re a golf degenerate if you were already starting to break down the RSM Classic field as Dustin Johnson was extending his Masters lead on Sunday morning.
(OK, you’re really a degenerate if you’re breaking down the Alps Tour Q School field, but that commitment takes a special kind of crazy.)
An especially impressive (for mid-November) 37 players will make the short trip from Augusta to Sea Island for this week’s tournament, the penultimate event on the PGA TOUR schedule for this calendar year.
As such, the field looks more stout than usual, as the Sea Island locals will be joined by what feels like at least two-thirds of the opposing squad that will compete at Whistling Straits next year for the Ryder Cup.
Perhaps the biggest question this week is whether to play or fade those who just competed in the Masters pressure-cooker — and if your answer is yes, whether to play or fade those who were in contention on the weekend, including Sungjae Im, Dylan Frittelli, C.T. Pan, Webb Simpson and Corey Conners, each of whom finished in the top-10 last week.
For me, the right answer is to pick and choose. Im’s price has dropped too low for an outright play, but based on the fact that he plays nearly every week and that he chased his first win earlier this year with a solo third the next week, I don’t think he’ll be too far off the pace.
Frittelli is a guy I love long-term, but should be understandably wiped from that week — and his game doesn’t necessarily suit this course. Pan could step on the gas pedal and keep it going this week, as might Simpson and Conners, each of whom should ball-strike their way onto this leaderboard.
With all of that in mind, let’s get right to the picks, starting with a guy who should feel right at home — literally.
One player to win the tournament.
Brian Harman (+5000)
This one should be right up the Sea Island resident’s alley. Harman has been gradually trending in the right direction, with top-30 results in each of his last four starts. He’s also finished 14th-32nd-4th at this event over the past three years, with 10 of 12 rounds under the course par of 70.
His previous TOUR victories came in 2014 and 2017; if that three-year pattern is to continue, this might be his last chance.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Tyrrell Hatton (+1800)
Of that big contingent of European players competing this week, the player I’d trust the most is the one who’s played the best golf over the past 12 months, despite his MC last week at the Masters.
In fact, I sort of like the fact that the fiery Hatton should have a little chip on his shoulder after that uncharacteristic performance. On a ball-striker’s course, he should be among the best of the bunch.
Brandt Snedeker (+10000)
His results have been a mixed bag — both recently and at this course — but there are some signals that Sneds is starting to move back in the right direction. After three MCs in late-summer/early-fall, he’s now made the cut in four straight.
Somewhat surprisingly, he’s never finished better than T-29 at this event in four starts, but sometimes OAD selections are all about finding the guy nobody else has. I wouldn’t expect many to be on Sneds this week.
Russell Henley (+2700)
If Snedeker is a sneaky contrarian pick in OADs, then Henley is a chalkier selection — the type of guy you should use if you’re leading the pool and just trying to stiff-arm the competition this week. He’s been brilliant lately, with seven consecutive top-30 finishes. And while he’s MC’d in each of the last two editions of this event, he does own some history here, with three straight top-10s prior to that.
One player to finish top-five.
Webb Simpson (+200 for top-five)
In what should be an eclectic leaderboard, Simpson’s success should be the most predictive. He’s the all-time leading money-winner at this event, with two runner-up finishes, a third and a seventh among his results. The world’s sixth-ranked player hasn’t cashed a top-five in his last half-dozen starts, but they’ve all been 17th-or-better, so he’s not exactly too far off.
This one is admittedly chalky, but on a week when we can take some chances elsewhere, I don’t mind one chalky play, whether it’s for this prop, other props or as a DFS anchor.
One player to finish top-10.
C.T. Pan (+1400 for top-10)
Want some good mojo here? Try this: Pan’s only career PGA TOUR victory to date took place one week after the Masters last year. Of course, that was in April, not November, and uh, he didn’t actually play in the Masters before winning that week, but still – it’s a thing that happened.
The better mojo is the fact that Pan played perhaps his best golf since that win at Harbour Town, finishing in a share of seventh place at Augusta. As I mentioned in the intro, it’s tough to figure whether those who contended last week will have enough gas left in the tank to keep it going this week, but this guy is no flash in the … well, you know. I like him to keep that momentum going.
One player to finish top-20.
Talor Gooch (+335 for top-20)
This is rapidly becoming a favorite play. A plus-level ball-striker, he’s finished top-five in two of his last three starts and just missed out on a top-20 at this event last year, finishing T-23. He’s exactly the type of guy I’d expect to win a fall event, propelling his career to new heights, so don’t be afraid to sprinkle an outright play in there, too.
One player to finish top-30.
True story: Before waking up this past Sunday morning, I had a vivid dream that Vegas had won the Masters. Only problem? He wasn’t even in the field. As someone who picked Sungjae Im to win two weeks ago in Houston, only to see him finish T-50, then nearly win a green jacket, maybe I’m just a week early on these things.
I’m no dream expert, but I’ll self-interpret this one to mean big things are coming soon for Vegas, on whom I’m always fairly bullish. A top-30 bet feels nice and safe.
One player to finish top-40.
He’d missed the cut in four out of five starts, but a T-24 in his last outing in Houston should have us a little more confident. This should be the perfect type of track for Brown — and it’s proven to be over the years. If you like Harman’s recent track record here, then you should like that of Brown, as they own the exact same results in the last two RSM events.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
What’s up, Doc? (Can we rock?)
I always get a little Fu-Schnickens and Shaq Fu stuck in my head whenever I see the Good Doctor climbing the leaderboard, which has been happening pretty frequently these days. I’ve picked Redman to win multiple times in recent previews, so I’ll back off that prediction a bit, though I don’t want to stray too far.
He’ll still be on my card as an outright this week and I’ll start off plenty of DFS lineups with the guy who has more top-fives (three) than MCs (two) in his last eight starts.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
I liked NeSmith as a sneaky play in Houston two weeks ago, where he eventually missed the cut, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. His ball-striking numbers were actually terrific that week, but his putting stats were brutal. That’s the combination we like to see, though, and I think the South Carolina native should roll it much better on these Bermuda greens than those at Memorial Park.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Who? The name sounds like a computer-generated opponent in a video game, the conglomeration of other players’ first and last names, but get used to hearing it. Thompson is the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur, a senior at the University of Georgia who briefly led during the opening round of the recent U.S. Open before finishing with a 1-under 69 — tied for the 14th-best score of the day.
Here’s to another hot start this week, as those 37 carryovers from the Masters could open with a bit of a figurative hangover here.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Zach Johnson (+7000 outright odds)
One of my favorite stories to come out of last week’s Masters was one Johnson told in an interview with ESPN, where he admitted to playing the final 4-5 holes of last year’s tournament while watching every shot from Tiger Woods on his caddie’s phone. I’m not sure exactly how many rules he broke by revealing that information, but I’m pretty sure as a past champion he didn’t care.
In any case, ZJ is a nice matchup play, because he rarely MCs, having reached the weekend in 10 of his last 11 starts. He’s also been top-10 at this event in two of the past three years, as one of the dons of the Sea Island Mafia should be right at home this week.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Tommy Fleetwood (+1800)
Finally, Fleetwood displayed some form in the U.S., finishing T-19 at the Masters after five straight stateside results outside the top-40, despite playing well back home in Europe.
I’ll admit that finding players I like this week was much easier than finding one I don’t like, but as the third-favorite in this week’s field — behind only Simpson and Im — the price is way too low for my liking.