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My picks for the Sanderson Farms Championship

By Wes Reynolds  (VSiN.com) 

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Last week Hudson Swafford was in his second-to-last start on a major medical extension, but now he has a full two-year PGA Tour exemption through the 2022-23 season due to his victory last weekend at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. Swafford was a 200-1 shot to win the event in the Dominican Republic and had only two top-10 finishes in his last three seasons, partly due to missing four months last summer for foot surgery. He had a four-shot lead with six holes to play Sunday, but it was gone three holes later. Then he hit a 6-iron to 10 feet on the 210-yard, par-3 17th and rolled in the birdie putt to take the lead before making a tough 8-footer for par on 18 to seal his first victory since January 2017 at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Swafford also earned spots in the 2021 Masters, PGA Championship, Players Championship and Sentry Tournament of Champions. 
Swafford (80-1) is in the field this week for the Sanderson Farms Championship, which has more quality at the top than last week’s event. The tournament favorite is 2019-20 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Scottie Scheffler (10-1), who missed the U.S. Open after testing positive for COVID-19. Scheffler had a great rookie season, with five top-5 finishes and seven top-10s. He also has three top-4 finishes in his last four starts in strong fields, including ties for fourth at the PGA Championship and the Northern Trust while also being second at the Tour Championship for 72 holes. The highest-ranked player in the field is Sungjae Im (14-1) at No. 24 in the world. Im also finished as runner-up here in Mississippi last year, falling in a playoff to Sebastian Munoz, who is 25-1 to defend his title. Will Zalatoris (18-1) wasn’t even supposed to be in this field, but a Sunday round of 65 earned him a T-8 and he back-doored his way into the top 10 to earn a spot and save one of his sponsor exemptions while he tries to earn enough FedEx Cup points to gain a temporary PGA Tour membership. Zalatoris has played mostly on the Korn Ferry Tour this year, where he has a win and has not finished worse than T-19 since the restart of golf in June, including a T-6 at the U.S. Open. Sam Burns (25-1) tied for third here two years ago and grew up just a little over 200 miles from the course in nearby Shreveport, La. A host of players follow at 30-1, including Byeong Hun An, Doc Redman and Adam Long, who held the 54-hole lead last week before a final-round 75 knocked him down to fifth. Some of the favorites’ prices were also shortened with Louis Oosthuizen’s withdrawal Monday. 
 
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 True South Classic before Sanderson Farms, the third-largest poultry producer in the U.S. and based in Laurel, Miss., took over as title sponsor in 2013. The tournament began as a satellite event but became an official tour event in 1994. After spending almost 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 Tournament of Champions. The field is a little stronger this week, with eight top-60 players: No. 24 Im, No. 30 Scheffler, No. 42 Chez Reavie, No. 44 Henrik Stenson, No. 51 Sergio Garcia, No. 57 Tom Lewis, No. 58 An and No. 60 Adam Long.
 
The Course
The Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Miss., has hosted the Sanderson Farms since 2014. CC 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 has only 56 bunkers and seven water hazards, which are in play on five holes. The Bermuda fairways are flat and wider than average. The Champion Bermuda greens average 6,200 square feet and are fast (12 to 13 Stimpmeter). Fought was a longtime admirer of Donald Ross, so the greens are raised and have runoff areas, which are Ross trademarks. The green surfaces are similar to TPC Southwind, Trinity Forest, Quail Hollow and Sedgefield. The course has received a fair amount of recent rain, which should make it play softer. 
 
Recent Event History
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
 
Recent Trends and Angles
 
— The last two winners, Munoz and Champ, rated fourth and first, respectively, in driving distance and fourth and second in strokes gained off the tee in their winning weeks.
— The last four winners — Munoz, Champ, Armour and Gribble — have rated no worse than fifth for strokes gained putting in their winning weeks.
— The last three winners — Munoz, Champ and Armour — have led after 54 holes. 
 
Statistics 
The last two years have produced winners who were big hitters off the tee, especially Champ, who led the PGA Tour in driving distance in 2018-19 and was second in 2019-20. The keys this week should be driving distance, strokes gained off the tee, par-5 birdie-or-better percentage and strokes gained putting. Here are how players in this week’s field rated in these categories in 2019-20.
 
