RSM Classic final round preview: Talor Gooch hits Tiger Woods stingers to lead, Webb Simpson lurking

The Sea Island Resort was buffeted by a blustery wind on Saturday and the in-form Gooch stood strong.

Is this the week when Talor Gooch makes his winning breakthrough on the PGA Tour?

The 30-year-old has hit the 2021/22 season running, featuring on the front page of the leaderboard in every start.

He's logged a fourth and a fifth, has twice started quickly before fading to T11th and, last week, led after the first round before drifting to T60th.

This week has been even better. He opened Saturday at the RSM Classic with the lead and he ended it that way too.

His third round 67 left him three shots clear of Seamus Power and Sebastian Munoz on 16-under 196.

Tom Hoge is alone in fourth and the nearest prolific winner is Webb Simpson, among a pack lurking six shots back.

Gooch has earned this golden opportunity for a first win by utilising a little bit of Tiger Woods inspiration in the high wind.

Asked about the low drilled drives he was hitting, he said: "It's a little stinger, a Tiger shot, right?"

He refuted the notion that he's an inventive golfer in the wind, preferring to explain that, out of necessity, he's just learned to hit a low ball.

"Not super creative," he admitted. "For me, my creativity is just hitting high or hitting low, not let the wind get it.

"My (low) tee shot on the last? I don't think people realize that not a lot of people have that shot. In fact, a caddie in our group was like, 'Where'd you grow up, dude?' I was like, 'Oklahoma, we've got to learn how to hit that one like that.'"

Let's take a closer look at the leading contenders, the chasers and Sea Island stats.

Talor Gooch - leading on 16-under

His course form is not great. He's yet to land a top 20 in four visits and has three times missed the cut, but there's really no need for that to bother him now.

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He's also never held a 54 hole lead on either the first or second tier, his best efforts being a couple of seconds on the PGA Tour. In the first he finished tied fifth in the CJ Cup last year, in the second T11th in this month's World Wide Technology Championship.

"If you don't enjoy pressure, you're in the wrong sport," he said. "I've been fortunate since I've been five years old to have a group of buddies that we all grew up playing sports together and we're always doing something to put some pressure on and try to break each other basically.

"When I think of pressure I think back to Q-School, second stage in 2016. I was on the number going to the third round and I didn't have any more money. I was thinking 'I'm going to have to go work at Best Buy unless I get it together.' Fortunately I got it together."

Seamus Power - tied second on 13-under

Made six top 20s starts in seven summer starts and used that momentum to land a first PGA Tour win at the Barbasol Championship. Has then started the new campaign with three top 25s and a pair of missed cuts.

His win came from three back at this stage, his win on the Korn Ferry Tour from two back.

"I didn't lose hope or anything like that," he said of gaining that first win. "I always said if I didn't think I could win, I wouldn't have continued to play. I love playing golf, but the best part of golf is being up in contention, making putts that matter, hitting shots that matter. That's the fun aspect for me. Hopefully I can build on that one and continue from there."

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Sebastian Munoz - tied second on 13-under

The Colombian has one win on both the PGA Tour and KFT, both when holding a one shot lead after three rounds. He's been second after three rounds five times (twice on the PGA Tour), is yet to win from that point, and three times dropped out the top 10.

"Really, really good. It wasn't easy, little more gusty than I anticipated. I putted good. It's tough to putt with windy conditions, we'll see what needs to be done for tomorrow."

The stats

In the last seven years, 15 players have won or made extra holes in this tournament and every single one of them ranked top 25 for Putting Average.

The last four winners were also gun from tee to green, each of them ranking top seven for Green in Regulation.

Seven of the 11 winners at Sea Island were leading or sharing the lead with 18 holes to play. There have, however, been four decent come backs.

Ben Crane in 2011 was tied ninth and five blows back, Robert Streb in 2014 was T12th and five back, Tyler Duncan in 2019 was tied fifth and four back, but honours go to Tommy Gainey who was T29th and seven back.

Gooch's stats are excellent. He's in pole position and is both hitting greens and draining putts (fifth for GIR, sixth PA).

Munoz's numbers are not bad, ranking 17th and 11th for the keys stats.

Could Simpson mount a distant title bid? He's ranking fifth for greens hit and sixth for putting, the second best set of numbers in the leading contenders. He'll need to sharpen up his scrambling and hope Gooch makes a slip, but he has it in him - he's gone sub-67 in four of his eight final laps at Sea Island. He also won the 2012 US Open from four shots back.

Gooch is a deserved odds on favourite and arguably should be a touch shorter than 5/6. Power is 6/1, Munoz 7/1 and Simpson ...

READ MORE: Rory McIlroy's quest for more Major Championship glory: Can more coaching changes turn the tide?

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