The Sanderson Farms Championship
So with the PGA Tour’s elite either done for the season or chasing a WGC Title in China the rank and file of the tour will be in Mississippi this week chasing a potentially life changing win with all the trappings that come with it.
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.
The betting market as would be expected in this type of field is wide open and at the time of writing it is headed up by Patrick Rodgers, Sungjae Im and Aaron Baddeley.
The Country Club of Jackson Course is a par 72 measuring just over 7400yds.
The greens are Ultra Dwarf Bermuda, comparable to that which are found at TPC Southwind & Sedgefield CC.
The course was originally opened in 1962 before under going a redesign in 2008.
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.
2017 – R Armour
2016 – C Gribble
2015 – P Malnati
2014 – N Taylor
The first and most striking connection in these four 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 the four, apart from the fact that they could all be seen as neat and tidy, ‘all rounders’, rather than aggressive bombers.
Whilst all four were maiden winners 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.
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.
Two of the four, 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.
So having established that the four winners here were maiden winners but not too much beyond this I decided to take a look at their performances in other events as well as recent form coming in to the event to see if I could find a link their and this did throw in a couple of possible pointers.
Firstly with regards to form coming in, not unsurprisingly two of the winners, the most recent two, Armour and Gribble, 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 Childrens Hospital Championship. In addition he had finished 4th in his final start of the previous season on the PGA Tour at the Wyndham.
Gribble meanwhile 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.
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 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.
Go back even further and you will find that there has not been a winner of this event this century who hails from West Coast areas such as California, Nevada or Arizona.
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 a rookie, who hails from southern/eastern states!
The forecast leading in to the event is dry, however cooler temperatures in the mid teens are set to greet the players on Thursday & Friday with the possibility of some showers on both of these days.
Saturday and Sunday are then forecast to be dry with temperatures increasing in to the low 20s.
Wind looks like it could be a factor with gusts of 15-20mph + a possibility on all four days.
As I always say though…this could all change!
With a wide open field to look at this week and the history of an event that has thrown up some big priced shock winners I cannot bring myself to get too involved with any of the shorter priced, more experienced players at the top end of the market, even though one or two of them do make some appeal.
I am therefore as a whole happy to take a chance with some bigger priced fancies in this event who I feel fit the type of player we are looking for and who bring some each way value.
I have therefore gone with six players in this event as follows;
ROBERTO CASTRO –100-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED T5th
When grappling to price this event up in my mind prior to seeing any odds from the bookmakers I was all set to make Roberto Castro my headline pick at the best priced 66-1 I was anticipating.
I was therefore delighted to see 100-1 readily available for the Texan and to be honest I am struggling to understand the logic in this price.
The case for Roberto is thus;
Firstly we are looking at a player who before losing his way on the PGA Tour in 2017 had made the Tour Championship twice in his career and had basically done everything but win.
Secondly Castro has shown over the years that he repeatedly produces his best golf over and again on the same courses. Quail Hollow is one of these and Sedgefield Country Club is another, a venue which we have established bears some similarities to this week’s set up.
On this basis it is of great interest to me that Roberto finished 4th here in 2015, opening up with a round of 62.
Obviously here I have so far focused on Castro’s past glories and I fully appreciate this doesn’t alone make a case for backing him now, however if we take a look at Roberto’s form over the past year on the Web.com tour we see that he seems to have again found his old level of consistency.
This is born out by the fact that he only missed one cut on the Web.com tour last year whilst posting five top ten finishes.
It is also of interest to me that one of these top 5s came at the United Leasing & Finance event, which is an event that recent winners of this event, Armour, Gribble and Malnati have all performed well at in the past. This may of course be purely coincidental but it as an interesting link none the less.
If we look at Castro’s stats for the 2018 season on the Web.com tour we see that he ranked in the top 10 for DA, GIR and Putting Average so it is clear as I said earlier he is back to his old self.
The elephant in the room with the Texan is that he is winless on both the PGA Tour and the Web.com tour in his time out here, however he showed when making the play off at the Wells Fargo a few years back that he can produce the goods under pressure down the stretch.
Castro started his season back on the PGA Tour with a solid if unspectacular week at the Safeway Open, however he has never really produced his best stuff on the West Coast.
Back now at a venue that does suit his game and back in solid form I am confident Castro can give us a great run at a big price this week.
CAMERON DAVIS – 40 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED MC
The first of three rookies in my team this week is a player who I had in my team at the Safeway Open and I am keen to keep on side again, Aussie Cameron Davis.
As I said before the Safeway Open Davis is quite possibly the real deal and whilst he does not exactly fit the profile of the typical winner of this event it could just be that he shows his undoubted potential quality in a field of this level.
The reason I say that Cam is not necessarily the type of player who would fit the winners profile this week is that he is a big hitter of the tee as opposed to a shorter hitting, neat and tidy player like all of the recent winners here.
I am however somewhat splitting hairs here and if you put this to one side, on top of his undoubted ability, Cameron has a lot else going for him this week.
