The Sanderson Farms Championship
It was a disappointing end to a week in the Dominican Republic for us at the Corales Puntacana Championship as at the halfway stage we had been in good shape with four of our team through to the weekend and Xinjun Zhang in particular very handily placed.
Unfortunately however after getting himself in to position to register his maiden PGA Tour title Zhang stalled badly on Sunday and a two over par round of 74 saw him tumble from fourth place overnight to out of the each way places altogether and with the remainder of our team stalling over the weekend this meant a blank week for us.
The event in the end was won by Hudson Swafford who, having stumbled badly down the stretch when looking in complete control, rallied superbly to birdie the 17th hole and make a clutch par on 18 to close out a one shot victory and land his second tour title.
So we move on to the Sanderson Farms Championship.
The event has been a part of the tours schedule since 1968 and during this time it has had many different title sponsors including the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, The Viking Classic and the True South Classic, before Sanderson Farms took over duties in 2013.
The tournament has always been played in Mississippi.
From inception up to 1994 it was played in Hattiesburg before then moving to Annandale Golf Club, which hosted the event up to 2013, before the Country Club of Jackson took over from the 14/15 season.
Up until last year the event had been an opposite field event running alongside the WGC HSBC Champions in China, however 2019 saw the tournament move forward to September as the second event of the new PGA Tour season in its own right with full Fedex Cup points being allocated.
While the field sees an improvement from last weeks line up in the Dominican Republic the games elite continue to sit things out this week as they take a breather between the US Open and the Masters. As such the market is headed up by Scottie Scheffler who arrives rested after having to unfortunately skip the US Open due to a positive Covid-19 test.
Scheffler is then followed by Sunjae Im and Will Zalatoris who makes the field courtesy of his backdoor top ten last week.
The Country Club of Jackson Course is a par 72 measuring just over 7400yds.
The greens are Champion Ultra Dwarf Bermuda, comparable to that which are found at TPC Southwind, Sedgefield CC, Quail Hollow since 2017 and the Robert Trent Jones Trail host of the Barbasol from 2015-17.
The course was originally opened in 1962 before undergoing a redesign in 2008 under the guidance of John Fought.
With reasonably wide fairways The Country Club of Jackson can’t be seen as a tough test however the main problems can be found on and around the greens with raised surfaces and run of areas proving to be challenging over the years.
As well as strong putting GIR can therefore be seen as significant as it is important to try and find the right spots on greens.
So lets take a look at the winners of the event since it moved to its current home in 2014, The Country Club of Jackson.
2019 – S Munoz
2018 – C Champ
2017 – R Armour
2016 – C Gribble
2015 – P Malnati
2014 – N Taylor
The first and most striking connection in these six players is that their win here was the maiden tour win for each of them.
Beyond that I will confess that there are no further completely obvious links that strike me between them. Five of these players here could be seen as neat and tidy, ‘all rounders’, rather than aggressive bombers, however 2018 winner Cameron Champ literally bombed that theory out of the water as he made mincemeat of the par fives on his way to victory.
Whilst all six were maiden winners Champ, Taylor & Gribble were rookies in their 20s, whilst Malnati, also in his 20s at the time of winning, was returning to the tour for a second stint after a disappointing first go in 2014. Last year’s winner Munoz, who was also in his twenties, meanwhile was in his third full season on tour.
Armour however was [and still arguably is] a journeyman of the tour in the truest sense of the word when clinching his maiden tour win here at the age of 41, after years of bouncing back and forth between the big league and the lower levels.
Three of the five, Munoz, Malnati and Gribble are considered as strong putters, with Malnati in particular being known as one of the best putters on tour so this perhaps ties in to the fact that the toughest challenge at the Country Club of Jackson is to be found on and around the greens.
If we then look at the form coming in to the event of these winners Armour, Gribble and Munoz, had been in good form coming in to the event.
Armour had posted three solid finishes in the Web.com finals events including a top 5 in the first one, The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. In addition he had finished 4th in his final start of the previous season on the PGA Tour at the Wyndham.
