Ending Sea Island Mafia’s RSM Classic drought now falls to Brian Harman

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Davis Love III drops a reference to the Sea Island mafia, a nod to the southern sensibilities that rule this idyllic seaside enclave.

But if the report is a little crude, the sentiment is not.

At least a dozen PGA Tour players live within a bike ride of Sea Island Resort, site of this week’s RSM Classic, and all enthusiastically call the layout home. It may not be a mafia, but it’s arguably one of the most unique and close-knit communities in professional golf, which makes the local record at the RSM Classic one of the strangest on Tour.

Since Love made the tour stop in the Golden Isles in 2010, there has never been a local winner. There have been many close calls and, some would argue, a few brushes with semantics, but no local champions.

Full field rating from RSM Classic

“You know, they say a local never won here, but I mean Kisner spends all kinds of time here. Kirk, Kirk lived here for seven or eight years,” Brian Harman said Saturday when asked about the local drought.

Kevin Kisner did, in fact, live on “the island,” as it’s colloquially called, before returning home to Aiken, SC, but he wasn’t a resident when he won the RSM Classic in 2015. So was Chris Kirk, his champion 2013 and Charles Howell III (2018), who has been a regular in the area since his youth, when he would drive from Augusta, Ga., for golf lessons. But they didn’t even live there when they won.

There is no shortage of reasons for the drought. As many locals have pointed out, the Seaside and Plantation courses that host the event are not normally in tournament format the other 51 weeks of the year. As resort courses, it wouldn’t make sense to keep the greens firm and fast and the fairways thick for guests.

There is also something to be said for the November timing of the event on the schedule. While the date works well for the sponsor and the tour, it’s not the best choice for those looking for warmth and sunshine, as evidenced by this week’s forecast.

“There’s no way I was going to play golf today,” Harman said Thursday, when temperatures never topped 50 degrees and a chilly wind made both courses an exercise in reducing odds.

The inhabitants of the island of St. Simons also enjoys a bewilderment about golf’s wealth when it comes to practice options. Along with the two courses at Sea Island, many of the area’s Tour players are also members at Ocean Forest Golf Club and Frederica Golf Club, world-class facilities with plenty of opportunities for competitive play.

“I wouldn’t say I play Seaside and Plantation every day, but I play it pretty well throughout the year,” said Harris English, who is playing the RSM Classic for the 11th time this week and yet has just one top- 10 termination (2021). “You want to play your best for your friends and family and everybody that comes out and you feel like you have to play well.

“There are a lot of good players in this field and they can all play very good golf. Just because I’ve hit those greens more than they have or played those golf courses more than them doesn’t mean I have that much of an advantage over them.”

Harman is the island’s best choice to end the drought this week. After opening rounds of 67-69, he played his way into contention with a third-round 64 and was two shots off the lead and tied for sixth. Like English, this is Harman’s 11th start in the RSM Classic with his closest brush with victory coming in 2018 when he finished a distant fourth.

For the 35-year-old, the event means more to him than any other (non-major championship category) and he maintains that like the growing number of local Tour pros who call the island home, it’s just a matter of when, not if.

“There is a lot of talent on this island and one of us is going to win this tournament sooner or later,” Harman said.

Whether that breakthrough comes sooner rather than later, it now belongs to Harman, the lone hope for the Sea Island mob—or whatever title Love prefers for the local body.

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