The Sanderson Farms Championship
It was a solid start to the 2021/22 PGA Tour campaign for us as our 150/1 pick Patrick Rodgers bagged a decent share of the place money at the Fortinet Championship to ensure a profitable week.
The tournament itself was won my Max Homa. The Californian who won the Genesis Invitational at the correlating Riviera CC back at the start of the year showed his love for playing in his home state once again and there was undoubtedly a level of frustration at my end that I had overlooked the obvious pointers and not been on board. Still, you can’t get it right every week although it would be nice if you could!
So we move on in decent spirits 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 2019 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.
With the event following straight on from the Ryder Cup only one of the 24 players who were in action at Whistling Straits will tee it up meaning the field in all honesty is a pretty weak one. The one man who does make the trip from Wisconsin is defending Champion Sergio Garcia.
The market is headed up by Will Zalatoris, Sam Burns and Sungjae Im who are all vying for favouritism. This trio are then followed by Garcia and Corey Conners.
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.
2020 – S Garcia
2019 – S Munoz
2018 – C Champ
2017 – R Armour
2016 – C Gribble
2015 – P Malnati
2014 – N Taylor
Until Garcia’s triumph last year the most striking thing about the previous six winners is that their win here was the maiden tour win for each of them.
Looking at the overall profile of the seven champions here and six of them can 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.
Of the six 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. 2019 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.
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.
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.
Finally if we look at last years champion Garcia, he had missed his two previous cuts to start the new PGA Tour season including shooting 81 in his previous round at the US Open. Obviously though he is a class act and in this level of event he showed that cream often rises to the top.
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 and last years winner Garcia.
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 its 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 and a Texas based Spaniard in Garcia , 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.
In addition 2019 winner Munoz, while hailing from Colombia, also attended college in Texas so this again gives us that link. In fact the 2019 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!
The early part of the week shows the possibility of a thunder storm and this could also be the case on Thursday. The remainder of the week, touch wood, from thereon in looks dry as I type.
Temperatures look set to be in the high 80s throughout the week. Wind does not look to be an issue with nothing more than 10-12mph forecast all week so scoring conditions look set to be good.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
SI WOO KIM – 30/1 – 1.5pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T8th
First up for me this week is a player who did us a very nice favour earlier in the year, Si Woo Kim.
Since landing his third PGA Tour title and delivering the goods for us at the American Express in January Si Woo has had a fairly up and down year posting three more top tens and some other solid performances alongside some missed cuts and, as is Si Woo’s want, a trio of WD’s as well.
After posting a runner up finish at his beloved Sedgefield CC though the 26yr old rounded of his 2020/21 season with a couple of rounds in the mid 60s at the BMW Championship to show signs that he is definitely on the right track.
Rested up then Si Woo started off his 21/22 season at the Fortinet Championship a couple of weeks ago and significantly on a course he had never had any great previous success he posted a really strong showing to finish 11th and reinforce this view.
Furthermore if we look at Si Woo’s numbers for that week we see that he was pretty solid across the bag with his strokes-gained-tee-to-green ranking of eighth particularly encouraging. As we know When Si Woo’s long game is on he really can ‘stripe his approach play’ and if he can build on that tee to green performance from the Fortinet he could thrive here in that department in the way Sergio did last year.
Moving on to this week then and while Si Woo has not hugely impressed in his two previous visits here finishing 61st and 37th last year there are a few reasons why I think this course should be one that suits his game.
Firstly as noted earlier the course features Championship Ultra Dwarf Bermuda Greens comparable to that found at Sedgefield CC, the home of the Wyndham Championship and as we know this is a venue that the young Korean thrives at, posted his first PGA Tour win at, and was second again at recently. Anyone who drew this line between the two courses last year would have noted that Sergio Garcia, the 2021 Champion here is a former winner at Sedgefield and this certainly strengthens the link. Furthermore of course Sergio and Si Woo both hold a similar profile courtesy of their shared love of TPC Sawgrass, which is another nice pointer to Si Woo.
