The RSM Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
ROBERT STREB will defend his title at the RSM Classic this week, hoping that he doesn’t have to wait as long for his next victory as he did for the one he achieved 12 months ago - it had been six years since he last tasted victory, ironically enough, at the same tournament.
Streb became the first two-time winner at Sea Island Resort after striking a wedge within inches of the hole to beat Kevin Kisner on the second hole of their sudden-death playoff.
With the win, Streb became the first player since Dave Eichelberger in the 1970s to earn his first two titles at the same event but at least six seasons apart. Eichelberger won the 1971 and 1977 Greater Milwaukee Opens.
Streb’s first RSM victory came in his best year on the PGA Tour. In addition to the victory, he was in a playoff at the Greenbrier, finished fifth in a World Golf Championship and 10th at the PGA Championship. The kid from Kansas State entered the FedExCup Playoffs at No. 6 in the standings, ahead of Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy. He made his lone Tour Championship start that season.
“I kind of expected it would just kind of keep the same trend,” Streb said last year. It didn’t work out that way. He had more top-10s in the 2015 season (nine) than he did in the next five seasons combined (eight) and finished outside the top 125 in the FedExCup from 2018 to 2020.
“It was tough,” he said. “I felt like things were starting to get a little better and I wasn't quite getting the results, but I wasn't expecting this, either.”
Streb jumped 140 spots in the FedExCup to No. 8 in last season’s standings after his win. He’s the rare player who doesn’t wear a glove - he didn’t like the way they felt when he was a kid - and uses a 10-finger grip. His swing is immediately identifiable thanks to his aggressive leg drive through impact. Streb’s club is almost perpendicular to the ground on the follow-through.
His long-time instructor, Tosh Hays, said this win, and Streb’s entire career, is a testament to perseverance. Hays has been Streb’s coach since Streb was a teenager.
Streb played college golf at Kansas State, a school not known as a golf powerhouse. He finished 126th in the FedExCup in his first TOUR season, missing the Playoffs by a single stroke. He had to return to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s a lesson to staying committed to what has worked for you, even when times get tough,” Hays said. “He believes in what he does. What we do, by no means would it work for every player. The most important thing is that you commit and trust what you do. These guys have peaks and valleys in their careers. There have been some valleys in the last couple years. I’m so proud of how he has responded.”
Streb didn’t look like a player who had been struggling with his game. He was the leader at the halfway mark with a career-low score of 128 (65-63). He started Sunday with a three-shot advantage.
He trailed Kisner by a shot after Kisner’s birdie at the par-5 15th, however. Streb three-putted the same hole for par, then missed a 9-foot birdie putt at 16. He tied Kisner with a birdie at the par-3 17th, where he hit a 6-iron to 11 feet. Streb parred the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Kisner, who shot 63 on Sunday. They tied at 19-under 263.
Streb made a scrambling par after driving into a fairway bunker on the first playoff hole, then closed out the win with his incredible approach shot. Both of his RSM wins have come in playoffs but in very different fashion. Streb made double-bogey on the first hole of the 2014 RSM after snap-hooking his tee shot into a bush. He shot a final-round 63 after starting that Sunday five strokes back.
“It's really nice to say I've got more than one (win),” he said. “Winning more than once … validates what ability you have. It was just kind of unexpected and super nice to get (this win).”
Louis Oosthuizen has gone off the boil somewhat after a remarkably consistent run leading up to The Open Championship at Royal St George’s. He had chances to win The PGA Championship (T2), the US Open (2nd) and The Open (3rd) and managed eight top-10 finishes in 2021. It is beyond belief that the South African has never won on American soil.
Scottie Scheffler continues to make wonderful progress. Like Oosthuizen, he is still looking for a maiden victory but he is still only 25 years old. This is only his third full season on the PGA Tour and he is a young man who is capable who going really low. He hits the ball a long, long way and the courses at Sea Island should be made for his game. Like Ootshuizen, he enjoyed eight top-10 finishes in 2021 and has begun the new season where he left off. He was given a huge boost by being handed a captain’s pick by Steve Stricker at the Ryder Cup.
As a footnote, tt is a major surprise that Rickie Fowler has opted to give the tournament a miss. Fowler missed out on The Masters, US Open and Tour Championship for the first time in his career in 2021. After a thoroughly miserable run, Fowler finished joint third at the recent CJ Cup, which moved him up to 82nd in the world rankings. If he is to receive an invitation to The Masters, he needs to be in the top 50 in the rankings at the end of this week, which is the final regular PGA Tour event of 2021.
Despite everything he has been through in recent years, Fowler remains upbeat.
"Everyone's gone through ups and downs in golf,'' he said. "When you're in those low points, there's times when you wonder like, 'Am I ever going to be back in that position?' Obviously you believe that you can, but there's those thoughts [that] golf is obviously one of the most humbling sports there is and you can never take it for granted. So being in those positions, you know where you want to be, you know you can be there, you've been there before, but it seems like a long uphill battle. It's definitely been humbling. We've been patient, but it's nice to see some stuff start paying off.’’
There are two courses as Sea Island. The Seaside Course, measuring just 7,005 yards, is a par 70 that was designed by Harry Colt and renovated by Tom Fazio in 1999. The Plantation Course measures 7,026 yards and is a par 72. It was designed by Walter Travis and has been extensively remodelled, in 1992 and 1998 by Rees Jones and two years ago by Love Golf Design.
The CSM Classic was won in 2015 by Kevin Kisner, in 2016 by Mackenzie Hughes, in 2017 by Austin Cook, in 2018 by Charles Howell III, in 2019 by Austin Cook and last year by Robert Streb.
Scottie Scheffler arrives at Sea Island after yet another good week in Houston. It is only a matter of time before he wins for the first time. Everybody knows about the vast distances he propels the ball but you don’t achieve everything he has done without also having a pretty handy short game.
Scottie Scheffler. It’s time he broke his duck
Webb Simpson. Sea Island is made for him
Louis Oosthuizen. Looking to recapture his best form
Players to Follow:
Scottie Scheffler. Huge talent
Webb Simpson. Brilliant iron player
Louis Oosthuizen. Is there a better golf swing anywhere?
Five Outsiders to Follow:
Aaron Rai. Looking to make his mark on the PGA Tour
Greyson Sigg. Korn Ferry Tour graduate with a big future
Alex Noren. Has been showing some decent flashes of form
Chris Kirk. A real feel-good story
Branden Grace. It’s all about the putter for the South African
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