The RSM Classic is one of the newer events on the PGA Tour. It was introduced to the schedule in 2010 and since that time it has always been held at Sea Island Golf Club. The venue, set on the golfing oasis of Saint Simons Island, features two top courses and, since 2015, both the Seaside and Plantation courses have been used for the RSM Classic.
Often the final official PGA Tour event of the calendar year, the RSM Classic takes place in November. While the weather usually remains pleasant at that time of the year, it can turn quickly with the island winds getting up. Challenging weather is one reason why close finishes are routine at the RSM Classic with all but two of the first 10 editions being settled by either a playoff or by one shot.
2022: Adam Svensson
Adam Svensson always knew that winning on the PGA Tour would be difficult. The 28 year old was happy to retain his tour card on his first two years in the big league but was absolutely delighted to break his duck at the 2022 RSM Classic.
It wasn’t just the size of the prize that made Svensson so happy, it was the nature of the win. He found himself locked in a four-way battle for the title at Sea Island Golf Club coming down the stretch on Sunday. Many, many golfers have crumbled in the face of that sort of competition on the PGA Tour but Svensson rose to the challenge with some stunning golf on the homeward stretch.
A pair of brilliant birdies on 16 and 17 made it four for the back nine and was enough to separate himself from the chasing pack that included Brian Harman, Callum Tarren and Sahith Theegala. Altogether, it added up to a closing round of 64 and a winning score of -19, two better than the three players in a share of second place. “To be honest, it’s not even real now,” Svensson said afterwards.
2021: Talor Gooch
Turning 30 is not the big milestone in golf that it is in other professional sports but it certainly was for Talor Gooch. The American has worked very hard to establish himself on the PGA Tour but just days after his 30th birthday made his real breakthrough with his first win on tour at the RSM Classic.
Sea Island Golf Club was always a likely venue for Gooch to break his duck even though he missed the cut here last year. He isn’t a short hitter by the standards of the PGA Tour but his strengths do not lie with his driver. Indeed, Gooch actually lost strokes to the field off the tee at the RSM Classic but he more than made up for that with his putting and approach play. By sticking to what he does best, Gooch was able to put distance between himself and the chasing pack, a closing round of 64 securing a three-shot win over Mackenzie Hughes in second.
Gooch was obviously delighted with the way he played over the week but it was his mental fortitude that pleased him most. “As a sportsman, if you don’t have that little bit of grit to go prove people wrong, you’re not going to make it long,” he said in his post-tournament interview. “I want to be the best and I want to compete against the best.”
2020: Robert Streb
The RSM Classic was settled by a playoff for the third year in a row in 2020. Just like 2019, the playoff went the way of the underdog with Robert Streb doing what Tyler Duncan did 12 months earlier by holding off a course specialist to win.
This time around it was Kevin Kisner cast in the role of the favourite for the playoff. This is a course that suits Kisner’s eye and he felt that he missed a few chances that he needed for the one extra shot that would have secured the win. He also missed an opportunity on the first playoff hole. A great chance for birdie came and went while Streb holed a very good putt for par before going one better and winning the tournament with a birdie on the second playoff hole.
The winning birdie was golf in a nutshell – part skill, part judgement based on experience and part luck. Streb played for a flyer out of the rough with his approach shot and got exactly what he planned for with the ball rolling out to gimme distance. When Kisner could not force the issue with a birdie, it was left to Streb to finish off the job for his second PGA Tour title.
2019: Tyler Duncan
Webb Simpson missed out on a playoff in the 2018 RSM Classic by just one shot. One year later and he went one shot better and one place better, reaching -19 to book a playoff against Tyler Duncan. Unfortunately for Simpson, he couldn’t go that one step further and he lost out after two holes of the playoff.
Duncan would have taken a much more serene victory for his first on the PGA Tour but the nature of the win made it all the more special. He only made it into the playoff thanks to a birdie on his 72nd hole of the tournament and then made it past the highest-rated player in the field in that one on one battle.
It has been a very long journey for Duncan to this point. He’s battled away on a whole host of smaller tours and was officially the 378th best player in the world when he turned up at Sea Island Golf Club. It is testament to Duncan’s belief that he kept on taking every opportunity presented to him all the way up to this first PGA Tour win.
2018: Charles Howell III
Say what you like about the levels of competition on the PGA Tour, a player of the quality of Charles Howell III shouldn’t go over a decade without a win. The experienced American was desperate to end his 11-year drought and did just that in his home state of Georgia at the 2018 RSM Classic.
Professional golf tournaments can often be lost by a mistake rather than won by a moment of magic. For the majority of the final round at Sea Island Golf Club, it looked as though Patrick Rodgers or Webb Simpson would pick up the win as Howell gave it away. Despite going round in -3, Howell blew a five-shot overnight lead and was forced into a playoff against Rodgers. That’s where things changed and Howell very much won the event. It was a birdie putt from 15 feet, following just after Rodgers missed from 21 feet, that secured the win.
Speaking afterwards, Howell admitted that he thought he had blown his chance to win. “The way I started today, I just honestly thought I shot myself in the foot again,” he said. Fortunately for the 39 year old, his loved ones and his fans, he put the disappointment of his round to one side to earn the win and book a return trip to Georgia in April for the Masters.
2017: Austin Cook
Getting over the line for the first time in a PGA Tour event is incredibly difficult. Brian Gay, Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman and Chris Kirk all know what it takes to win at this level and they gave everything they had in the quest for another win at the 2017 RSM Classic. They couldn’t, however, get the better of a player who was doing it all for the first time as Austin Cook held off the chasing pack to win his maiden PGA Tour event on Saint Simons Island.
Cook was consistently very good over the week at Sea Island Golf Club. Three of his four rounds were either 66 or 67 which was very impressive given the gusty conditions the players faced. He needs to show excellent control over his golf ball whilst carefully choosing the right times to attack and when it was prudent to play more conservatively. It was a little different on Friday where he went on the attack and shot a round of 62, the best score of the week.
The worst of the weather came on Sunday, just when those in contention were hoping to catch a break. Austin’s stellar work on the first three days meant that he had a five-shot lead to play with but that adds an expectation and therefore more pressure. He coped with it all impressively, going round in -3 to beat JJ Spaun into second place by four shots.