By Tom LaMarre
Davis Love III not only hosts the RSM Classic on the Plantation Course and Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club in Saint Simons Island, Ga., where he lives, but he has played in the first 10 editions of the tournament.
Unfortunately, the 56-year-old Love, who plays mostly on the PGA Tour Champions these days, was forced to withdraw from the tournament late last week because of ongoing neck problems.
“I am disappointed to not be able to compete this year but as always I look forward to hosting the PGA Tour and our Pro-Am sponsors and helping RSM raise money for children and families in need,” whose best finish in the tournament was a tie for fourth in 2012.
However, even though the RSM Classic will be played a week after the 84th Masters at Augusta National, Love has helped line up a field that includes major champions Jason Day of Australia, Webb Simpson (pictured), Justin Rose of England, Shane Lowry of Ireland, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Danny Willett of England, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Johnson also lives in the area and is on the tournament committee.
Other standouts in the field include Sungjae Im of South Korea, Ian Poulter of England, Russell Knox of South Africa, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Pat Perez, Matt Kuchar, Jason Kokrak, Luke Donald of England, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, Martin Laird of Scotland, Kevin Kisner, Adam Hadwin of Canada and Lee Westwood of England.
Defending champion Tyler Duncan, who beat Simpson with a birdie on the second playoff hole last year in the RSM Classic, heads a field of other less heralded players who have none-the-less shown that they belong on the PGA Tour and might soon be big winners.
Included are Sebastián Muñoz of Colombia, Dylan Frittelli of South Africa, Joaquin Niemann of Chile, C.T. Pan of Taiwan, Tom Hoge, Adam Long, Sung Kang of South Korea, Aaron Wise, Doc Redman, Maverick McNealy, Denny McCarthy. Henrik Norlander of Sweden, Xinjun Zhang of China, Sam Burns, Beau Hossler, Patrick Rodgers and Matthew NeSmith.
All of those young guns have shown they have the talent to step up and take down an established star like Simpson, as Duncan did in the RSM Classic last year.
- Webb Simpson, United States – Not only is the sixth-ranked Simpson coming off a tie for 10th in the Masters and a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open, he has had real success in the RSM without winning it. The 2012 U.S. Open champion has finished in the top 10 four times, including playoff losses to Tyler Duncan last year and Ben Crane in 2011.
- Sungjae Im, South Korea – With a tie for second in the Masters after winning the Honda Classic and finishing 11th in the Tour Championship last season, Im has risen to 18th in the World Golf Rankings and seems destined for the top 10. Played in the RSM classic for the first time last year and tied for 37th by posting four rounds in the 60s.
- Tyrrell Hatton, England – The 10th-ranked Hatton will try to bounce back from missed cuts in the Masters and the U.S. Open when he plays in the RSM Classic for the first time. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and BMW PGA Championship this year and recently tied for third in the CJ Cup and tied for seventh in the Houston Open.
- Mackenzie Hughes, Canada – The 2016 RSM Classic champion finished third in the Corales Puntacana and tied for seventh in the Houston Open this season. Opened with a 61 and claimed his only PGA Tour title by beating Billy Horschel, Henrik Norlander, Camilo Villegas and Blayne Barber with a birdie on the third playoff hole four years ago.
- Kevin Kisner, United States – Claimed the first of his three PGA Tour titles in the 2015 RSM by a whopping six strokes, when he shot 64-64 on the weekend, in addition tying for fourth twice and tying for seventh in 2018. He tied for third in the Wyndham and tied for fourth in Northern Trust late last season and recently tied for 14th in Zozo.
- Russell Henley, United States – Three-time PGA Tour winner tied for third in CJ Cup and tied for fourth in the Zozo Championship, and his finished in the top 30 of all four starts early in the new season. Also tied for eighth in Northern Trust and tied for ninth in the Wyndham in August. Has three top-10s in RSM, including a tie for fourth in 2015.
- Jason Day, Australia – Hot-and-cold while trying to find his game while battling back problems, Day tied for fourth in the PGA and then tied for seventh in the Vivint Houston Open to warm up for the Masters, where he opened with a 70 but followed with a 78 to miss the cut. Started with rounds of 67-67, but tied for 57th in only RSM start in 2012.
- Tommy Fleetwood, England – Was in position for a top-10 finish in the Masters before struggling to a 74 in the final round thanks to four bogeys on the back nine to wind up in a tie for 19th. Tied for third in the Honda Classic earlier this year, but didn’t return until July because of the shutdown and will try to get back on track in his RSM debut.
- Stewart Cink, United States – The 2009 Open champion won the Safeway Open to start the new season and end an 11-year victory drought, and tied for fourth in the Bermuda Championship to sit third in the FedEx Cup rankings. Cink’s best finish in nine appearances in the RSM Classic was a tie for 10th in 2017, when he opened with a 62.
- Shane Lowry, Ireland – The reigning Open champion, who won’t defend his title until next July, seemed headed for a top-10 finish in the Masters before closing with a 73 to tie for 25th a week after tying for 11th in the Houston Open. Lowry will try to keep his game going in the right direction when he makes his debut in the RSM Classic this week.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Zach Johnson, United States; Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Justin Rose, England; Ryan Armour, United States; Danny Willett, England; Charles Howell III, United States; Russell Knox, Scotland; Jason Kokrak, United States; Matthew Fitzpatrick, England; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa.
- Sebastián Muñoz, Colombia – Finished T-19 in Masters, T-14 in Zozo and solo ninth in CJ Cup in last three starts. Was third in 2019 RSM, shooting 63 in the second round.
- Dylan Frittelli, South Africa – Posted a T-5 in Masters after a T-11 a few weeks earlier in the Zozo, starting with 66-65. Finished T-35 in his RSM Classic debut last year.
- Adam Long, United States – T-13 in U.S. Open, solo fifth in Corales Puntacana and T-11 in Houston in the new season. T-35 in RSM last year, with 66-67 in middle rounds.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – T-23 in U.S. Open, T-13 in Shriners, solo sixth in CJ Cup and T-17 in Zozo. T-65 in 2019 RSM, but finished with three rounds in 60s after a 73.
- Denny McCarthy, United States – After four top-10s last season, has T-6 in Sanderson Farms, T-4 in Bermuda recently. T-8 in 2019 RSM, with a 62 in round two.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html