RSM Classic 2021 DFS picks: Why fading Kevin Kisner is the play
This has been a sprint of sorts on the PGA Tour from the start of the Super Season last year—but it ends after this week. The familiar confines of the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga., is the perfect venue to put 2021 to rest.
Competitors will play Thursday and Friday on two courses—Seaside and Plantation—before making a cut and playing the Seaside Course for the final two rounds.
Looking at some of the names that have had the most success here (Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson, Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, etc.) it’s easy to see that driving accuracy will be critical and lack of distance won’t necessarily be a detriment.
Here are my favorite plays (and fades) in each price range at the 2021 RSM Classic.
Price range: $9,000 and above
High Upside: Cameron Smith ($10,300 DraftKings | $11,800 FanDuel)
It’s easy to overlook Smith, but he’s been quite literally the best player in this field for some time. It doesn’t really matter how you slice it—by 16 rounds, by 32 rounds, by 48 rounds—Smith is gaining more strokes per round than anyone else in this field, per RickRunGood.com. That alone should be good enough when he’s the fourth-most expensive player on the slate.
Safest Option: Webb Simpson ($10,700 DraftKings | $11,900 FanDuel)
Simpson is coming off a down season, battling both injury and illness. Now, seemingly healthy, Simpson is coming off a T-14 at the CJ Cup and heads to his beloved Sea Island, Ga. In the seven trips to this event that he finished (WD in 2017), he’s finished inside the top 40 in all of them. Four of those years, he’s been inside the top 10, and he owns the best strokes gained average (2.08) of anyone who has played at least nine rounds at this event.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Kevin Kisner ($9,200 DraftKings | $10,700 FanDuel)
Recent form or course history? Which matters more? I suppose we will add another data point to the argument with Kisner this week. He not only owns the tournament scoring record, en route to his 2015 victory, but he has two more runner-up finishes and two more T-7s. He’s dominated at this event. Unfortunately, his last four starts on tour have been horrendous. He’s lost strokes on approach in all four and lost strokes with his putter in three of them.
Pick To Win: Corey Conners ($9,900 DraftKings | $11,500 FanDuel)
Conners is flying in under the radar, considering it’s been over a month since his last competitive round (T-40 at Shriners). Conners continues to be one of the best ball-strikers on tour, gaining strokes off the tee in 19 consecutive events and gaining on approach in 16 of those 19. While putting tends to be an issue for Conners, his best putting surface is Bermudagrass, which is what he’ll see in Sea Island.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Joel Dahmen ($8,500 DraftKings | $10,100 FanDuel)
Dahmen finished with a flurry on Sunday last week, shooting a 65 to fly up the leader board and finish T-5. The winner at Puntacana earlier this year gained 3.69 strokes from tee-to-green for the week and was excellent in both ball-striking categories.
Safest Option: Mackenzie Hughes ($8,600 DraftKings | $10,000 FanDuel)
Hughes has made the cut in 12 consecutive events and there’s no reason to think that’ll stop this week. He should thrive on a shorter course that rewards accuracy, just like he did in 2016 when he won this event.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Seamus Power ($8,200 DraftKings | $9,900 FanDuel)
Please forgive me for listing Power here. I’m incredibly bullish on Power moving forward … just not this week. Power had an ugly MC last week that included him losing over one stroke on approach—something he rarely does. Now he will need to bounce back at a course that hasn’t suited him over the years. In four career starts, he’s missed the cut in three of them and finished T-74 in the other.
Pick To Win: Keegan Bradley ($8,900 DraftKings | $10,500 FanDuel)
Bradley should be able to lean on his driver this week, offering a great combination of accuracy and distance. While his putter still misbehaves, he’s been better on the greens lately. He’s only played this event once, finishing T-15 last year.
$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Patrick Rodgers ($7,700 DraftKings | $9,500 FanDuel)
Note that Rodgers is nowhere near the safe option in this range, and that’s just fine! This will be his seventh trip to Sea Island, and he’s missed the cut in half of his previous six starts. However, in the other half, he finished runner-up, T-10 and T-44. He has similar results on tour recently, with four starts this season—earning two top-six finishes and two MCs.
Safest Option: Alex Smalley ($7,100 DraftKings | $9,100 FanDuel)
Smalley is playing his first season with full PGA Tour status, and he’s making the most of it. In his five starts this season, he’s made the cut in his last four and has earned a T-15 and T-12 in his two most recent starts. Even more important for safety, he’s been gaining in all four SG categories. That well-rounded game should lead Smalley to the weekend again in Sea Island.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Kyle Stanley ($7,100 DraftKings |$8,200 FanDuel)
It will be enticing to play Stanley at the RSM Classic, where he’s never missed the cut in six trips. However, his form entering the week is terrible—missing the cut in seven of his past eight events. Even gaining 0.83 strokes with the putter last week, something that Stanley rarely does, wasn’t enough to save him from a short week.
Pick To Win: Luke List ($7,500 DraftKings | $9,300 FanDuel)
It can be maddening to watch List on the putting greens, but he’s played well enough to earn a T-11 and T-7 over his past three starts. We’ve seen him find success on “less than driver” courses, which is backed by his T-4 and T-13 finishes in his last five trips to Sea Island. He’ll need to putt to the field average, but if he does, he can make plenty of noise this week.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Andrew Landry ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)
We are running out of good courses for Landry, so we might as well use him. He’s earned two top-seven finishes in his past four starts and has finished fourth on two separate occasions in Sea Island. He’s certainly not a safe option, but he’s capable of popping up to the top of the leader board on courses that reward driving accuracy.
Safest Option: Zach Johnson ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Speaking of driving accuracy, enter Zach Johnson. He’s thrived on short courses during his career—and the data is there to back it up. On par-70 courses that are less than 7,050 yards, Johnson is gaining 0.87 strokes per round, according to the RickRunGood.com golf database. That’s the 13th-best mark in this field and he has three top-eight finishes in the past four years at the RSM Classic.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Cam Davis ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)
I couldn’t design a course worse for Davis, who would benefit from a longer, more wide-open course. In his two trips to this event, he’s failed to make the cut in either. He’s struggled with consistency since his win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and this doesn’t seem to be the place to find it.
Pick To Win: Matthew NeSmith ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,200 FanDuel)
I’ve been waiting for the NeSmith breakout for some time. He’s one of the best approach players on TOUR and he’s flashed brilliance at times during his career. With top-15 finishes in each of his two previous starts, this appears to be one of the better spots for NeSmith to contend.
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Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.