Tournament Predictions

Tournament Predictions: 2017 RSM Classic

Welcome to the Golf Digest Tournament Predictor. Dr. Lucius Riccio, a statistical contributor to Golf Digest for 30 years and one of the inventors of the USGA Slope System, has developed a model for predicting tournament outcomes. Each week we'll run Riccio's forecast against Golf Digest writer Joel Beall's expert picks, offering analysis and advice in the process. Customize the prediction tool below to make your own selections and see how you stack up against the pros!November 14, 2017

Amazingly, the fall season is already coming to a close. The eight-event campaign wraps up this week with the RSM Classic in Saint Simons Island, Georgia.

At first glance, past editions of the tournament (formerly the McGladrey) tout winning scores hovering around 15 under. While that figure seemingly falls in line with other PGA Tour contests, Sea Island's Seaside course—where three of the four tournament rounds are held—weighs in as a par 70. The southern property is very conducive to low scores, and the players have taken advantage of the lowered defenses.

What's facilitated past success at the RSM Classic? Simple: getting it done around the dance floors. Last year's winner, Mackenzie Hughes, paced the field with a 1.574 strokes gained: around-the-green average, ranking third in sg: putting and first in putting from inside 10 feet. That runner-ups Billy Horschel, Camilo Villegas, Henrik Norlander and Blayne Barber all turned in similarly solid efforts with the flat stick show this is one of the few events where "drive for show, putt for dough" holds true.

The professor, however, tends to favor a more aggregated approach in his picks.

"For the most part the selections are serious veterans with solid all-around games," says Riccio. "None are leaders in any stat, but most have positives across all categories (Jamie Lovemark is the one exception.) If you are good at everything, you probably have a better chance to win than someone outstanding in one category but weak in others this week."

This mindset is seen in picks like Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Bill Haas. Kisner is a safe and smart pick, winning the event in 2016 with a T-4 in 2015 further boosting his case. Kisner hasn't made an appearance this fall, but did turn in a strong display at the Tour Championship (T-3) and played an integral part in the American blowout at Liberty National.

But there are a few picks that raise some eyebrows. Though Zach Johnson is a Saint Simons native, his outings at this event are mostly forgettable, missing the cut four times in seven tries. His best finish, a T-12, came in 2010. Johnson has been good this fall (T-13 at the Safeway Open, T-23 last week) and does have the short-game dexterity to thrive. Nevertheless, the iffy track record gives us pause.

As does Brandt Snedeker. Not only has Sea Island been unkind to Sneds (best finish is a T-32 in three events), but the veteran is making his first appearance since June, recovering from a bizarre, scary chest injury. Worse, Snedeker has undergone swing changes to address the ailment. Admitting he's not 100 percent, Snedeker is one of our stay-aways this weekend.

In terms of likes, Brian Harman tops our expert's list. Mentioned above, putting prowess will be key, an attribute that certainly applies to Harman. The 30-year-old lead the tour in total putting last season, and ranked fifth in the sg: putting. Throw in two top 10s this autumn, Harman's a sound bet for a high finish.

Same goes for Webb Simpson. The former U.S. Open champ has finished T-12 or better in three of five appearances here, and has two top 20s in the early season. Though he ranked 32nd in overall putting last year, his around-the-green output (14th in strokes gained, first in scrambling from the rough, fifth in sand saves) shows he has the game to excel at Sea Island. He's not exactly a sleeper pick, yet Simpson's popularity shouldn't keep you from picking him in your lineup.

Check out the projections from the professor and expert, and play with the tool below to make your own picks for the 2017 RSM Classic!


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