From one boosted event to another, the TOUR returns to the States for this week's Sanderson Farms Championship.
This event got vaulted into full status last year. Meaning a full 500 FedExCup Points is up for grabs for the winner.
As a result, you do see a few bigger names show up to the Country Club of Jackson, but most of the superstars are resting after a busy end to the 2020 campaign followed by the U.S. Open at Winged Foot just a few weeks later. We should expect to see the biggest of names pop back up in Vegas.
Back to this week, we have a field of 144 golfers prepped to go in Jackson, Mississippi. As usual, the top 65 and ties will make it through the cutline to play the weekend.
The Country Club of Jackson is playing the role of host at this week's event. It's been played here since the 2014 edtiion so we have six years of course history.
A John Fought design that was opened in 2008, the superintendent describes it having a "Donald Ross look".
When the pros stroll into town they play this as a par 72 that streches up to 7,461 yards. Pretty long but there are plenty of shorter holes to blend in with the long ones.
Diving into those hole-by-hole yardages, there are three par 4s that play over 475 yards (long) but also five par 4s that play at 421 yards or shorter. The par 3s provide a good mix with two of them 181 yards or shorter while the other two are 214+ yards. As for the par 5s, none of them are great eagle opportunities but the bigger hitters can reach them in two. When Cam Champ won here two years ago he was hitting 8-iron into two of those par 5s and 4-iron/6-iron into the other two. He's obviously a distance outlier but even with those shorter clubs to attack with he didn't card a single eagle that week of his win. The field average eagle rate here is lower than the TOUR-average course.
Off the tee, golfers won't find that many fairways here (around 54%) but the field has still managed to land 69 percent of greens in regulation, over the previous six editions played at CC of Jackson.
With that GIR rate, it's no surprise great putters have a chance to excel here. They will be given a lot of looks with the flat stick. It's also no surprise that scores can get pretty low. The scoring average has been sub-69.5 in five of the six editions played here. It's one of the 10 easiest events in terms of Bogey or Worse Percentage so gamers should expect to see a relatively high amount of bogey-free bonuses this week.
For turf, golfers are back on bermudagrass and that becomes a key theme this week. Golfers love to bring up their comfort on bermuda in their interviews at CC of Jackson so that's something that we should certainly look at. The last three winners have all been from Texas so comfort in the South is something that shouldn't get overlooked.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Norman Xiong: "the fairways are narrow, but you have a wide margin to miss it to where you can still hit it out of the rough onto the green or middle of the green."
Cameron Champ: "I feel like the majority of the time, though, if you’re kind of bouncing into the rough, it’s probably going to sit down, but you might get lucky sometimes where it might sit up, but I think it’s long enough to where it’s probably at least a ball and a half higher than the actual ball, maybe even two, so the majority of the time I feel like it will sit down."
Lucas Glover: "I grew up in the South, grew up on Bermuda fairways, grew up with Bermuda rough, and the greens I grew up on weren’t quite this good Bermuda, but still pretty darned good."
Brandt Snedeker: "There’s certain golf courses that me not being a long hitter I’ve got to kind of pick and choose where I play so I’m not going up against the 8-ball playing against guys that have a four-shot advantage over me before I even tee it off, and this is one of those golf courses that kind of fits right up that alley. "
Cody Gribble: "being in the South, growing up on Bermuda fairways, Bermuda greens, it’s something difficult, I think. It’s not a comfortable feeling when you’re having to hit a chip that all that grain is tight going into you. That’s something I’ve been able to learn from a young age"
Overview: Golfers talk about bermuda in terms of the juding lies out of the rough and comfort on the greens.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
TPC Summerlin (Shriners)
Coco Beach (Puerto Rico)
Riviera CC (Genesis)
Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Golfers talk about bermudagrass but the numbers link this to courses with similar hole-by-hole yardages or classical designs. You might consider Quail Hollow or Sedgefield if you wanted to play the classical, bermuda angle.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 81 degrees. Winds at 4 to 13 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 69 degrees. Winds at 6 to 15 MPH.
Historically this event often deals with hot and humid weather conditions but golfers seemed to have caught a break this week. The temps fall in the upper 60s or low 70s for most of the week. Not bad.
Golfers to Watch
The Texan was set up to be a trendy pick at Winged Foot before a positie COVID-19 test sidelined him. This will be his first action since the TOUR Championship. He ended the 2020 campaign with six straight top 25s, three of those doubling as top 5s. Given that red-hot form, it's no surprise to see him check in as the 10/1 favorite in the odds market.
Another Texan who arrives in stellar form. The Wake Forest product has not skipped a beat when making the leap from Korn Ferry to PGA TOUR events. He backdoored a top 10 at the U.S. Open and did the same thing last week in the Dominican Republic. Will he hit the fatigue brick wall eventually? Probably, but there is no reason to suggest he's slowing down just yet. With Scheffler and Zalatoris at the top, there is a strong chance that the Winners from Texas streak continues at the Sanderson Farms.
He continues to contend in majors but will he bring that same fire to the Sanderson Farms? Oosthy struggled fresh out of the restart but has now gained strokes tee-to-green in six straight events and seems to have his mojo back. UDPATE: Oosthuizen has withdrawn from the field as of Monday afternoon.
Not planning on returning to Euro Tour action until December at the earliest, we have the Swede's full attention which is somewhat rare. Stenson tried to show up without much prep at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open and missed the cut in both. Got back into the groove with a 21st-place finish last week at the Corales. From a long-term view he's one of the "class golfers" of the field but if you look at his stats on a more zoomed-in level then he's actually overpriced based on name recognition. Will be interesting to see if he can pop back into form in the lead-up to the Masters.
Past leaderboards at this event have suggested that ties to Texas is a plus and some golfers say this can turn into a putting competition. Hossler checks both boxes as a Texas alum who is one of the best putters on TOUR. He finished T10 in his lone appearance at this event (2017-18 edition). Quietly arrives with finishes of T23 and T41 to start the new season.
Similar to Stenson, Garcia is another name that people will flock to based on name-value alone. The problem is that he arrives with four straight finishes outside of the top 65 and he hasn't gained strokes putting since the restart (9 events played). The putter likely won't stay cold forever but it's hard to trust him right now until he flashes some form.
Byeong Hun An
Speaking of cold putters, An is one of the best at grinding through bad putting weeks. Playing in his favor at the CC of Jackson is that he gained 4.2 strokes putting last year in his course debut. He was the 36-hole leader that week before settling for solo third at week's end. Was it the bermuda turf that did the trick or was it just an outlier week? I guess we'll find out this week.
The Texas trend is nice at this event but why not go even closer with Burns who grew up in Shreveport. Back in 2018 he had this to say, "Ever since the PGA TOUR switched it here, you know, living two and a half, three and a half hours away I’ve come over here a decent bit and got to play this golf course." Has turned that local knowledge into a 3-for-3 record at the event including a T3 during the 2018-19 edition.
Ranking the Field
1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Will Zalatoris
4. Zach Johnson
5. Brian Harman
6. Sam Burns
7. Sungjae Im
8. Corey Conners
9. Adam Long
10. Cameron Davis
12. Doc Redman
13. Chez Reavie
14. Cameron Tringale
15. Lucas Glover
16. Pat Perez
17. Si Woo Kim
18. Byeong Hun An
19. Sebastian Munoz
20. Emiliano Grillo