Best bets for PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship

By Brady Kannon and Wes Reynolds  (VSIN.com) 

USATSI_17589891

Team USA retained the Presidents Cup over the International team, 17.5-12.5, last weekend. Trevor Immelman's International team was more competitive than expected considering his team was decimated by the LIV Golf defections of Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen and more. Jordan Spieth (5-0), Justin Thomas (4-1), Max Homa (4-0), Xander Schauffele (3-1), Patrick Cantlay (3-1), and Tony Finau (3-1) all had outstanding weeks for Team USA.

The PGA Tour returns to the fall wraparound schedule this week in Jackson, Miss., for the Sanderson Farms Championship. It’s an off week for almost all of the top players with the exception of OWGR No. 12 and defending event champion Sam Burns (10-1), who disappointed with an 0-3-2 record at the Presidents Cup but considers this his home event as he was born in nearby Shreveport, La.

Two other Presidents Cup participants, both from the International side, 2019 event champion Sebastian Munoz (28-1) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (40-1) are also here this week. However, Burns is the only player inside the OWGR Top 35 playing this week in Mississippi. Sahith Theegala (20-1) was the first-round leader last year and finished T-8. J.T. Poston was third here two years ago and he is priced at 25-1 along with Russell Henley. Denny McCarthy (28-1) has not finished worse than 18th, including two top-10 finishes, in his last four appearances in this event. Scott Stallings (30-1), who won here in 2012, is hoping to keep the momentum going after making the top 30 to reach the Tour Championship.

Taylor Montgomery (35-1), a recent graduate of the Korn Ferry Tour who I believe will win at some point this season on the PGA Tour, was tipped in this column two weeks ago in the 60-1 range and finished third at the Fortinet Championship. Perennial DP World Tour bridesmaid Thomas Detry earned his PGA Tour card in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and he is set at a 40-1 tag along with Emiliano Grillo.

If looking for a local angle, there are three Mississippi natives in this week's field — Davis Riley (40-1), Hayden Buckley (125-1) and Chad Ramey (300-1).

The Event

The Sanderson Farms Championship has been part of the PGA Tour schedule since 1968 when it began as the Magnolia State Classic. It has had a variety of names over the years, including the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic, Southern Farm Bureau Classic, Viking Classic and the True South Classic before Sanderson Farms, the third-largest poultry producer in the United States, based in Laurel, Miss., took over as the title sponsor in 2013. The tournament began as a satellite event (money earned counted, but wins were unofficial) but became an official Tour event in 1994. After spending nearly a quarter-century as an alternate event, it became a full tour event in 2019. The winner now gets full FedEx Cup points, a two-year tour exemption and spots in the Masters, PGA, Players and Sentry TOC.

The Course

The Country Club of Jackson has hosted the Sanderson Farms since 2014. CC of Jackson was designed in 1962 by Dick Wilson and redesigned by John Fought and Mike Gogel in 2008. The track plays as a par-72 of 7,461 yards and there are only 56 bunkers and seven water hazards (in play on five holes). The Bermuda fairways are flat and relatively narrow (ninth narrowest on tour — 29.2-foot average fairway width). The Bermuda/Zoysia rough is not all that penal at just two inches.

The Champion Ultra Dwarf Bermuda Greens are 6,200 square feet on average and fast (12-13 stimpmeter). Fought was a longtime admirer of Donald Ross, so the greens are raised, slope from back to front, and have run-off areas, a trademark of Ross. The green surfaces resemble TPC Southwind, Trinity Forest, Quail Hollow and Sedgefield.

Along with fast greens, three of the four par-5s are quite lengthy at more than 580 yards, so these will be three-shot holes for the majority of the field.

The 72-hole tournament record is 263 set by Dan Halldorson (1986 at Hattiesburg GC). The record on this Country Club of Jackson track is 266, set by Sam Burns last year.

The CC of Jackson course record is 62, set by Roberto Castro (first round, 2015).

Correlated courses to the Country Club of Jackson include Sedgefield, Memorial Park, Golf Club of Houston, Detroit Golf Club, Silverado and Congaree.

