The final round of the RSM Classic ended in predictable fashion Sunday.
For the sixth time in 11 years, the tournament ended in a playoff, with the two participants familiar names in RSM Classic history.
Just as he had done in his four previous playoff appearances on the PGA Tour since 2015, former Georgia Bulldog golfer Kevin Kisner lost the playoff on the second extra hole at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside course.
The playoff winner was Robert Streb, like Kisner a former RSM Classic champion. Streb nearly holed his second shot on the second playoff hole– the par-4 18th— for a winning tap-in birdie after Kisner rolled in a 20-footer for par.
Streb had to save par on the first extra hole after driving into a fairway bunker at 18 and coming up short of the green in two. A deft pitch over a greenside bunker and a clutch par putt kept him alive until his heroics on the second hole of sudden death.
The victory was the second of Streb’s PGA Tour career, the first also coming at Sea Island GC in 2014 in a playoff. Kisner finished two shots out of the playoff that year in a tie for fourth, and now has four top-4 finishes in the tournament, among them his record-setting 6-shot victory in 2015.
While Kisner came into the tournament as one of the favorites to win, Streb was simply looking to reverse a 3-year stretch of less-than-desired results,
After qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs four straight years from 2014-17, Streb finished outside the top 125 each of the last three seasons, and had to return to the Korn Ferry Tour finals in 2018 and ’19 to retain his PGA Tour status. After placing 145thon the points list in 2019-20, Streb began this season with limited status, but his victory provides him with exempt status through the 2022-23 season, as well as 2021 invites to the Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters and PGA Championship.
Streb earned $1,188,000 for his playoff win and moved up from 148 to 8 in the FedExCup standoings. He was the sixth winner in 11 PGA Tour events this fall ranked outside the top 300 in the World Rankings prior to his victory.
It was nearly a wire-to-wire win for Streb, an Oklahoma native who played his college golf at Kansas State. He trailed by one shot after an opening 6-under 64 on Seaside, closing his round with consecutive birdies on holes 5 through 9. A second round 63 on Plantation, matching the low score of the tournament on that course, gave him a 2-stroke lead at 14-under after 36 holes. He increased his lead to three after a Saturday 67 on Seaside, going bogey-free for the second day in a row in the windiest conditions of the week.
After carding 15 birdies the first two days, Streb managed a modest three birdies each Saturday and Sunday. He did not give himself many birdie opportunities in the final round, and several contenders were able to cut into Streb’s lead.
“It was nice to get another one knocked off,” Strab said after his victory. “Felt pretty fortunate to get in the playoff the way things were running there at the end. It was a bit of a struggle today at times.”
While Streb settled for a final round 68, his four primary challengers posted scores of 63, 62, 63 and 64, and one of the St. Simons Island residents in the field also shot a 62 to tie for sixth.
Kisner closed with a 63, highlighted by a remarkable birdie on the par-5 seventh, when he hacked his third shot from a bush in a sandy, native area 45 yards from the hole to within four feet. Kisner, five shots behind Streb at the beginning of the day, continued to close the gap with birdies at 9, 10 and 13, before taking the lead with a birdie at the par-5 15thafter a clutch 18-footer for par at the previous hole.
“I played great and gave myself a ton of chances,” Kisner said before venturing into self-directed sarcasm. “I just want to keep my playoff record intact here on the Tour and not have a win in a playoff.”
Streb fell into a tie when he missed a 5-footer for par at 13, and failed on his first chance to regain a share of the lead when he 3-putted the 15th, again missing from the 5-foot range. After missing from inside 10 feet at 16, he rolled in an 11-footer at 17 for birdie, with he and Kisner finishing at 19-under 263.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Cameron Tringale, still looking for his first victory in his 12thseason on the PGA Tour, was third at 264 after a 62 Sunday that matched the low score of the week, posted earlier in day by ex-UGA golfer and St. Simons resident Harris English. Five of Tringale’s seven birdies came from inside 4 feet, including a scintillating stretch on holes 8, 9 and 11 when he hit his approach shots within a foot of the cup for three tap-in birdies.