Gribble had finished 5th in his final start of the year on the Web.com, again at the Nationwide event, before finishing 8th in his first start on the PGA Tour at the Safeway while Munoz had finished seventh at the Greenbrier the week before triumphing here.
On the flip side to this though the previous two winners Malnati and Taylor had been struggling for form coming in with nothing better than a 56th place between them in their previous three starts.
Finally 2018 winner Cameron Champ had warmed up nicely with a 25th place at the Safeway the week before however his form prior to that on the Korn Ferry Tour had been fairly uninspiring as he had managed nothing better than 16th in his last six starts of the 2018 season.
If we then look at previous course form this does not give us too much to go on either I’m afraid. Taylor naturally was making his course debut here when winning the first outing at Jackson CC and this was also the case for the 2015, 16 & 18 winners Malnati, Gribble & Champ.
2017 victor Ryan Armour meanwhile had played here on two previous occasions and had missed the cut on both while Munoz had played here twice before finishing 50th and 30th.
Finally in search of clues I took a look at where the recent winners hail from.
As the event has been held in Mississippi for many years prior to moving to it’s current home I stretched this back a bit further going back to 2010.
This showed that in that time we have had three winners who either hail from or are now based in Tennessee, Malnati, Stallings and Kirk, one Texan winner, Gribble, a Floridian, Woody Austin, A Canadian, Nick Taylor and a North Carolinian, Bill Haas.
Basically until Champ’s victory in 2018 who comes originally comes from Sacramento, no winner of this event had hailed from West Coast areas such as California, Nevada or Arizona. It should be noted though Champ did attend college in Texas so this connection to Southern states was not completely lost.
Similarly last years winner Munoz, while hailing from Colombia, also attended college in Texas so this again gives us that link. In fact last years final leaderboard saw four players with Texas connections, Munoz, Ortiz, Burgoon & Frittelli finish in the top six and ties.
This is not hugely surprising baring in mind the event is held on Bermuda greens and this is certainly an important factor to consider.
So there we have it then. In all likelihood we are looking for a maiden winner, quite possibly in their 20s, who hails from or has a connection to southern/eastern states!
I’m pleased to say the weather looks set fair for the week with sun and blue sky’s throughout. Temperatures look like being great as well in the mid to high 70s throughout, and with the wind not forecast to get above 10-12mph on any of the four days it basically looks like a perfect week for golf.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
SAM BURNS – 25 -1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Obviously there is a great opportunity here for Scottie Scheffler to land his maiden tour title, something that looks fairly certain to come sooner rather than later, however at odds of 10/1 I am quite happy to let that go unbacked if it does happen and instead at two and a half times the price I will take my chances on another winner in waiting, Sam Burns, instead.
Burns who hails from Shreveport, a couple of hundred miles away in neighbouring Louisiana will be making his fourth consecutive start in this event this week and having posted a third place finish in 2018, which remains his best result on tour, sandwiched in amongst efforts of 43rd and 45th this is clearly a venue he is comfortable at.
The third place result in 2018 obviously speaks for itself however last year when Sam arrived in Jackson he pitched up on the back of two missed cuts, a WD and a 35th place finish in his last four starts of the previous Korn Ferry season, and a MC on his first start of the PGA season at the Greenbrier, yet he still posted a second round of 64 on his way to his 45th place result.
This year of course with twelve months gone by it is a very different story as Burns should arrive in a confident mood having opened the new campaign with finishes of seventh and 28th.
Looking at that 28th place finish at the weekend at the Corales and the result could certainly have been much better as alongside rounds 69, 67 & 66 on Thursday, Friday & Sunday Sam had a shocker on Saturday where the wheels came off and he posted a 78. He did however bounce back well to post the 66, his best round of the week on Sunday, so I am happy to put the Saturday performance down to a bad day at the office.
It is also worth noting that despite Sam’s poor showing on the Saturday where he only hit ten greens he still finished the week fourth for GIR and fourth for DA, [there were no Strokes Gained stats available] so that shows how well he hit the ball the remaining three days.