Looking at Si Woo’s skill sets and while the putter can let him down at times he is actually one of the strongest scramblers on tour, something which he showed again at Silverado two weeks ago and with the main defence of the CC of Jackson being its undulating greens and run off areas you would have to think that skill set would fit nicely here.
Finally one other thing, which links Si Woo to Garcia and several other strong performers here over the recent years is their connection to the state of Texas. We have now had three winners on the bounce here who either went to college in and/or live in Texas in Garcia, Munoz and Champ and if we go back two further years we also have a Texan Cody Gribble lifting the trophy, so that’s four out of five. In addition as noted earlier the 2019 leaderboard saw four players in the final top six with Texas links. The fact then that Si Woo now resides in the Lone Star State ticks that box nicely.
All in all while Si Woo is undoubtedly a tough player to catch right he is always someone to watch out for when he has performed strongly in his previous start, particularly when the performance came on a track you wouldn’t normally connect him with. If you then add in the other links I mentioned above and he is someone I definitely want on side this week.
MITO PEREIRA – 33/1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 31st
Next cab off the rank this week is Mito Pereira.
In a short space of time Pereira has made a name for himself as one of the best young talents in the game and he is certainly on everyone’s radar as a player to watch out for through this forthcoming PGA Tour season.
The Chilean earnt his right to play in the big league courtesy of three wins on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, a feat, which brings automatic promotion to the PGA ranks. What’s more Mito posted the second and third of those wins in back to back weeks in June. Impressive stuff indeed!
Since earning his right to play on the PGA Tour Pereira hasn’t let up either and he already has three top six finishes in just seven starts since he won his promotion. Furthermore of course he narrowly missed out on the bronze medal at the Olympics when he lost out in the play off.
The most recent of Mito’s big finishes came last time out at the Fortinet Championship when he landed his best PGA finish to date, a third place, and that week at Silverado he lead the field from tee to green with only his putter for, which he ranked 42nd, holding him back.
Moving on to this week and while we have no course form to go on Pereira’s undoubted strength, his ball striking, should hep him thrive at this track and as a player who won twice in the Carolina’s last season I would expect him to be far more comfortable on bermuda greens than over in California.
Mito spent his college days in Texas, which as noted already links in very nicely to this week and having finished sixth at the 3M Open in the summer behind another Texas college grad and former winner here Cameron Champ we have another nice link to go on.
I expect Pereira to be winning sooner rather than later on the PGA Tour and having started his first full season so well I am keen to ride his wave this week.
CHAD RAMEY – 90/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 63rd
In an event, which has been really kind to rookie’s over the years the next one to make my team this week is Chad Ramey.
Ramey arrives on the PGA Tour courtesy of a really solid season on the Korn Ferry, which saw him post a plethora of top ten finishes and a highlight of a win in Maine in June.
Following on from that win Chad then rounded of his season with a solid run in the play offs, which was rounded off with an 11th place finish at the Korn Ferry United Leasing Tour Championship and if we look closeer this is an event which, whether coincidence or not, has proved to correlate well here over the years with the likes of Armour, Gribble, Power and Mississippi native Jonathan Randolph having played well in both events over recent times.
Talking of Mississippi natives and Ramey himself hails from Fulton, Mississippi so this is as close as he will ever get to a home game on the PGA Tour and you would expect him to be fully revved up for the week with plenty of local support.
As we know playing ‘at home’ can be a double edged sword however Chad has already had experience of doing so in this event having tee’d it up in 2018 edition when he finished a very creditable 26th.
Ramey embarked on his first full season on the PGA Tour at the Fortinet Championship missing the cut on the number however his ball striking, which is undoubtedly his strongest asset was in evidence as he ranked 19th in approach play over the first two days and 21st from tee to green with the putter letting me down. Similarly to the theme that runs through our picks this week though I expect the 29yr old to improve considerably with the flat stick now that he is back on the Bermuda.
To sum up Ramey’s strong all round long game and consistent play week in week out has had me put him down as a candidate to make an impact on the PGA Tour this season and if he is to do so this strikes me as a perfect week for him and I am keen to have him on side in his home state.