Tringale, who surged into contention with five straight birdies to close out the front nine, made it a 3-way tie with Streb and Kisner when he birdied 15 and 16. But he missed from 15 feet on the par-3 17thand did not give himself a reasonable birdie chance at 18.
Tying for fourth at 265 were Andrew Landry and Germany’s Bernd Wiesberger. Landry made a late push with an eagle at the 15thand a birdie at 16 for a 64, while Wiesberger made his run early with a 5-under 30 on the front nine before stalling somewhat on the back for a 63.
Weisberger was part of a strong group of European players who made the field the strongest in tournament history, but Sweden’s Alex Noren was the only other Euro to crack the top 20, tying for 18th.
The main story early in the final round was English, who was nine back of Streb before making six birdies on his first eight holes. But English added only one more birdie over his next nine holes before a closing birdie at the 18thgave him a 62 that could have been lower. He did not hole a putt from longer than 16 feet and missed four times for birdie between 8 and 13 feet. English was one of four players to tie for sixth at 265.
Fellow St. Simons resident Zach Johnson was among the group tying for sixth, with one disastrous hole knocking him out of contention. Johnson began Sunday in a tie for second, three shots off Streb’s lead, and was part of the final group. He was only two back after six holes, but a tee shot into the water right of the seventh fairway led to a triple bogey. He bounced back with four birdies after that for a 68 and a career best showing in the tournament.
One of the more heartening stories of the week was the return to contention of Camilo Villegas,who was also part of the tie for sixth. His last win came in 2014, and he has rarely been heard from since other than a playoff loss in the RSM Classic in 2016, due to injury and more recently the loss of his infant daughter.
Villegas shot 64 at Seaside to share the opening round lead with England’s Matt Wallace, and was second behind Streb after a 66 on Friday at Plantation. H was within one of the lead as the leaders made the turn Saturday, but shot 2-over on his final nine and ended the day five off the lead. He moved back into contention with a 31 on the front nine Sunday, but a pair of bogeys coming in left him with a 66.
After playing a few seasons on the defunct Hooters Tour, Streb enjoyed a successful rookie year on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour in 2012, winning a tournament and finishing seventh on the money list. His breakthrough on the PGA Tour came in his third season, when he won at Sea Island GC and added eight more top 10s, including a playoff loss in the Greenbrier, which also included Kisner.
But after nine top 10s in 2014-15, which led to a top-20 finish in the FedExCup standings and a spot in the Tour Championship, Streb’s win Sunday was just his ninth top 10 since his career best season.
Kisner first made a name for himself on the PGA Tour with three playoff losses in 2015. In each tournament – the Heritage, Players and Greenbrier – he played an outstanding final round to get into the playoff, but lost all three due to clutch birdies by his competitors. He also lost in extra holes in the 2017 team event in New Orleans after his chip-in eagle on the 72ndhole got him and fellow Aiken, S.C., resident Scott Brown into the playoff.
The victory in the 2015 RSM Classic was the first of Kisner’s PGA Tour career, and he has since scored a pair of wins in Texas – the 2017 Colonial and 2019 Match Play Championship in Austin. Kisner has qualified for the Tour Championship at East Lake five of the last six years, and is currently 22ndin the FedExCup standings after his playoff loss Sunday.
Kisner was one of three members of Georgia’s 2005 NCAA Championship team to finish in the top 40 in the tournament. Former RSM Classic champion Chris Kirk tied for 18that 270 after scores of 67-67-66 the final three rounds, while Brandon Todd was T37 at 273.
St. Simons resident Patton Kizzire tied for 10that 267 with three rounds of 66 or better, Georgia Tech’s Chesson Hadley was T23 at 271, and Augusta natives Charles Howell and Vaughn Taylor were T30 at 272 along with Macon native and ex-Bulldog Russell Henley. Former Georgia Tech golfer and St. Simons resident Matt Kuchar tied Todd for 37th.