Sanderson Farms Championship Recent History

2021: Sam Burns (-22/266); 16-1

2020: Sergio Garcia (-19/269); 70-1

2019: Sebastian Munoz (-18/270); 66-1*

2018: Cameron Champ (-21/267); 66-1

2017: Ryan Armour (-19/269); 125-1

2016: Cody Gribble (-20/268); 125-1

2015: Peter Malnati (-18/270); 250-1

2014: Nick Taylor (-16/272); 400-1

* — playoff win over Sungjae Im

Trends and Angles

  • The last four winners (Burns, Garcia, Munoz and Champ) rated first, first, fourth and second for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee during their respective winning weeks.
  • Six of the last eight winners have been first-time winners on the PGA Tour.

Statistical Analysis

While Driving Distance has increased each of the last five years here and the rough is not all that penal, accurate hitters including Ryan Armour have won here as recently as 2017. Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee combines distance and accuracy.

Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (last 36 rounds)

  1. Brendan Steele 28.1
  2. Luke List 22.7
  3. Hayden Buckley 22.4
  4. Emiliano Grillo 19.9
  5. Davis Riley 16.5
  6. Wyndham Clark 15.4
  7. Austin Smotherman 15.4
  8. Brandon Wu 15.3
  9. Keegan Bradley 13.3
  10. Trey Mullinax 13.3
  11. Patrick Rodgers 12.8
  12. Tyler Duncan 12.6
  13. Stewart Cink 12.2
  14. Kramer Hickok 11.8
  15. Nick Hardy 11.7

Around one-third of the approach shots will be wedges from 100-150, including on those lengthy par-5s.

Proximity Gained 100-125 Yards (last 36 rounds)

  1. Chez Reavie 321
  2. Russell Henley 240.6
  3. Austin Cook 227.6
  4. Scott Stallings 184.7
  5. Sam Burns 160.2
  6. Lucas Glover 157.2
  7. Brendon Todd 148.1
  8. Adam Svensson 146.7
  9. Vaughn Taylor 144
  10. Andrew Landry 140.9
  11. Martin Laird 139.6
  12. Seamus Power 132.9
  13. Ryan Moore 131.7
  14. Paul Haley III 125.8
  15. Wyndham Clark 118.4

Proximity Gained 125-150 Yards (last 36 rounds)

  1. Russell Henley 455.6
  2. Jason Dufner 273.9
  3. Max McGreevy 266.2
  4. Sam Burns 266
  5. Brendan Steele 264.9
  6. Mark Hubbard 240.9
  7. Brian Stuard 230.6
  8. Austin Eckroat 229.8
  9. Lucas Glover 205.9
  10. Justin Lower 197.8
  11. Alex Smalley 192.4
  12. Chris Kirk 189
  13. Stewart Cink 179.1
  14. Ben Martin 166.4
  15. Ryan Armour 165.3

Note: Total Feet Gained toward the hole.

Three of the four par-5s measure at 580 yards or more, so they are not gimme birdies.

Strokes Gained Par-5s (last 36 rounds)

  1. Zecheng Dou 26.7
  2. Austin Eckroat 17.8
  3. Michael Gligic 16.8
  4. Stephan Jaeger 16.3
  5. Harry Hall 16.3
  6. Emiliano Grillo 15.7
  7. Nick Hardy 15.6
  8. Justin Suh 15.5
  9. Brett Grant 15.5
  10. Nicolas Echavarria 15.3
  11. Ben Taylor 14.8
  12. Davis Thompson 14.7
  13. J.T. Poston 14.1
  14. Byeong Hun An 13.5
  15. Robby Shelton 13.2

20 under or better will likely be needed win here. The Sanderson Farms tends to turn into a putting contest. However, if you look at recent winners, Sergio Garcia and Cameron Champ are historically not good putters and they have won here because they gave themselves opportunities to make a lot of birdies and eagles.

Birdie Or Better Gained (last 36 rounds)

  1. Taylor Montgomery 38.3
  2. Michael Kim 31.3
  3. Justin Suh 30.5
  4. Harry Hall 27.7
  5. Nicolas Echavarria 27.6
  6. Trey Mullinax 25.2
  7. Austin Eckroat 24.5
  8. Robby Shelton 24.3
  9. Sam Burns 23.9
  10. Adam Svensson 23.6
  11. MJ Daffue 23.1
  12. Philip Knowles 23.1
  13. Michael Gligic 21
  14. Paul Haley II 20.7
  15. Emiliano Grillo 20.5
  16. Brandon Matthews 20.5

Opportunities Gained (last 36 rounds)

