Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Tony Finau won for the 3rd time in his last 7 starts on the PGA Tour (it was his 5th career PGAT victory).
Finau ranked top-5 in the Houston Open field in the following stats:
1st in Driving Accuracy (75% of fairways hit)
1st in Greens-in-Regulation (77.8% of greens hit)
2nd in SG: PUTT (+7.93)
2nd in SG: OTT (+4.23)
4th in SG: T2G (+10.68)
Per Justin Ray on Twitter, Finau is just the 6th golfer in the last 15 years to win while ranking top-5 in those stats for an event.
Finau is gaining, on average, 3.56 strokes putting per event over his last 7 starts.
Finau is now 2-for-7 in converting 54-hole leads/co-leads.
Finau moved up three spots in the Official World Golf Rankings to No.12.
PGA Tour rookie report after the Houston Open:
Tyson Alexander (Runner-up) posts his best career finish in eighth start (previous-best: T-44 at 2022 Bermuda Championship).
Taylor Montgomery (T-57) now 6-for-6 on cuts made; lost strokes putting for the first time this season.
Ben Griffin (T-16) now three top-25 finishes in six starts this season on TOUR.
Tyson Alexander ranked 1st in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+10.99) at the Houston Open. A pretty remarkable turn-around given his SG: T2G stats in three previous (measured) starts this season:
-4.18 (Sanderson Farms)
Jason Day was +3.06 SG: APP at the Houston Open. Day is gaining 1.12 strokes on approach per round this season; ranks 10th on TOUR among golfers with more than one start.
Day now has four consecutive finishes of T-21 or better.
Mackenzie Hughes led the Houston Open field in putting last week. Hughes' short game (SG: ARG + SG: PUTT) stats in three measured events this season:
+10.57 (Houston Open)
+7.04 (Sanderson Farms)
Hughes is 4-for-4 on top-25 finishes this season.
Andrew Putnam has shot the most rounds in the 60s so far this season on TOUR. Most rounds in the 60s through the Houston Open:
Andrew Putnam - 18 (7 events)
Patrick Rodgers - 17 (7 events)
Joel Dahmen - 15 (6 events)
Maverick McNealy - 15 (6 events)
Jason Day - 14 (5 events)
Thomas Detry - 14 (5 events)
Scottie Scheffler lost over six strokes putting in his only two measured events of the Fall swing:
Houston Open: -2.10 SG: PUTT
The CJ Cup: -4.24 SG: PUTT
Scheffler still managed a T-9 in Houston and a T-3 at Mayakoba (no Shotlink data).
Sea Island Golf Club - St. Simons Island, Georgia
Event #9 of 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Full-Field Cut Event
The RSM Classic debuted in 2010 and has always been played at Sea Island Golf Club. Since 2015 though, the event has taken place at both the Seaside Course and the Plantation Course at Sea Island.
The Plantation Course at Sea Island gets used on just Thursday and Friday (round 1 and round 2). On Thursday and Friday, half of the field plays the Plantation Course and half plays the Seaside Course. They flip-flop each of the first two rounds. This is likely done in an effort to combat daylight savings and having less time in the day to get these rounds in.
Everyone who makes the cut plays the final two rounds at the Seaside Course. In short, golfers who play the entire week get 3 rounds at the Seaside Course and 1 round at the Plantation Course.
The PGA Tour's Shotlink lasers get set up at the Seaside Course but NOT at the Plantation Course. So, what we know of the Plantation Course is somewhat limited to the scorecard, the actual scoring stats, and what we see televised.
All of that said, the clear-as-day difference between the two courses is that the Plantation Course is a Par-72, versus the Seaside Course being a Par-70.
The Plantation Course offers two additional Par-5s, which adds two additional opportunities to score.
Given its location on the coast of St. Simons Island, it's no surprise that these courses are very exposed to the wind. The wind and weather will be factor this week as it is any time The RSM Classic rolls around.
Last season, Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside Course) ranked 25th (out of 38 courses) in scoring, meaning that it's on the easier side in terms of difficulty on the PGA Tour. Sea Island falls under being another one of these Fall swing birdie fests. The field scoring average in 2021 was 68.97 (-1.03). Talor Gooch won the event at -22.
Despite coastal winds being a variable at this event, scoring at The RSM Classic has actually been pretty consistent over time.
