2016 The RSM Classic (7th of 43 events in the PGA TOUR Season)
St. Simons Island, GA November 14-20, 2016 Purse: $6,000,000
Seaside Course (Host) Par/Yards: 35-35—70/7,005 FedExCup Points: 500 (winner)
Second-Round Notes – Friday, November 18, 2016
Weather: Sunny skies with a high of 74 degrees. Light, ESE wind at 4-8 mph.
36-Hole Cut: 80 professionals made the 36-hole cut at 5-under-par 137 or better. With more than 78 players making the 36-hole cut, a 54-hole cut will take place (low 70 and ties). That is the lowest cut in relation to par since the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which was also 5-under.
In his first appearance at The RSM Classic, Mackenzie Hughes followed up a career low 61 with a 5-under 67 on Friday to build a two-shot lead over fellow rookie Cheng Tsung Pan. Beginning on the back nine of the Plantation Course, he parred the first four holes before reeling off birdies on Nos. 14, 16, 18, 4, and 5 to finish off a bogey-free round. Hughes’ 14-under 128 is two shots better in relation to par than Billy Horschel’s previous tournament record from 2011.
After two rounds, Hughes is leading the field in strokes off-the-tee (+1.875), strokes gained tee-to-green (+4.673), driving accuracy (28/32), and has been perfect in scrambling (7/7).
The 25-year-old Canadian, who resides in Charlotte, N.C., is making his ninth start on the PGA TOUR and his fifth this season after finishing 28th in the final priority-ranking order following two seasons on the Web.com Tour. He won the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr. Pepper this year, one of three top-10s and 14 made cuts from 23 starts on the Web.com Tour.
In his lone win on the Web.com Tour, Hughes was four shots back entering the weekend but closed with rounds of 64-66 for a one-shot victory over Richy Werenski. In that victory, Werenski had posted 23-under in the group ahead with an eagle at the last, but Hughes stiffed his approach to four feet at the last and drained the birdie to secure the win and his TOUR card.
Immediately following graduation from Kent State University, Hughes turned professional and won the 2013 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Order of Merit title and Player of the Year honors after winning the 2013 Cape Breton Classic to go with a runner-up and T3 finish. The lone time Hughes has led after 36 holes in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event came on that Tour at the 2015 The Players Cup, where he opened with rounds of 68-65 but fell to solo fourth after weekend rounds of 72-69.
Hughes made his debut as a PGA TOUR member by finishing T13 at the Safeway Open in September. He played with Phil Mickelson both rounds on the weekend. Hughes married his wife, Jenna, the weekend after his first start as a TOUR member and is set to go on his honeymoon to Thailand in December. The T13 finish at the Safeway Open is his best in four starts this season. He missed the cut at last week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Hughes and Pan are quite familiar with each other. Hughes and Pan both finished among The 25 on the Web.com Tour in 2016 to earn their card, and Hughes and Pan actually matched up in the quarterfinals of match play at the 2011 Western Amateur, where Pan emerged victorious after 20 holes. Both players are also past winners of the Cape Breton Open.
Second-Round Leader Notes
Through six events in the 2016-17 PGA TOUR Season, the second-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win three times (Justin Thomas/CIMB Classic, Hideki Matsuyama/HSBC Champions, Rod Pampling/Shriners Hospitals for Children Open). With three-shot leads after 36 holes, Matsuyama and Scott Piercy have held the largest 36-hole leads of the season thus far.
Chris Kirk is the only second-round leader/co-leader that has gone on to win The RSM Classic, finishing off a one-shot 36-hole lead at the 2013-14 RSM Classic with rounds of 68-66 for a one-shot victory. Last year, Kevin Kisner trailed Kevin Chappell by one shot entering the weekend, but fired back-to-back rounds of 64 to close out a six-shot victory.
Hughes’ two-shot lead through 36 holes matches Billy Horschel’s 2011 lead for the largest entering the weekend in the six-year history of the event.
Cheng Tsung Pan
PGA TOUR rookie Cheng Tsung Pan is just two shots back of his fellow rookie Hughes’ lead after rounds of 66-64—130 (-12). Starting on the back nine of the Seaside Course, Pan parred his first four holes before reeling off a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on Nos. 14-16. Pan bogeyed the 17th, but posted birdies at Nos. 2, 5 and 8 on the way in for a career-best 6-under 64.
In four starts on TOUR this season, the 25-year-old has played the weekend twice with a season-best T46 at last week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Pan earned his TOUR card for the 2016-17 season after finishing 11th on the 2016 Web.com Tour Regular Season Money list with seven top-10s in 22 starts. The Miaoli, Taiwan native represented his native Chinese Taipei in the 2016 Olympic Games with a T30 finish in Brazil.
