By TOM LaMARRE
Tony Finau and Seamus Power or Ireland are coming off victories in recent starts and are teeing it up again as the PGA Tour plays the final event of the Fall portion of the 2022-23 season this week in the RSM Classic on the Seaside and Plantation Courses at Sea Island Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.
Finau (pictured) captured the Cadence Bank Houston Open for his fifth PGA Tour victory last Sunday, while Power claimed his second victory on the PGA Tour three weeks ago in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and followed that up by tying for third in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.
Finau was the favorite of most odds-makers, but he withdrew from The RSM Classic on Tuesday because of an undisclosed injury, which seemingly makes Power the tournament favorite.
“This is definitely the most all parts of my game have been clicking, but I would say I’ve played a lot of good golf for a while,” said Finau, who has won three times in his last seven starts, including the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic on back-to-back weeks at the end of July. “I didn’t have a lot of wins to show for it, but I’ve pieced together a game and that’s what you have to do out here.
“You know, with my experience, again as I alluded to, trying to be more of a precision player, because I don’t lack speed, so learning how to drive it in the fairway, working on my wedge game, working on my putter, those are all things that I worked extremely hard on. And I feel like I’ve been a very solid player for a long time, but it’s exciting for me that I’m getting better and that’s all I can ask of myself is try and get better in the areas that I really need to.
“And then remember why you are where you are. I think I don’t go too far away from the DNA of my game and how I see the game and I think I’m kind of bearing the fruits of how I see the game now and I’m able to hit the shots that I can see, which is pretty cool.
Said Power, the FedEx Cup points leader, after winning in Bermuda: “I’m going to play the RSM in 10 days’ time. Yeah, I’m going to have a week off, get some rest and catch up on things and get ready for one more tournament before the end of the year. It’s so nice to win. It guarantees you’re on Tour until the end of 2025 and when my manager said that out loud to me, it’s a very comforting feeling to be honest.
“It’s nice knowing that’s there, no matter what. It makes it a lot easier to play at a high level of golf when you don’t have to look over your shoulder a little bit. Now, my career has changed considerably. To have the two wins on paper is still huge and having the exemption is amazing.”
Also in the field at Sea Island this week are tournament host Davis Love III, Stewart Cink, Jason Day of Australia, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Francesco Molinari of Italy, Justin Rose of England, Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman, Sepp Straka of Austria, Tom Hoge, Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, Robert Streb, Chris Kirk, Austin Cook and Tyler Duncan.
Talor Gooch, who won the tournament by three strokes last year when he closed with a 64, will not defend his title because he has moved on to LIV Golf, as has Charles Howell III, the 2018 RSM champion.
The next official event of the season will be the Sentry Tournament of Champions from Jan. 5-8 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii.
1. Tony Finau, United States – After winning the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic back-to-back in July, Finau will try to do it again after claiming his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year on Sunday by four strokes in the Cadence Bank Houston Open to climb to No. 12 in the world. He makes only his in second start in the RSM Classic, having tied for 14th in 2013.
2. Seamus Power, Ireland – Leads the FedEx Cup point standings after earning his second PGA Tour victory three weeks ago in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in addition to tying for third in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Power finished in a tie for fourth in the RSM Classic last year after opening with a 63 and recording four scores in the 60s.
3. Mackenzie Hughes, Canada – Claimed the first of his two PGA Tour victories in the 2017 RSM Classic in a playoff over Blayne Barber, Billy Horschel, Henrik Norlander and Camilo Villegas with a par on the third extra hole. Hughes, who won at Sanderson Farms this year, was second in the RSM Classic after closing with 62 last year. Tied for 16th at Houston last week.
4. Keith Mitchell, United States – Winner of the 2019 Honda Classic and the 2022 Sanderson Farms Championship recorded five other top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour last season, including a tie for third in the CJ Cup, a tie for sixth in the Travelers and ties for seventh in the Sony Open and RBC Canadian Open. Mitchell tied for 12th in the RSM last year and tied for 14th in 2019.
5. Brian Harman, United States – A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, Harman is coming off a solo second in the World Wide Technology Championship in his last start, in which he recorded a hole-in-one. Harman, who won the 2014 John Deere Classic and the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship, tied for fourth in the RSM Classic in 2017 and also tied for 10th in 2013.
6. Jason Day, Australia – The 2015 PGA champion, who has won 12 events on the PGA Tour and 16 times as a pro, seems to be regaining his form after suffering through injuries in recent years. He tied for eighth in the Shriners, tied for 11th in the CJ Cup and tied for 16th at Houston this season. Day tied for 12th in the 2020 RSM Classic, recording four rounds in the 60s.
7. Tom Hoge, United States – Hoge, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory last season at Pebble Beach, is playing well again this year with a tie for fourth in the Shriners, a tie for ninth in the Zozo Championship, a tie for 12th in the Fortinet and a tie for 13th in the CJ Cup. He had his best result in eight starts in the RSM with a tie for fourth last year and tied for ninth in 2015.
8. Justin Rose, England – The 2013 U.S. Open champion and 2018 FedEx Cup winner seemed to have his game heading back in the right direction when he tied for ninth in the Cadence Bank Houston Open last week, being in the hunt until he closed with a 72. Rose is making his third start in the RSM Classic, and he tied for 12th a year ago after closing with a bogey-free 65.
9. Taylor Montgomery, United States – The PGA Tour rookie, whose only pro victories came in the 2020 and 2021 Nevada Opens, has posted five top-15 finishes on the big tour this season, include solo third in the Fortinet, a tie for ninth at Sanderson Farms, a tie for 10th at Mayakoba and a tie for 13th in the CJ Cup. Montgomery is making his first start in the RSM Classic.
10. Kevin Kisner, United States – Claimed the first of his four PGA Tour victories by six strokes over Kevin Chappell in the 2016 RSM Classic and also was solo second two years ago, tied for fourth in 2013 and 2017, in addition to tying for seventh in 2018 in his 11 starts in the tournament. Kisner won the 2021 Wyndham and was second in the 2022 WGC-Match Play.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Matt Kuchar, United States; Taylor Moore, Canada; Sepp Straka, Austria; Webb Simpson, United States; Scott Stallings, United States; Harris English, United States; Russell Knox, Scotland; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Danny Willett, England; Zach Johnson, United States; Taylor Pendrith, Canada; Joel Dahmen, United States.
1. Matthew NeSmith, United States – Winner of 2019 Albertsons Boise Open on Korn Ferry Tour was T-2 in Shriners, T-9 in Zozo and at Sanderson Farms this season. T-14 in 2019 RSM.
2. Aaron Rai, England – Six-time winner around the world was T-7 in Houston last week and T-20 in the Shriners this season. Rai finished T-16 the RSM with four rounds in 60s last year.
3. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner on Korn Ferry Tour was T-9 in Houston and T-30 at Sanderson Farms. Was in hunt in 2017 RSM before closing with 71 to finish T-29.
4. Patrick Rodgers, United States – Former Stanford star was T-3 in Bermuda, T-16 in Houston and Zozo this season. Finished 61-62 in the 2019 RSM but lost a playoff to Charles Howell III.
5. Joseph Bramlett, United States – Another ex-Stanford standout who captured the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2021, he has finished T-9 in Houston and T-12 in Fortinet this season.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html