2021 scoring average: 68.97 (-1.03); winning score: -22
2020 scoring average: 68.69 (-1.31); winning score: -19
2019 scoring average: 68.90 (-1.10); winning score: -19
2018 scoring average: 68.84 (-1.16); winning score: -19
2017 scoring average: 69.24 (-0.76); winning score: -21
Winner's Profile - How Talor Gooch gained strokes on the field in 2021:
SG Total: +18.36
SG T2G: +8.64 (3rd)
SG OTT: -0.54 (49th)
SG APP: +6.27 (2nd)
SG ARG: +2.88 (2nd)
SG PUTT: +5.04 (6th)
For the second week in a row we have a winner who won't defend their title because they've joined LIV Golf.
That said, Gooch was a golfer on the rise this time last year. He started last season as the 77th ranked golfer in the world and then rattled off four consecutive top-11 finishes and two top-5 finishes to start the 2021-22 PGA Tour season. Gooch then won The RSM Classic in his 6th start of the season and moved up to 33rd in the world ranks.
Gooch played extremely well on route to his first PGA Tour victory at The RSM Classic. His worst round on paper was a 67 (-3) in the third round; but, he still gained 3.82 total strokes on the field in that round, so it was likely the most difficult day of the tournament (if memory serves correctly, winds were up that day).
Gooch losing strokes off-the-tee is interesting. Looking back at his shot-by-shot data, while Gooch missed 13-of-42 fairways for the week, he never really hit drives that were catastrophically bad or costly. When Gooch did miss the fairways at Sea Island, he generally scrambled well too. He ranked 3rd for the week in scrambling and 3rd in around-the-green play.
It's worth noting that three other golfers in the top-7 of last season's RSM Classic also lost strokes off-the-tee for the week (Cameron Smith, Tom Hoge, and Seamus Power). The common factor is that they all off-set any off-the-tee trouble with excellent approach and around-the-green play.
The last thing worth mentioning about Sea Island GC and this event is that it consistently ranks as one of the shortest courses on TOUR. 37th shortest course last season (out of 38 courses); 39th shortest course (out of 40 courses) the year prior.
Field Changes (-): Mark Hubbard, Si Woo Kim, Brendan Steele, and Erik van Rooyen all pulled out of the originally announced field.
More Field Changes (-): Tony Finau, Ryan Moore, and William McGirt are no longer in the field (as of 4:00PM ET).
Field Changes (+): Bill Haas, Dylan Wu, Sean O'Hair, and Sung Kang have entered the field.
Field Changes (+): Seung-Yul Noh and Kevin Chappell are now in the field, getting in as alternates (as of 4:00PM ET).
Sponsor exemptions (+): Vaughn Taylor and Cole Hammer joined the field.
Monday Qualifiers into field (+): Akshay Bhatia, Bryson Nimmer, Brett Drewitt, Conner Godsey.
Only six of the top-40 ranked golfers in the world are competing this week: Tony Finau, Brian Harman, Tom Hoge, Kevin Kisner, Seamus Power, Sepp Straka.
58 year-old Presidents Cup captain Davis Love III is in the field; he's also the tournament host. Future Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson is in the field.
Danny Willett (OWGR 91st), Anders Albertson (OWGR 381st), Jim Herman (OWGR 626th), Austin Smotherman (OWGR 315th)
Grouping these four golfers together because they all withdrew from the Houston Open last week during the second round. There was an overnight weather delay forcing half the field to finish the second round on Saturday morning. These four were all in line to miss to cut, so they are likely not coming off of any injuries but rather just chose to leave the tournament early.
Greyson Sigg (OWGR 198th)
Greyson Sigg pulled out of last week's Houston Open two days before the event. It's unclear why he decided not to play, but he is currently in the field for this week's RSM Classic.
Sam Ryder (OWGR 251st)
Sam Ryder is another one who pulled out of last week's field at the Houston Open a few days before the event started. Ryder had already played in six events this Fall, so it's likely he just decided to take a week off.
Nate Lashley (OWGR 337th)
Nate Lashley also decided not to play the Houston Open a few days before the start of the event last week. He's played five events this Fall with seemingly no health issues. Lashley last start was two weeks ago at Mayakoba where he missed the cut.
Brandon Matthews (OWGR 287th)
Brandon Matthews withdrew during the middle of the second round at Mayakoba. Matthews was four-over par through his first six holes and clearly not playing his best golf. Additionally, Matthews was seven-over par for the tournament and well on his way to missing the cut. We don't currently know what caused the WD for Matthews, though he did withdraw from an event in September with a back issue, so it's possible that he was dealing with the same injury.
Matthews competed last week at the Houston Open but missed the cut. He'll give it another go this week at The RSM Classic.