  1. Davis Riley 33.9
  2. Russell Henley 32.7
  3. Brendan Steele 28.8
  4. John Huh 28.4
  5. Lucas Glover 25.5
  6. Trey Mullinax 25.1
  7. Austin Smotherman 23.7
  8. Chez Reavie 23.6
  9. Kevin Streelman 23.3
  10. Alex Smalley 21.8
  11. Wyndham Clark 19.3
  12. Luke List 19.3
  13. Adam Svensson 16.4
  14. Vaughn Taylor 15.3
  15. Chesson Hadley 15

While poor putters (Garcia, Champ) have won here in recent years, it is still smart to lean on consistently good putters on faster Bermuda surfaces.

Strokes Gained: Putting on Fast Bermuda (last 36 rounds)

  1. Sam Burns 34.3
  2. Chesson Hadley 28.6
  3. Nicholas Lindheim 24.7
  4. Scott Stallings 22.9
  5. Brendon Todd 22.5
  6. Denny McCarthy 21.4
  7. Harris English 21.3
  8. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 20.3
  9. Mackenzie Hughes 19.8
  10. Cody Gribble 19.1
  11. Patton Kizzire 15
  12. Ben Taylor 13.5
  13. Wyndham Clark 12.7
  14. Matthew NeSmith 12.1
  15. Davis Riley 11.5
  16. Sepp Straka 11.3
  17. Vincent Whaley 11

Selections

Taylor Montgomery (30-1, DraftKings)

Admittedly this is not the best price considering we had him at double the tag (60-1) two weeks ago at Silverado, where he finished third. However, this is a player whose first win on the PGA Tour looks to be coming in relatively short order.

He is a big-time birdie maker as evidenced by ranking first in this field (combining Korn Ferry and PGA Tour over the last 36 rounds) for Birdie or Better Gained.

Davis Riley (40-1, BetMGM)

Riley did not procure a victory in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, but he did earn six top-10 finishes, including four top-5s with his best finish being a playoff loss to Sam Burns in the playoff at the Valspar.

He rates first in this field for Opportunities Gained over the last 36 rounds and fifth for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

Riley is also a native son of Mississippi having been born and raised in Hattiesburg.

Trey Mullinax (45-1, Caesars)

Mullinax ranks top 10 in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and Driving Distance Gained.

Earlier this summer, he won the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky. The former Alabama player has seven top-10 finishes in his PGA Tour career with six of them coming in the south/southeast regions, including a fourth here last year.

He also rates sixth in this field for both Opportunities Gained and Birdie or Better Gained.

Wyndham Clark (50-1, DraftKings)

While Clark has just one top-20 in five appearances in this event, his game profiles comparably to many recent winners.

He ranks top 5 in this field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and top 10 for Driving Distance Gained.

The approach game is his weakness (117th over last 36 rounds), but he can overcome that here off the tee and with his short game, which ranks ninth over the last 36 rounds.

Byeong Hun An (80-1, DraftKings)

There was a time when Benny An looked destined to be the next star from South Korea. In 2009, he became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur at age 17. He would later go on to win the Harry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award on the European Tour in 2015 after blitzing an elite field in the 2015 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

However, his game declined, and he found himself on the Korn Ferry Tour this year trying to regain his PGA Tour card. He also had to watch the Presidents Cup and see his countrymen Sungjae Im, K.H. Lee, Si Woo Kim and young Tom Kim battle it out with a talented USA team. We were talking about An a decade ago like we talk about Tom Kim today. Surely, this should be a motivator for Benny.

Benny finished fourth at the Fortinet two weeks ago and ranks third in this field for Driving Distance Gained. He was also third in this event in 2019.

Will Gordon (125-1, Bet Rivers)

Gordon played his way on to the PGA Tour through the 2019-20 season courtesy of some superb performances on limited starts with the highlight coming at TPC River Highlands in the Travelers, where he finished third. The following season was disappointing and forced Gordon to the Korn Ferry Tour.

Will produced some strong efforts on the Korn Ferry Tour this year, including five top-10s in the regular season, but it wasn’t quite enough to secure him a return to the big league. In the first playoff event, Gordon produced a victory at the Albertson's Boise Open event to regain his full PGA Tour card.

He finished 36th two weeks ago at Silverado but did rank eighth for Driving Distance, which is typical for a big hitter like Gordon, but he was also fifth for Driving Accuracy, which has been a weakness during his young career.