Driving distance
1. Grayson Murray (5) 313.8
2. Brandon Hagy (6) 312.8
3. Sam Burns (8) 312.0
4. Tyler McCumber (12) 310.2
5. Jhonattan Vegas (15) 309.0
6. Scottie Scheffler (16) 308.9
7. Will Gordon (17) 308.8
8. Patrick Rodgers (18) 308.5
9. Cameron Davis (20) 308.0
10. Luke List (21) 307.8
Strokes gained off the tee
1. Sergio Garcia (3) 0.848
2. Jhonattan Vegas (5) 0.721
3. Scottie Scheffler (10) 0.618
4. Corey Conners (13) 0.600
5. Will Gordon (14) 0.564
6. Sam Burns (16) 0.493
7. Sungjae Im (20) 0.437
8. Keith Mitchell (21) 0.412
9. Luke List (25) 0.387
10. Doc Redman (T30) 0.346
Par-5 birdie-or-better %
1. Wyndham Clark (7) 53.61%
2. Grayson Murray (8) 53.51%
3. Matt Jones (10) 53.15%
4. Luke List (13) 51.82%
5. Sungjae Im (14) 51.77%
6. Anirban Lahiri (15) 51.69%
7. Jhonattan Vegas (24) 50.63%
8. Bronson Burgoon (T28) 50.00%
9. Scottie Scheffler (T28) 50.00%
10. Cameron Davis (T34) 49.46%
11. Sam Burns (T34) 49.46%
Strokes gained putting
1. Denny McCarthy (1) 0.988
2. Andrew Putnam (3) 0.891
3. Kristoffer Ventura (4) 0.694
4. Maverick McNealy (9) 0.663
5. Patrick Rodgers (11) 0.657
6. J.T. Poston (14) 0.572
7. Wyndham Clark (16) 0.557
8. Richy Werenski (21) 0.485
9. Troy Merritt (23) 0.470
10. Beau Hossler (24) 0.456
11. Patton Kizzire (25) 0.453
 

Selections

 
Doc Redman 36-1
 
I’m a bit concerned that Redman might be too popular a selection this week, but he could be as good a fit in statistics and form as any player in the field. 
Redman has finished T-3 in two of his last three starts (Safeway and Wyndham), and a win seems to be beckoning. He rates second in this week’s field for strokes gained approach and 10th for strokes gained off the tee. At the Wyndham, he led the field in SG: Off The Tee and SG: Tee To Green. Redman led the Safeway field three weeks ago for SG: Approach. He’s hitting it very well right now. His ball striking will put him in position for many birdie opportunities, and now is the time to cash in on those opportunities.
 
Cameron Davis 45-1
 
The Aussie matches the profile of the last two winners here and ranks in the top 10 in the field for driving distance and par-5 birdie-or-better percentage. 
What also catches the eye is his finish of 15th at the Wyndham Championship almost two months ago. Sedgefield has the same Champion Bermudagrass greens as CC Jackson, and Davis shot three straight rounds of 65 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 
 
Patrick Rodgers 51-1
 
Rodgers is another big hitter who fits the profile for this event. He ranks eighth in this week’s field for driving distance. However, he is not just a bomber. He can also really roll the ball on the greens and rates fifth in the field for strokes gained putting. 
Tied with Tiger Woods and Maverick McNealy as Stanford’s all-time winning player, Rodgers is still seeking that first PGA Tour win, but this could be a good spot in a weaker Fall Series field. Rodgers has made seven straight cuts dating to the Memorial in July.
 
Kristoffer Ventura 80-1
 
Ventura has already seen Oklahoma State teammates Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland win on the PGA Tour, so he’s feeling the pressure not to be the third wheel. 
He is a terrific putter and rated fourth on tour for strokes gained putting last season. He shot a recent third-round 63 on these same Champion Bermudagrass greens at the Wyndham in August.
 
Denny McCarthy 80-1
 
McCarthy is another terrific putter. In fact, last season he was No. 1 on the PGA Tour for SG: Putting. 
He finished ninth at the Wyndham Championship on the same greens and shot a final-round 63, matching winner Jim Herman for the low Sunday round.
 
Jhonattan Vegas 100-1
 
Vegas comes in on horrible form, missing five of his last six cuts, including last week in the Dominican Republic. However, Hudson Swafford had made only two of seven cuts heading into last week, and now he is a PGA Tour winner again. 
The Venezuelan did finish fourth here in 2015 and is a statistical fit, rating second in this week’s field for strokes gained off the tee, fifth in driving distance and seventh in par-5 birdie-or-better percentage.
 
Wyndham Clark 150-1
 
Clark doesn’t exactly come into this week on superb form, having made only three of 11 cuts, but statistically he would appear to be a good fit.
He rates seventh in this week’s field for SG: Putting and first for par-5 birdie-or-better percentage. The par-5s this week are tricky. Players must be able to take advantage of them, and Clark fits that description.
 

ASI Scottish Open

 
American John Catlin won his second European Tour event in three starts by shooting a final-round 64 to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at 35-1 odds. Catlin is 50-1 this week for the ASI Scottish Open, which has stronger quality at the top due to the increased money and Race to Dubai points as a Rolex Series event. Tommy Fleetwood (10-1) and Matthew Fitzpatrick (12-1) return to the UK and are followed in the market at 20-1 by Thomas Pieters, Martin Kaymer and defending champion Bernd Wiesberger. Erik van Rooyen (25-1) spent his summer stateside and earned his PGA Tour card for the new season. Matt Wallace joins van Rooyen at 25-1.
 