ADAM SVENSSON – 125/1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up it is another Korn Ferry graduate for me Adam Svensson.
To be honest while Svensson performed solidly at the Wyndham Championship on his first spin around the PGA Tour to finish 31st there is no great correlating course link that leads me to him this week and my selection is really based purely down to price.
To expand further and if we look at Adam’s 2021 to date we will see that after posting his initial win at the Club Car Championship in March he has gone on to post eight further top twenty finishes and miss only two cuts in 18 starts. Furthermore of course he capped a superb Korn Ferry campaign by posting a second victory less than a month ago at the Nationwide Childrens Hospital Championship. Clearly then without stating the obvious he is a confident, in form player who knows how to win.
In addition if we look at Adam’s stats for last season we see a player who was really solid in the long game area ranking sixth in accuracy and 11th in greens. Furthermore he was 36th in putting so his all round game was really strong.
Svensson began his second spin around on the PGA Tour with a solid if unspectacular 51st place at the Fortinet Championship, which perhaps partly explains why he comes in slightly under the radar this week, however as a player who bases himself in Florida and has had the bulk of his success on Bermuda greens I would not expect him to thrive on the West Coast and with his Florida ties he ticks that East Coast box for us.
To sum up in a field, which lacks in depth I am more than happy to side with an inform two time winner this year at three figure odds.
HAYDEN BUCKLEY – 200/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 7th
I am going to round things off this week by rolling the dice on Hayden Buckley.
Buckley who hails from Tennessee thus linking nicely with three past winners of this event Peter Malnati, Scott Stallings and Chris Kirk, earnt his PGA Tour card at the first time of asking after two top seven finishes in the Korn Ferry finals, a seventh in the Albertsons Boise and a fourth in the United Leasing Tour Championship. In addition while his form was patchy over the two year stretch he showed he knows how to get the job done by posting a victory at the LECOM Suncoast Classic back in February.
If we look at Hayden’s stats for the recent Korn Ferry campaign we will see that the 25yr old is solid from tee to green ranking 19th in Driving Accuracy and ninth in good old fashioned GIR however like plenty of stronger ball strikers his achilles heel seems to be with the putter.
Buckley got his PGA Tour campaign underway by teeing it up at the Fortinet Championship and the end result was a missed cut following rounds of 71 and 73. Looking at his stats for the two days in California though not unsurprisingly for someone who is based now in Florida and got his win on Bermuda greens in the Sunshine State, it was his putter that really let him down as he ranked 148th on the greens over the first two days. From tee to green however he was pretty solid ranking 41st in this department and 39th in approach play. My hope then is that his solid long game will show up once again while a return to the bermuda will see a strong improvement with the putter.
Finally as mentioned earlier Buckley finished his Korn Ferry campaign with a flourish with a fourth place at the United Leasing Championship, which we know ties in really well here.
To sum up Buckley is an improving young player who has shown this year he knows how to win and in an event, which has rewarded rookies well over recent years, and on a course, which I believe will suit him, I am happy to chance him.
UPDATED 28th SEPTEMBER
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - RORY SABBATINI - DK VALUE $6900. - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 28.5
Since landing a silver model for his adopted country Slovakia at the Olympics in August Rory Sabbatini has been riding the wave with a solid patch of form, which has seen him make all four of his cuts.
This week Rory returns to a course, which he has made it through to the weekend on all of his previous four visits and and posted three top 20 finishes and I expect him a strong showing from him again this week.
PICK 2 - JT POSTON - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 33
For my second pick this week I am going to take a chance that a return to a track, which he has performed stronly on before will spark an upturn in form for JT Poston.
Poston has made the cut on each of his five previous visits to the CC of Jackson finishing 11th and third over the past two years and as a former winner at Sedgefield CC he ticks all the right boxes from a correlating course form point of view.
The reason Poston is languishing at $6600 though is that he has missed his last three cuts, however having finished second at the Barbasol in July his game is hopefully not too far off and I am happy to risk him at the price.