Kisner, Kuchar, Harman Among Top Players Competing
In the first seven PGA Tour events played at Sea Island GC on the Georgia coast, golfers who are either natives or residents of Georgia or played their college golf in the state have compiled an impressive record in the event.
Golfers with ties to Georgia have won three of the seven RSM Classics, along with one playoff loss, one runner-up showing and six other finishes of fourth or better. Ten different golfers have accounted for the 11 top-4 finishes.
The tournament winners are Alpharetta resident Heath Slocum, who won the first RSM Classic in 2010, and former Georgia Bulldog teammates Chris Kirk (2013) and Kevin Kisner (2015). Kisner is the lone player among the 10 with two finishes of fourth or better in the tournament, tying for fourth the year before he won.
There will be almost 30 players with Georgia ties in the 156-player field for the 2017 RSM Classic, which begins Nov. 16 on the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island GC. They range from top players like Kisner, Matt Kuchar, Brian Harman and Bubba Watson, to Hall of Famer and tournament host Davis Love III to Kyle Owen, making his first ever PGA Tour start as the reigning Georgia PGA Player of the Year.
Here is a look at the Georgians in the field, with their 2016-17 FedExCup standing in parentheses:
Kevin Kisner (12): Over the past three years, Kisner has emerged as one of the game’s top players with a pair of wins, six runner-up finishes and 20 top 10s, earning a spot on the 2017 Presidents Cup team where he went unbeaten in team play with partner Phil Mickelson. Kisner, a lifelong resident of Aiken, S.C., has finished in the top 20 of the FedExCup standings each of the last three years, and will be making his first start of the 2017-18 season. He is the only RSM Classic champion to win by more than one shot, romping to an impressive 6-stroke victory two years ago with back-to-back 64s on the weekend.
Matt Kuchar (14): Has been one of the game’s most consistently successful players for almost a decade, winning six times during that span and qualifying for the Tour Championship eight straight years. However, his last win came in 2014. Former Georgia Tech standout contended twice in majors last year, losing to Jordan Spieth’s spectacular finish in the British Open. A tie for seventh in 2013 is his best RSM Classic finish.
Brian Harman (25): Along with Kuchar, part of the large contingent of tour players who live on St. Simons Island, the Savannah native and former Bulldog is coming off his best season on the PGA Tour, winning the Wells Fargo in Wilmington, N.C., and tying for second in the U.S. Open. He got the 2017-18 season off to a fast start, tying for fifth in South Korea and placing eighth in the WGC event in China. He was 24th in points coming into the tournament in Mexico, the last PGA Tour stop before the fall finale at Sea Island GC. Harman’s best finish in the RSM Classic is a tie for 10th in 2013.
Hudson Swafford (38): The St. Simons resident and one of many ex-Bulldogs in the field, Swafford scored his first PGA Tour victory early in 2017 in the southern California desert, but has not done a great deal since. He is making his first start since competing in all three events in Asia, where his best finish was a tie for 28th in Korea. A T11 in 2014 is his best finish in the RSM.
Charles Howell (40): The Augusta native is the most consistently successful competitor at Sea Island GC, with finishes of sixth, seventh and ninth from 2010 to 2015 and a tie for 13th last year. He shot 62 in the final round the first year the event was played. After another solid season in which he challenged for a spot in the top 30 in the final standings, Howell was 43 in the FedExCup standings coming into Mexico with a pair of top 20 finishes in Asia.
Zach Johnson (48): A runner-up finish in the WGC event at Firestone helped salvage an otherwise sub-par season, and he was T13 in the 2017-18 season opener in Napa . The St. Simons resident and RSM representative, who has won both the Masters and British Open, has two top-20 finishes at Sea Island GC, but is still looking for his first top 10.
Stewart Cink (53): With his wife Lisa in recovery after a health scare, the former Georgia Tech standout and long time Duluth resident had his best season in a while in 2016-17, and tied for 13th in Malaysia in his first 2017-18 start. The 2009 British Open champion scored his first top 10 in the RSM last year, tying for 10th.
Scott Brown (55): Augusta native and neighbor of Kisner in Aiken, S.C., has played a heavy fall schedule, with his best finish a T5 in Korea. He was 31 on the points list after Vegas, coming off a 2016-17 season highlighted by runner-up finishes in Los Angeles and New Orleans, the latter in the team event where he paired with Kisner. Tied for fourth in the 2013 RSM.
Ollie Schniederjans (60): Recent Georgia Tech star who grew up in Powder Springs almost closed out his first full PGA Tour season with a win in Greensboro, losing a spirited duel to Henrik Stenson, but faded during the Playoffs. After a brief break, he has scored top 10s in Napa and Korea and was 38th coming into the tournament in Mexico. Tied for sixth in the RSM Classic last year, and should be one of the players to watch this week.
Bubba Watson (75): Two-time Masters champion will be playing in the tournament for the first time, and has made some equipment changes after suffering through his poorest season on the PGA Tour in 2016-17. Prior to his off year, Watson had qualified for the Tour Championship six times in the previous seven seasons, winning nine times since 2010. Former Georgia Bulldog barely made the cut in Las Vegas in his only start this season.