The Event
The ASI (Aberdeen Standard Investments) Scottish Open is one of the European Tour signature events as part of the Rolex Series. It is usually played the week before the British Open but was moved to a one-time-only date in early October. The Scottish Open has been part of the European Tour since 1986 and has rotated around many of the great courses. Previous winners include Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Ian Woosnam, Justin Rose, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Retief Goosen and Tom Lehman. This is the best field in a European Tour event since golf restarted in June, but it did lose Justin Rose and Shane Lowry over the weekend. Nevertheless, 10 of the OWGR top 60 are in this field (Fleetwood, Fitzpatrick, Wiesberger, Westwood, Danny Willett, van Rooyen, Wallace, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Victor Perez and Jazz Janewattananond.
 
 The Course
 
The Renaissance Golf Club will play host for the second year in a row. The course is in Dirleton, North Berwick, Scotland, about 20 miles east of the capital city Edinburgh. Renaissance was designed in 2008 by American Tom Doak and is near Muirfield, which is a regular on the British Open rotation. It is a modern links course that will play about 200+  yards longer at 7,343 yards as a par-71 with four par-5s and five par-3s. The fairways have been nipped in since Doak built the course, and a wet year in Scotland has encouraged some thick rough to test the players’ mettle. The greens are fescue-based, similar to those at Castle Stuart in this event in the recent past, as well as at Royal Birkdale for the 2017 British Open. Weather is expected to be harder over the weekend rounds, with a 70% chance of rain and up to 25-mph gusts. 
 
Recent History
 
2019: Bernd Wiesberger (-22/262), Renaissance, 40-1*
2018: Brandon Stone (-20/260), Gullane, 400-1
2017: Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-13/275), Dundonald 50-1**
2016: Alex Noren (-14/274), Castle Stuart, 50-1
2015: Rickie Fowler (-12/268), Gullane, 22-1
2014: Justin Rose (-16/268), Royal Aberdeen, 14-1
2013: Phil Mickelson (-17/261), Castle Stuart, 22-1***
2012: Jeev Milkha Singh (-17/261), Castle Stuart, 100-1****
2011: Luke Donald (-19/197), Castle Stuart, 10-1*****
2010: Edoardo Molinari (-12/272), Loch Lomond, 70-1
 
* - playoff win over Benjamin Hebert
** - playoff win over Callum Shinkwin
*** - playoff win over Branden Grace
**** - playoff win over Francesco Molinari
***** - weather-shortened event to 54 holes
 
Selections
Thomas Pieters 20-1
Pieters became a father in June and returned to play in August with finishes of third and 15th in Wales. He came stateside for the U.S. Open and finished 23rd. Pieters was T-2 through 18 holes and T-7 after 36, but his putter cost him over the weekend. In fact, the putter has been his weakness, and he is losing about a stroke per round on the greens. 
Nevertheless, Pieters has been as good as anyone tee to green, ranking first on the European Tour in strokes gained (+ 2.72) and second for strokes gained: approach (+ 1.64). He also has been excellent off the tee, ranking eighth for strokes gained (+ 0.78) and driving distance (322.7 yards). He finished a respectable 20th here last year, so he has seen the course. 
 
Matt Wallace 25-1
 
Wallace finished only 43rd at the U.S. Open, but the numbers indicate he played better than his finish. He was sixth for the week in GIR, 14th for SG: Approach and 19th for driving accuracy. 
The short game hurt him at Winged Foot but should help him here. He finished 14th on this course last year but led the field in SG: Putting, and players don’t see these fescue greens all that regularly on tour. 
 
Romain Langasque 40-1
 
Langasque picked up his first European Tour victory at the Wales Open several weeks ago, and a missed cut the next week can be excused. That win got the Frenchman into his first U.S. Open, where he finished a respectable 34th in tough conditions.
He was third at Renaissance last year, and this looks like a solid price on a player who comes in with course form and confidence.
 
Jordan Smith 50-1
 
Smith was the co-leader after the first round last week in Northern Ireland and tied for seventh.
He has taken a liking to links golf with high finishes in recent years, including a fifth last year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and placings of third and sixth at the 2018 and 2019 British Masters. 
 
Jorge Campillo 60-1
 
Campillo returned from the layoff at the PGA Championship and missed the cut, then did the same the next week in Wales. But that could perhaps be attributed simply to rust. 
Since then he has three top-10 finishes in four starts with a form line of 8-7-17-8. He has had a couple of weeks of rest since his last start in Portugal. 
 
Joost Luiten 60-1
 
Luiten shot progressively better rounds of 71-70-69-67 to finish 11th at the Irish Open last weekend. 
He missed the cut here last year, but that was the week before the British Open. Luiten has spoken positively about developments in his game and is a quality player who could be under the radar here.
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