As noted earlier this venue shares the same green types, Championship Bermuda, as Sedgefield CC and the RTJ Trail, which previously hosted the Barbasol Championship and that leads us to the fact that not only did Burns finish a very creditable 13th at Sedgefield CC in August but he also finished sixth at the Barbasol in 2017 when still an amateur.
All in all as noted earlier this is an event that of late has consistently thrown up first time winners, normally in their twenties and at the odds on offer I am happy to take my chances that Burns can add his name to that list this week.
CARLOS ORTIZ –50-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up for me this week is a straightforward case of course form meeting what I see as an attractive price in the shape of Carlos Ortiz.
Ortiz has made two visits to the CC of Jackson over the past two years and has bagged very healthy cheques both times as he has finished third and fourth.
What particularly strikes me and leads me to chance Carlos this year though is that on both of those occasions he has arrived here in fairly unspectacular form as in 2018 he had finished no better than 25th in his final five starts on the Korn Ferry Tour before opening up his PGA season with a 53rd at the Safeway, while in 2019 he had gone MC 39 67 MC in his previous four starts.
From that point of view Ortiz arrives here slightly under the radar from the bookies point of view this week hence what I see as generous odds of 50/1 yet his 25th place at the BMW followed by a season opening 46th at the Safeway in my eyes actually have him regaining some momentum at just the right time after a disappointing run of form post lockdown.
2019/20 represented the Mexican’s best year on the PGA Tour by some distance to date as he finished 51st in the Fedex Cup standings and the backbone of his season, which helped him achieve this was undoubtedly his three top five finishes in five starts in the Fall series last year, a run, which begun here with his fourth place.
Now 29 Ortiz, who played his college golf in Texas, is a proven winner at Korn Ferry level and I believe he is now ready to step up to the winners enclosure in the big league and as someone who fits the recent profile here perfectly I am happy to have him onside this week.
TOM LEWIS – 66 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
While the rest of my team carry a ‘southern states’ link to them this week the one player I can’t resist including who doesn’t fit that profile is Tom Lewis.
There are a couple of things, which draw me to the Englishman this week. Firstly for whatever reason there is a link, between some of the past winners/strong performers who have also played well in the United Leasing event on the Korn Ferry Tour, which is held at Victoria National in Indiana. Armour, Gribble, Power and Randolph have all performed well in both. Therefore as the venue at which Lewis produced his superb performance in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2019 he very much comes on the radar.
Secondly if we then look at Lewis’ 19/20 campaign on the PGA Tour his best effort by far came at the WGC Fedex St Jude where he finished second and, as mentioned earlier TPC Southwind is one of the few tracks on tour, which has the same greens the players will face this week. Furthermore for good measure Tom’s next best effort, a 12th place finish came at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on a Donald Ross track, which certainly bares similarity to this weeks venue from the point of view of the undulating greens.
Bar those two performances it has to be said 19/20 was largely underwhelming for Tom however on his day he is class act who knows how to win and is more than capable of doing so in this company.
From that point of view on a course, which I have a hunch will suit his game, I am happy to roll the dice at the odds on offer.
BEAU HOSSLER – 100-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 57th
Next up and returning to the Texas connection I am very keen on the chances of a big week for Beau Hossler.
As noted earlier the last two winners of this event have both attended college in the Lone Star State and having attended the University of Texas a win for Beau this week would make this a hat trick.
Since a great 2017/18 debut campaign on tour in all honesty it has been a struggle for Beau and last season saw him post just the one top ten, at the Farmers, on his way to 116th in the Fedex Cup standings.
A the season opening Safeway Open Beau looked to be heading for another weekend off as early in his second round he sat at +2 for the tournament. At this point however something clicked for Hossler on the 14th hole, his fifth of the day, as he reeled off six straight birdies and from there on in he performed strongly for the remainder of the week to post a 23rd place finish.
On that basis Hossler was very much on my radar for last weeks Corales event, however the fact that he had no great history of performing well on comparable tracks was enough to put me off and for me to keep my powder dry until this week and from that point of view last weeks under the radar 41st place finish was almost ideal.
