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There was a lot of speculation coming in to this week's RSM Classic that the ‘Masters hangover’, which tends to affect players each year who were seriously in the mix at Augusta the week before, would rear its head and sure enough that does look to have been the case.
Of the players who made the journey to Sea Island on the back of a top 30 at Augusta, eight of them, namely Im, Frittelli, Pan, Munoz, Rose, Schwartzel, Kang and Taylor missed the cut and only one of them, Corey Conners who currently sits 14th, is anywhere to be seen near the top of the leaderboard.
So in the absence of this week's star turns like Simpson, Hatton and Fleetwood at the business end of proceedings what we are left with is a typical shorter hitters convention that you tend to see at this type of venue and top of the pile through 54 holes is the 2014 champion Robert Streb on a total of 17 under.
Streb, who opened up with a strong 65 on the Seaside Course on Thursday, really put the peddle to the floor on Friday with a bogey free 63 at the Plantation Course and a 67 back on the Seaside on Saturday has seen him open up a three shot lead over Zach Johnson and Bronson Burgoon.
Allowing for the fact that Streb is a former champion here, his position at the top of the leaderboard can’t be called a complete surprise, but his performance is very much a ‘horses for courses’ effort similar to that of Brian Gay in Bermuda recently, as there hasn't been much in his recent play that would have lead you to him this week.
Bearing this in mind the man from Kansas stayed impressively calm on Saturday and rarely looked in any trouble and on that basis I could understand the logic in siding with him at 6/4, or the general 11/8, allowing for his three shot lead.
From my point of view, though, aside from his recent poor form I do have a couple of other concerns, which make me feel Streb is worth taking on.
Firstly, looking at his stats this week it's clear to see that he has done most of his work with the putter, currently sitting fourth at the Seaside Course in that department, while he is also third in scrambling.
Conversely, though, he lost just over half a stroke to the field in approach play on Saturday and it was clear to me that he was getting pretty conservative with his irons as the round progressed.
As we know from experience a hot putter more often than not dries up on pay-day and, with the breeze forecast to be a bit lighter for the final round, he’ll need to be sharper with the irons if he is to keep the chasing pack at bay.
Secondly, while Streb has got the job done here before it will be in the back of his mind that when he did so he was the ‘hunter not the hunted’ as he came from five shots back on the final day with a closing 63 before ultimately seeing off Brendon De Jonge and Will MacKenzie in extra time, so this is a totally different set of circumstances.
While it has been a struggle for Streb over the recent years he does have relatively recent experience of being in or around the lead going in to Sunday, as twice in the space of a couple of months in 2018 he shared the 54 hole lead, firstly on the PGA Tour at the Barbasol where he could only manage 72 on the final day, slipping to 10th and then a few weeks later on the Korn Ferry Tour at the Nationwide children’s Hospital Championship when he closed with a 71 before seeing off Peter Malnati in a play-off.
Some positive experience then in the latter for him to draw on no doubt but all in all he is not for me.
Having established we are going to take Streb on, the question is with whom? The obvious candidate is local man Zach Johnson who has clearly been trending in the right direction of late and followers of Ben Coley who took his pre-tournament advice to jump on board will be hoping the two-time major champion can make a long overdue return to the winner's enclosure.
While it may well be that this does transpire to be Johnson’s day to become the first member of the ‘Sea Island mafia’ to triumph here his somewhat erratic driver on Saturday is enough to put me off the general 7/2.
With both tour maiden Burgoon and another former champ here, Kisner, also struggling slightly with their approach play, my view is that in an event which has seen winners come from four, five and even seven back over the years, and Patrick Rodgers closed with a 62 a couple of years ago to make a play off, that it is worth rolling the dice a bit further down the leaderboard. The two I will chance each-way (1/5 1,2,3) to make a splash are Andrew Landry and Matthew NeSmith who both sit six back on 11 under.
Landry is one of those rare breed of players who seems to save his best for when he is in the hunt. Granted his form has been poor of late, however followers of his career will know that counts for very little as both of his tour wins have come on the back of a run of bad results, with the most recent at the American Express earlier this year coming after five straight missed cuts.
Landry spoke after his round on Saturday about how much he likes it here having played the course on several occasions as an amateur in the SEC Championships and having also finished fourth in the RSM in 2017.
He sits fourth for the week from tee to green on the Seaside Course and seventh in approach play and the two time tour winner looks value to me to make a charge.
NeSmith meanwhile, who was one of mine and Ben's pre-tournament picks, has justified our faith by being the best player at the Seaside course over the past two days, shooting rounds of 63 and 66.
All departments of his game are in full working order and the only foot he put wrong on Saturday was to contrive to miss a birdie putt from inside three feet on the 11th.
Still a maiden on tour there is always a risk the Sunday nerves get to him but he's hopefully far enough back that this won't be the case, and if not I can see him producing another low round on a course that he clearly loves and is perfect for his game.
Posted at 0810 GMT on 22/11/20