Hayden Buckley (130-1, DraftKings)

While not from the Magnolia State, Buckley did attend high school in Tupelo, Miss.

He finished fourth in this event last year and ranks third in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

Brady Kannon's selections

Taylor Montgomery (30-1)

A local Las Vegas product, Montgomery's father, Monte, is the General Manager at Shadow Creek Golf Club here in town. I have been watching this young player for about a year now and his success on the Korn Ferry Tour was certainly noteworthy. He took third just two weeks ago at the Fortinet Championship in Napa as Taylor has earned his PGA Tour card for the 2022-2023 season. It is pretty rare for such a new face to be at such a short price but I think that says a lot about his ability and his potential. I believe he is going to win soon and these "offseason" events, featuring weaker fields, are the perfect opportunity.

Keegan Bradley (40-1) Interesting that a proven Tour veteran and major championship winner is priced higher than Montgomery, right? Again, I think it says a lot about the youngster. However, 40-1 is a very nice price on one of the top players in this field. Bradley has always been a terrific ball striker. He is one of the best in this field off of the tee and on approach. This ought to be a birdie fest and that is a style in which Bradley flourishes.

Seamus Power (50-1)

Along with Bradley, Power is one of only five players in this field who rank in the Top 50 OWGR and yet we are getting both of them at very nice numbers. Power is both long and straight off of the tee. He makes a lot of birdies and he is a very good putter, having had especially good success last season on Bermuda Grass greens, which we have here in Mississippi this week.

Patton Kizzire (200-1)

Kizzire has not been in great form as of late, hence the long odds, but he is always a player I look at when we are in the South, playing on Bermuda. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, attended Auburn University, and resides in Sea Island, Georgia. Some of his best results, including his first Tour win, have come at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where the turf is Bermuda Grass. Certainly this is a long bomb but Kizzire ought to feel very much at home in this part of the country and these golf course conditions.

​Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Guido Migliozzi birdied nine of his last 13 holes on Sunday to card a round of 62 and win the Cazoo Open de France by one stroke over Rasmus Højgaard. Højgaard had a six-shot lead at one point during Friday's second round and still held the 54-hole lead but was bettered by Migliozzi, who earned his first victory in almost two and a half years at a price of 66-1.

Rasmus Højgaard (50-1) and Migliozzi (80-1) will be in this week's field at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship but will face stiffer competition as nine of the OWGR Top 40 players are in Scotland this week.

Rory McIlroy (9-2) has been runner-up in this event three times (2009, 2011, 2014). The World No. 2 is a semi-regular in this event, which features a pro-am format in which he partners with his father, Gerry. Fellow Open Champion Shane Lowry has three top-six finishes here and he is slotted at 11-1 along with Matt Fitzpatrick, who has never featured here but comes in off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at the Italian Open. Tyrrell Hatton (16-1) is a two-time winner (2016, 2017) and two-time runner-up (2018, 2021) here. Tommy Fleetwood (20-1) is also a two-time runner-up (2014, 2018).

Thomas Pieters (28-1) comes in off a third last week in Paris. Billy Horschel (30-1) makes the trip over after being part of his first winning Presidents Cup team. Robert MacIntyre (33-1) won the Italian Open two weeks ago. LIV players Talor Gooch (33-1), Louis Oosthuizen (35-1) and Branden Grace (55-1) are also in this week's field.

Danny Willett (40-1) returns to defend his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title as he attempts to recover from a brutal loss at the Fortinet Championship two weeks ago where he three-putted from four feet on the 72nd hole to give the victory to Max Homa.

The Event

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is structured very similarly to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and was started in 2001. Each professional partners with an amateur for the pro-am portion of the event and plays on a three-course rotation: The Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie Golf Links and Kingsbarns Golf Links. After each pair has played each course, there is a 54-hole cut made of the top 60 professionals and the top 20 pro-am pairs. Those players will all play at St. Andrews on Sunday.

The Courses

The Old Course at St. Andrews is known as the “Home of Golf” and its history dates to the 15th century. It has hosted more British Opens than any other course (29) and currently hosts it every five years. The 7,307-yard, par-72 has a peculiar setup of 14 par-4s and just two par-3s and two par-5s. St. Andrews features seven double greens with huge, fescue/bentgrass putting surfaces. The 17th Road Hole, with its notorious bunker, and the closing 18th, which features the Swilcan Bridge and the Valley of Sin, are the most famous and iconic closing holes in golf. Ross Fisher set the course record of 61 here in 2017. In the first three days of the tournament, the pins will be much easier for the professionals and amateurs but will be set up a lot tougher after the 54-hole cut.