So with some traction hopefully on his side Hossler now arrives at a venue that he has tee’d it up on on only one previous occasion in 2017 when he finished tenth and you would have to think he will be looking forward to getting back here.
When Beau delivered that performance he actually struggled slightly on the greens as he finished the week 24th in this department losing ground to the field with the flat stick on Sunday and Friday. In addition Beau could have finished much higher up the board, however he closed out on day four with a 73, which no doubt included some rookie nerves.
Now recognised as one of the stronger putters on tour I am hopeful the 2020 version of Hossler can make a big impact this week and push for his maiden tour win.
ROBBY SHELTON – 200-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
I put Scottie Scheffler and Robby Shelton up in this at 25/1 and 80/1 respectively last year and while I totally understand why the former has shortened significantly I can’t for the life of me work out why the latter is more than double the odds this year after a 28th place finish in 2019 followed by a successful debut campaign.
A strong part of my case for Robby last year was based around the fact that he was brought up 3 ½ hrs away from here and having posted both of his Korn Ferry wins in Tennessee, which along with Mississippi also borders his home state of Alabama, he is clearly very comfortable playing his golf in this part of the world.
The plot then thickens further as Shelton finished third at the Barbasol way back in 2015 on his only start that season on tour on the RTJ Trail course, in Alabama, which as noted earlier hosts the same type of bermuda greens as this week.
Typical of an aggressive player of his age Shelton is still very much a rough diamond who can blow hot and cold from one week to the next, however he knows how to win and he showed enough on tour last year to show that he is more than capable in this company.
Last year Shelton finished the week 12th in strokes-gained-off-the-tee here and his weakest club was the putter for, which he ranked 42nd. With twelve months on tour now under his belt my hope is that Robby can improve on last years effort and give us a big run at great each way odds.
SEBASTIAN CAPPELEN – 300-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
For my final pick this week I can’t resist a roll of the dice at huge odds on Sebastian Cappelen based on two things, his performance last week and his performance here way back in 2015.
Those looking at the Dane’s form would be forgiven for focusing on his maiden PGA Tour campaign last season, which, bar a sixth place at the American Express, was largely underwhelming.
In addition to this campaign though Sebastian has made one other start on the PGA Tour and it came on this track in 2015 when he was given a sponsors invite before duly opening up with a 65 to hold the day one lead. That week Cappelen understandably gradually faded away and having sat 12th at halfway he eventually finished 35th.
Cappelen returned here last year for the first time since and posted a ho hum 54th place, however the venue must surely hold fond memories for him.
Eleventh last week at the Corales represents the Danes best effort on tour by some distance since the American Express earlier in the year so the hope is he can build on that performance this week.
Undoubtedly and quite rightly the spotlight of Danish golf is on the Hojgaard brothers right now who of course have stellar careers ahead of them, however it may just be that Sebastian is inspired by their escapades and as a two time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour including in his debut event he obviously has something about him.
Another who attended college in a neighbouring state, Arkansas, Cappelen should certainly be comfortable in this area and I am happy to wrap things up by chancing him at huge odds this week.
UPDATED - 29th SEPTEMBER
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - ROBERT STREB - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 25.5
With two of my main team, Robby Shelton & Sebastian Cappelen priced in the sub $7K bracket I shall as always still add two further DK picks in this range with the first of these being Robert Streb.
Streb is not the most relaible of players and he often goes missing for several weeks on the spin. This time of your though is the time that Streb picked up his lone PGA Tour win to date and subsequently he has produced some of his better stuff in the Fall.
The CC of Jackson has been won of his more reliable stomping grounds over the recent years with nothing worse than 26th in three visits and on the back of a solid week in the Dominican Republic I expect him to play well here again.
PICK 2 - FABIEN GOMEZ - DK VALUE $6100 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL - 32.5
For my second pick this week I am going to side with a player right down at $6100 who has made the cut here on each of his four previous visits, Fabien Gomez.
A former winner of the Fedex St Jude the Argentine is obviously comfortable on these championship bermuda greens and having posted a third place finish as recently as three starts ago I expect him to play solidly here again.