10 Players to Watch: RSM Classic

  1. Matt Kuchar, United States — Kuchar has won seven times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2014 RBC Heritage, so he certainly is overdue because you usually can find his name near the top of the leaderboard. He finished in the top-10 on 10 occasions last year and has 65 such results since 2010, the most on the circuit during that time. Kuchar, who is playing a home game this week since he lives right near Sea Island Resort, will tee it up in the tournament for the sixth time and has never finished outside the top 25, posting an aggregate score of 39-under-par. However, his best result is only a tie for seventh in 2014, but if he can avoid the distractions of playing at home, he might be able to find his way back to the winner’s circle.
  1. Chris Kirk, United States — With three top-10 finishes in four starts since the start of the 2016-17 season, Kirk also is playing at home in a tournament that he won in 2013 for the second of his four victories on the PGA Tour. He was tied for the lead with Briny Baird on the final hole and Kirk made a par to win with a 4-under-par 66, claiming a one-stroke victory over Tim Clark of South Africa and Baird, who hit his approach into the water and made a bogey. Kirk is playing in the tournament for the seventh time and he also tied for fourth in his title defense, two shots behind winner Robert Streb, one of his three other results in the top 10. He has tied for eighth in the Safeway Classic, tied for second in the Sanderson Farms Classic and tied for seventh in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba this season.
  1. Webb Simpson, United States — At times, Simpson shows signs that he is getting closer to the form that took him to victory in the 2012 U.S. Open and three other tournaments, the last in the 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which he won by six strokes. Last week, he was tied for fifth entering the final round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba with scores of 65-65-69, but he closed with a 74 and skidded to a tie for 24th. Webb struggled with the transition after his anchored putter was banned, but has had some success with a putter he holds against his forearm, a bit like Kuchar. He is playing at Sea Island Resort for the fifth time and in 2011 he was in or near the lead all the way after opening with a 63, but lost to Ben Crane by missing a short par putt on the second playoff hole.
  1. Bill Haas, United States — Haas is back in Georgia, where he claimed the biggest of his six PGA Tour victories in the 2011 Tour Championship at East Lake it Atlanta, which gave him the FedExCup. He almost won again in the Peach State six years ago when he closed with 65-66 at Sea Island only to finish solo second, one stroke behind winner Heath Slocum. This will be Haas’ fourth appearance in the tournament, but he didn’t play as well in his other two starts, tying for 22nd in 2015 and tying for 33rd last year. He missed out on his seventh victory on the circuit last year when he lost to Charl Schwartzel of South Africa on the first hole of a playoff in the Valspar Championship, but continues to play well. Haas tied for 20th in the Safeway Open and tied for fourth in the WGC-HSBC Champions in his only two starts of the new season.
  1. Kevin Streelman, United States — If not for a second-round hiccup when he shot 2-over-par 73 in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Streelman might have wound up with the third victory of his PGA Tour career last week. He had bookend 65s and also shot 64 in the third round on his way to finishing in a tie for fourth, four strokes behind champion Pat Perez. Streelman, whose victories came in the 2013 Tampa Bay Classic and the 2014 Travelers Championship, this week will make his third appearance in what is now the RSM Classic, having finished in a tie for sixth in 2011, when he missed posting four rounds in the 60s by shooting 70 in the second round. Last year at Sea Island, Streelman shot 69-74 — 143 to miss the cut by two strokes, and that turned out to be a theme in his disappointing season, as he missed the weekend 11 times in 26 starts.
  1. Kevin Kisner, United States — The defending champion of the RSM Classic, Kisner was in the midst of an early-season hot streak when he blitzed the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort with scores of 65-67-64-64 to win by six strokes over Kevin Chappell. He finally broke through for his first victory after finishing second four times in 2015 — in the RBC Heritage, the Players Championship, the Greenbrier Classic and the WGC-HSBC Champions two weeks earlier. Kisner kept his surge going when he finished ninth in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii, both in January. Even though he had only two other top-10 finishes the rest of the season, the early surge carried him all the way through the season and he qualified for the Tour Championship for the second straight year. Kisner was a popular winner at Sea Island, since he played college golf at Georgia, and he also tied for fourth in the tournament in 2014.
  1. Billy Horschel, Unites States — Still trying to find the game that took him to victories in the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship to capture the FedExCup in 2014, Horschel is making his third start of the new season but all he’s been able to manage were a tie for 41st in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Classic and a missed cut in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. He opened with a promising 64 at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, but has not broken 70 in any of his last five rounds. He did have a strong run in August and September, when he tied for fifth in the Wyndham Championship, tied for 13th in the Barclays and tied for 10th in the BMW Championship. Horschel is making his third start in what started out as the McGladrey Classic, finishing in a tie for 20th in 2011 and a tie for 43rd the following year.
  1. Zach Johnson, United States — The 2007 Masters and 2015 Open champion is another player who lives near Sea Island Resort, but he has not found the Seaside Course to his liking in six appearances. His best result was a tie for 12th in 2010, and he also tied for 16th in 2014, as he opened with a 70 and then recorded three straight rounds in the 60s both times. Zach missed the 36-hole cut in 2011 and 2015, and last year missed the 54-hole cut after carding three straight 70s. Johnson, who helped the United State regain the Ryder Cup in October with a 2-1 record, is playing for the first time in the new season. His best golf in 2015-16 came on four consecutive weeks during the summer when he tied for 17th in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, tied for eighth in the U.S. Open, tied for 10th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and tied for 12th in his title defense at the Open Championship.
  1. Anirban Lahiri, India — Starting what will be his second full season on the PGA Tour, Lahiri has shown he can compete on the best tour in the world in his first two starts of the new season. He took the lead into the final round of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after starting 66-66-65, but could not hang on and his closing 72 left him in a tie for third, four strokes behind winner Justin Thomas. Last week, Lahiri was in position for another top-10 result after again starting with three scores in the 60s, but another closing 72 dropped him 14 spots down the leaderboard to a tie for 28th. With 18 victories in Asia, he has shown he knows how to win, but probably his best performance was a tie for fifth in the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Lahiri will be playing for the first time this week in the RSM Classic.
  1. Davis Love III, United States — The tournament host of the RSM Classic is making his second start of the 2016-17 season after having hip surgery in July and then captaining the United States to victory in the Ryder Cup in October. He tied for 41st in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open two weeks ago, but is only 15 months removed from becoming the third-oldest winner in PGA Tour history when he captured the Wyndham Championship at the age of 51. Love is making his seventh start on his home course at Sea Island Resort, and he was tied for the lead with his old pal Jim Furyk in 2012 after starting 65-66-66, but closed with a 71 and wound up in a tie for fourth, four strokes behind champion Tommy Gainey. Love, who recently was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, finished 69-66 last year to equal his second-best result in the tournament, a tie for 33rd in 2010.–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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