OUT OF FIELD
Tony Finau (OWGR 12th)
Tony Finau withdrew from The RSM Classic on Tuesday afternoon due to an unspecified injury. Finau is coming off a dominant win at last week's Houston Open, so this is a bit of a surprise to hear that he picked up some sort of injury. It's possible that Finau is just taking a break following the win, but we'll continue to monitor his health status. Finau's next start is expected to come at the Hero World Challenge in December.
Ryan Moore (OWGR 408th)
Ryan Moore withdrew from The RSM Classic on Tuesday afternoon as well. No reason was provided for Moore's WD. We'll continue to monitor Moore's health status and provide any updates once we get them.
William McGirt (OWGR 520th)
William McGirt withdrew from The RSM Classic just this morning. McGirt had just been added to the field as an alternate yesterday, which makes this a somewhat strange WD. No reason was given for McGirt pulling out of the event, but we will continue to monitor his health status.
Mark Hubbard (OWGR 161st)
Mark Hubbard withdrew from The RSM Classic on Monday. While no specific reason was provided for Hubbard’s WD, his brother (Nathan Hubbard) reported on Twitter a couple of days ago that Mark is having toe surgery and is also expecting a baby any day. Though not from an official source, these reasons could explain Hubbard’s decision to pull out of this week’s event.
Brendan Steele (OWGR 120th)
Brendan Steele withdrew during the final round of the Houston Open last week, citing a back injury. The fact that Steele chose to WD rather than gut out the final holes of the event suggests the injury is fairly serious. Steele pulled out of this week’s RSM Classic shortly after last week's WD too. We’ll continue to monitor his health status over the coming weeks.
Erik van Rooyen (OWGR 112th)
Erik van Rooyen was a part of the cascade of withdrawals that took place during round two of the Houston Open last week. Van Rooyen was on track to miss the cut and so his decision not to finish the second round on Saturday morning, following an overnight weather delay, seemed pretty inconsequential. He was initially in the field for The RSM Classic but then on Sunday afternoon decided to pull out of the event.
Van Rooyen took some time off during the Summer due to a minor back injury. While we don’t have an official report, it will be worth keeping an eye on to see if he might have reaggravated the injury.
Si Woo Kim (OWGR 74th)
Si Woo Kim pulled out of The RSM Classic shortly after the field was announced. Kim finished T-35 at the Houston Open last week, completing the entire tournament with seemingly no health issues. We’ll continue to monitor his status either way.
Collin Morikawa (OWGR 10th)
Collin Morikawa announced via Twitter yesterday that he would not be competing in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this week. Morikawa is the defending champion of the event, so it’s somewhat interesting that he decided not to fly over for the tournament. Morikawa reported that he has “upcoming personal commitments” preventing him from playing. It’s unclear exactly what Morikawa is dealing with in regards to persona obligations this week, but we will continue to monitor his status.
Chez Reavie (OWGR 128th)
Chez Reavie withdrew prior to the second round of the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba two weeks ago. There was no reported injury for Reavie in regards to his WD. He's taking another week off instead of playing The RSM Classic.
The RSM Classic golfers with the highest "True Strokes Gained" (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Sea Island Golf Club:
Seaside Course (min. two starts)
Webb Simpson (+2.03)
Denny McCarthy (+1.86)
Kevin Kisner (+1.54)
Matthew NeSmith (+1.39)
Tom Hoge (+1.26)
Luke List (+1.13)
Brian Gay (+1.04)
2021-2022 was not a good season for Webb Simpson, but he still managed to finish T-8 at this event. Webb's +9.84 SG: APP at last year's RSM Classic was by far his best approach event of the year.
Webb has only played two events his Fall: 52nd (out of 78) at The CJ Cup; missed cut at the Fortinet Championship. He also missed the cut or WD'd in four of his last five events at the end of last season.
Plantation Course (min. two starts)
William McGirt (+2.75 over 3 rounds)--no longer in the field (WD on 11/15)
Anders Albertson (+2.71 over 2 rounds)
Adam Long (+2.51 over 4 rounds)
Sean O'Hair (+2.45 over 4 rounds)
Scott Stallings (+2.39 over 7 rounds)
Lee Hodges (+2.36 over 2 rounds)
Russell Knox (+2.33 over 4 rounds)
Matthew NeSmith (+2.29 over 3 rounds)
Since golfers only play the Plantation Course once for the week, the data is pretty small--hence why I included the number of rounds played. It's not a huge sample size.
If you're curious how past winners have played the Plantation Course for the week they won:
2021: Talor Gooch 64 (-8)
2020: Robert Streb 63 (-9)
2019: Tyler Duncan 67 (-5)
2018: Charles Howell III 64 (-8)
2017: Austin Cook 66 (-6)
2016: Mackenzie Hughes 67 (-5)