Chris Kirk (92): Kisner’s teammate on UGA’s 2005 NCAA Championship team lived on St. Simons Island after completing his college career, returning to Atlanta’s northern suburbs shortly before winning the RSM Classic in 2013. Kirk, who grew up in Woodstock and now resides in Athens, played well in the fall portion of the 2016-17 schedule, but has struggled since and suffered through the poorest season of his PGA Tour career. Best finish in four starts this season is a tie for 30th in Napa. In addition to win at Sea Island GC, tied for fourth in 2014 and has two other top 20s.
Patton Kizzire (99): St. Simons resident tied for 10th in Jackson, Miss., and tied for fourth last week in Las Vegas, one shot out of a playoff after a final round 64. He was 30th in the FedExCup standings after a pair of strong showings. Also started fast last year with a runner-up finish in Napa.
Richy Werenski (106): Recent Georgia Tech golfer retained exempt status after rookie season in 2016-17, and is 126 in points after competing four times in first five weeks this season.
Vaughn Taylor (114): Returned to PGA Tour full time with a win at Pebble Beach in early 2016, but Augusta native and former Augusta State golfer has not been able to duplicate that week since. Tied for 10th recently in Mississippi, but missed cut in two other fall starts.
Harris English (118): Last season was the least successful for St. Simons resident since joining the PGA Tour in 2012, and he began 2017-18 campaign with three straight missed cuts. South Georgia native and ex-Bulldog won twice in his first three seasons and was a frequent contender from 2013 to ‘16 before suffering significant drop-off. Best finish in RSM a tie for 15th in 2012.
J.T. Poston (132): After retaining limited playing privileges following rookie season, St. Simons resident quietly made his first splash on the PGA Tour with a tie for fourth last week in Las Vegas. That vaulted him to 39th in FedExCup standings, but he will get into less than half the tournaments on 2017-18 schedule.
Cameron Tringale (133): Ex-Georgia Tech golfer finished outside the top 125 for first time since rookie season of 2010, but regained his status in Web.com Finals. Made two cuts in first three starts this season, but is outside top 125 at 143.
Trey Mullinax (137): St. Simons resident came up short of retaining exempt status after rookie season, but moved up to 111 in 2017-18 after tie for 20th in Las Vegas following missed cuts in first two starts. Like Poston, will have limited starts after schedule resumes in January,
Michael Thompson (148): Almost won RSM in 2011, tying for third, one shot out of a playoff. Has 10th and 13th place finishes since. St. Simons resident fell out of top 125 after injury-shortened season in 2016-17 and made first start last week, making it to the weekend in Las Vegas.
Rick Lamb (150): Barely retained limited status after rookie season, and got into three tournaments earlier this fall, making the cut in one. Like Mullinax, fellow St. Simons resident Lamb did not get into field in Mexico.
Jonathan Byrd (170): After splitting time between Web.com and PGA Tour last year, St. Simons resident and 5-time PGA Tour winner regained full status with victory in Web.com Tour Championship. Missed first two cuts of this season, but hoping for better results at Sea Island GC, where he does not have a great history of success.
Davis Love III (185): Tournament host made a strong run at winning his hometown event, sharing 54-hole lead in 2012 and tying for fourth. Played respectably in first start of this season in Korea before missing cut in Mississippi. Son Dru Love, who played well in Mississippi and was on the leader board for a while, will join his father in the RSM field as a sponsor exemption.
Chesson Hadley (211): Former Georgia Tech golfer saw limited action on PGA Tour last year, but had an outstanding Web.com showing, winning twice, losing twice in playoffs and finishing No. 1 on final money list. He has gotten off to a tremendous start in full-time return to PGA Tour, tying for third at Napa, placing second in Mississippi and tying for fourth in Las Vegas, one shot out of a playoff. Has already earned $1.1 million and is seventh on the points list, locking up his playing privileges for 2018-19.
Heath Slocum: Won the first RSM Classic in 2010, but has fallen on tough times since capturing his fourth PGA Tour title, and is playing in this year’s tournament on a sponsor exemption. Alpharetta resident lost his status after 2015 season and has not made a cut in 11 starts since.
Keith Mitchell: Just missed top 25 finish on Web.com regular season money list, but played well in Finals to earn PGA Tour card. Former Georgia Bulldog and St. Simons resident has missed his first three cuts as PGA Tour rookie, and will need to play well at Sea Island GC to avoid falling to bottom of priority list for 50 players who earned playing privileges through Web.com Tour.
Henrik Norlander: Former Augusta State star received a second straight sponsor exemption after losing in a 5-way playoff in last year’s RSM Classic, Has gone back and forth the past several seasons between PGA and Web.com Tours, and will play primarily on Web.com in 2018.
Greyson Sigg: Augusta native and recent UGA golfer will make his first PGA start after receiving a sponsor exemption. Failed to reach finals of Web.com Tour qualifying, and will need to enjoy some success in Monday qualifiers in 2018 to get his playing opportunities.
Kyle Owen: Head pro at Dunwoody CC is the Georgia PGA’s representative after earning Player of the Year honors. Prior to becoming a club pro, played several years on mini-tours with some Web.com starts. This will be his first PGA Tour appearance.