Carnoustie Golf Links will be the toughest course of the three in the Dunhill Links rota. It usually scores about two strokes higher than the others. Carnoustie plays as a par-72 of 7,345 yards for this event and has hosted the British Open (plays as a par-71 for the major) eight times, most recently in 2018, which was won by Francesco Molinari (-8, 276). The course record is 63 set by Tommy Fleetwood in the 2017 event. Carnoustie can also present an interesting betting angle if you have in-play wagering available. Typically, you will find good value on the players who play Carnoustie first on Thursday as they get the toughest course out of the way.

Kingsbarns Golf Links, located six miles south of St. Andrews, will play as the easiest course. It plays as a par-72 of 7,227 yards, so it is the shortest of the three. Unlike its cohorts, Kingsbarns is a relatively new course and was designed in 2000 by Kyle Phillips, who has spent years under the tutelage of Robert Trent Jones Jr. Branden Grace set the course record of 60 in the 2012 event before going on to victory.

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Recent History

2021: Danny Willett (-18/270); 100-1

2020: Cancelled due to COVID-19

2019: Victor Perez (-22/266); 175-1

2018: Lucas Bjerregaard (-15/273); 50-1

2017: Tyrrell Hatton (-24/264); 22-1

2016: Tyrrell Hatton (-23/265); 66-1

2015: Thorbjorn Olesen (-18/270); 200-1

2014: Oliver Wilson (-17/271); 500-1

2013: David Howell (-23/265); 125-1*

2012: Branden Grace (-22/266); 50-1

2011: Michael Hoey (-22/266); 250-1

2010: Martin Kaymer (-17/271); 16-1

* — playoff won in 2013 by David Howell over Peter Uihlein.

Trends and Angles

  • Eight of the last 13 winners had won an event in the current or previous calendar year.
  • 13 of the last 20 winners were from the United Kingdom.
  • 16 of the 20 winners have earned at least one previous career victory on the DP World Tour.

Selections

​Tommy Fleetwood (20-1, Caesars)

Being a two-time winner and runner-up here, Tyrrell Hatton is an obvious choice, but I will go just below with Fleetwood.

Fleetwood has always loved playing in Scotland as evidenced by his recent finishes here:

'22 Open: 4th

'22 Scottish Open: 4th

'21 Dunhill Links: 7th

'21 Scottish Open: 24th

'20 Scottish Open: 2nd

'19 Dunhill Links: 5th

'18 Dunhill Links: 2nd

'18 Open: 12th

After the death of his mother, he returned from a couple of months off at the BMW PGA Championship where he led after Day 1 before the tournament was temporarily halted after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Alex Noren (40-1 Caesars)

Noren's record here includes third place a decade ago, 11th in 2016 and top-15s in each of his last two starts.

The Swede sits No. 56 in the OWGR and needs to get into the top 50 by the conclusion of the 2022 calendar year to qualify for all of the majors. This event looks like a proper time for him to do so based on his past record here.

Thorbjorn Olesen (66-1, BetMGM)

Olesen is a former winner here in 2015.

After facing charges for his conduct on board a British Airways flight, which nearly cost him his career, Olesen made his comeback with a win in the British Masters at the Belfry back in May.

He was first for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green last week in Paris, but the putter let him down for a finish of 20th.

Eddie Pepperell (70-1, Caesars)

Pepperell was seventh here in 2017 and has a couple of other top-20s.

He has finished 12th or better in four of his last seven events and 20th or better in six of his last seven.

Matt Wallace (80-1, Caesars)

Wallace sat at 126th in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings before the playoffs, and it looked like he was going to lose his PGA Tour card. However, the defections of several players, including Cameron Smith, allowed him to move up in the final standings and provided him with a reprieve and gave Wallace PGA Tour status for another year.

He has two top-10 finishes over the last nine weeks, including a runner-up a little over a month ago at the European Masters.

Tom Lewis (100-1, BetMGM)

Lewis has three top-10s in 10 appearances here.

While he finished just 50th last week in Paris, he ranked top 10 in the field for both Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach.

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