The former World No. 1 amateur has risen through both the Web.com Tour and Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada to get to the PGA TOUR after earning Web.com Tour status for 2016 with a second-place finish on the 2015 Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit, where he won twice in only seven starts.
Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford is finding it quite comfortable playing at home this week after opening with rounds of 64-67. The former Georgia Bulldog posted six birdies and a bogey on the Plantation Course in the second round to climb to 11-under for the tournament, three shots back of Hughes’ lead.
In three prior appearances at The RSM Classic, Swafford’s missed the cut two of the last three years but posted a T12 finish in 2015.
This is Swafford’s fourth start of the 2016-17 season, and he has now played the weekend in each of his first four starts, with a T29 at the CIMB Classic marking his best finish of the season. A year ago, Swafford posted his best ever finish in the FedExCup standings with a 64th place finish after making the cut in 22 of 30 starts with one top-10.
Blayne Barber followed up a career-best 63 in the opening round with a 4-under 68 on the Plantation Course to get to 11-under and within three of the 36-hole lead. Through two rounds, Barber is fourth in the field in greens in regulation after hitting 32 of 36 greens so far.
Barber’s making his third consecutive start at The RSM Classic, with his best finish coming a year ago with a T75 finish. At T3 through 36 holes, Barber’s in his highest position on the leaderboard ever on TOUR through two rounds.
Four-time PGA TOUR winner Chad Campbell birdied the first two holes on the Seaside Course on his way to a second-round 5-under 65.
Campbell has made the cut in each of his first four starts of the 2016-17 season with his best finish coming last week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba with a T35.
In six consecutive starts at The RSM Classic, Campbell has made the cut five of six times with two top-10s, including a T9 finish last year. His best effort at The RSM came with a T7 in 2012.
The 42-year-old is looking his first TOUR victory since the 2007 Sanderson Farms Championship.
Additional Player Notes
The Sea Island residents are finding the “home game” quite satisfying so far with three of the Sea Island professionals among the top-10 – Hudson Swafford (T3), Jonathan Byrd (T7), Josh Teater (T7), and Charles Howell III (T7). Barber (T3) and Billy Horschel (T7) don’t live in Sea Island but do train at Sea Island Golf Performance Center.
None of the members of the top-five on the leaderboard are inside the top-200 in the Official World Golf Rankings– Hughes (287), Pan (215), Swafford (217), Campbell (201), Barber (268), and Hadley (411). Among the 17 players inside the top-10 on the leaderboard, only three are inside the top-100 in the Official World Golf Rankings – Billy Horschel (76), Jason Kokrak (88), Charles Howell III (97).
2013-14 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Chesson Hadley is in search of his first top-10 since the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Hadley struggled during the 2015-16 season with a 159th place finish in the FedExCup standings that included zero top-10s in 27 starts and forced him to return to the Web.com Tour Finals, where he made the cut in just one of three starts.
Tournament host Davis Love III missed the cut with rounds of 72-70 in his 735th start on the PGA TOUR. Here’s a look at Love’s finishes at The RSM Classic (T33/2010, MC/2011, T4/2012, MC/2013, T41/2014, T33/2015, MC/2016).
Defending champion of The RSM Classic Kevin Kisner opened with 2-under 68 at the Seaside Course but followed with an even-par 72 on the Plantation Course to miss the cut by three shots. Kisner was one of four past champions to miss playing the weekend.
All six of the past champions of the RSM Classic are in the field this week.
Champion Year won 36-Hole Score Place
36-hole scores for “Team RSM” Members:
Sea Island Connections in the field
Tournament host, Sea Island resident and “Team RSM” member Davis Love III headlines the list of players with Sea Island connections, with the majority training out of the state-of-the-art Sea Island Golf Performance Center:
- Blayne Barber – trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Jonathan Byrd – Sea Island resident, trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Stewart Cink – trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Harris English – Sea Island resident, trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Brian Harman – Sea Island resident, trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Billy Horschel – trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Charles Howell III – owns Sea Island property
- Zach Johnson – “Team RSM”, Sea Island resident, trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Patton Kizzire – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Matt Kuchar – Sea Island resident, trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Rick Lamb – Sea Island Resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Scott Langley – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Davis Love III – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Trey Mullinax – trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- J.T. Poston – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Seamus Power –trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Kyle Reifers – trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Sam Saunders – trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Hudson Swafford – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Michael Thompson – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center
- Bobby Wyatt – Sea Island resident; trains at Sea Island Golf Performance Center