Firstly he finished 3rd on the Web.com tour for putting last season an important ingredient here.
Secondly he finished 3rd at the Nationwide Childrens Hospital Championship a few weeks back, an event which we have already established as being a good link to this week.
In fact Cameron has four top 16 finishes including two top 3s in his past five starts across both tours. Clearly therefore he is in form at present.
In my opinion Cameron will probably prove to be the pick of the rookies new to the tour this season and I expect him to win.
I am therefore happy to take my chances at 40-1 in this company that he can do so this week.
BEN SILVERMAN – 100 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 39th
We have had one Canadian winner of this event over the recent years and I am willing to roll the dice on there being another one this week in the form of Ben Silverman.
Silverman’s maiden season on the PGA Tour was a fairly lack lustre one, however it is clear that he plays his best golf on tracks that reward his shorter hitting, more accurate tee ball game and his greatest strength, his strong putting.
From that point of view it is not unsurprising that his best finish in his maiden year came here at the Country Club of Jackson where he finished 7th.
Beyond this Ben managed an 8th place at RSM and an 11th at the Fort Worth Invitational before he found a bit of form towards the end of the season, which brought him two further top 12 finishes.
After three disappointing events to start the Web.com finals Silverman salvaged his card at the 11th hour with a 3rd place finish at the Web.com Tour Championship.
Buoyed by this Houdini act you would have to believe that Ben will be in fine spirits returning to the venue, which saw his best result last season and I am happy to roll the dice that he has another great week here this year.
ANDERS ALBERTSON – 100-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED T5th
The next rookie to make my team this week is Texas native and Georgia State grad Anders Albertson.
Those who read my blog profiling the 50 web.com grads to make the PGA Tour for this season will have noticed that I highlighted Albertson as a player who could make some noise based on his really solid all round stats from the web.com tour this year, and it is that all round game that leads me to him this week.
If we look at Anders’ numbers from last season we will see that he ranked 49th in DA, 17th in GIR and 5th in putting. Exactly the sort of solid player I am looking for this week.
Throughout the whole of last season Anders only missed three cuts in 23 starts with his highlight being his win at the Lincoln Land Championship.
The 25yr old then continued with his solid form right through the Web.com play offs notching two further top 10 finishes in the four events.
Albertson started life on the PGA Tour fairly slowly at the Safeway Championship where he missed the cut, however this does not concern me too much as based on where he was brought up and where he spent his time at college I would see him as more of an East Coast/Southern states player, and this is exactly what we are looking for this week.
Looking at the recent winners of this event Albertson strikes me as the sort of neat and tidy player who has thrived here over the recent years and at the prices on offer I am happy to chance him in our team this week.
CHASE WRIGHT – 66-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED MC
The final rookie to make my team this week is 29 yr old Indiana man Chase Wright.
After a few years plying his trade on the Web.com tour the 2018 season was a break through year for Chase as it saw him earn his first Web.com Tour title at the Rust-Oleum Championship and as a result his PGA Tour card.
On the web.com Tour last season Chase ranked 20th in DA, 50th in GIR and 15th in putting so he is again the sort of all round tidy player that I am looking for this week.
After his win at the Rust-Oleum Wright’s form tailed of somewhat through the summer however he finished the Web.com season with a flourish with a 3rd place at the Web.com Tour Championship before starting life on the PGA Tour with a 10th place finish at the Safeway Open.
Sticking with our main theme this week Wright is another solid tee to green player who putts well and who again strikes me as the sort who could prosper at this venue.
Looking at the 29yr olds finishes on the web.com tour last season he appears to be a bit of a ‘feast or famine’ type player in that he either struggles to a MC or may be a down the field finish in 50th or so, or, if he is having an ‘on’ week makes the most of it and finishes in the top 10 or higher.
Basically he does not appear to be a player who just notches a successive run of ‘never in contention’ top 20s.
This of course gives us the risk that we could be catching him on a week where he doesn’t put it together, however on the basis that I believe this course will suit him, coupled with his strong form of late I am happy to chance him at the prices on offer.
JONATHAN RANDOLPH – 250-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 35th
For my final selection for this week I am going to throw a speculative dart at Jonathan Randolph.
The case for Randolph this week is incredibly simple, the venue is basically the Mississippi natives home course.
Now we all know that more often than not an outing for a PGA Tour pro on their home course can lead to a disappointing week as they can struggle to cope with the pressure and expectations that the week brings.
Over the years this has indeed been the case for Randolph however last year he put it all together in front of his home fans to finish 3rd.
Randolph was unfortunately unable to build on that finish and the rest of the season was disappointing for him, meaning that after missing the cut in three of the four web.com play off events he now finds himself returning to the web.com tour.
Not exactly inspiring stuff then, however Jonathan’s form was not much better this time last year before he notched his big finish.
A victory for Randolph this week would of course be fairytale stuff however if he can recapture the home town positive vibes from last year a top 7 finish is certainly not out of the question and at 250-1, or 50-1 for the place, I am happy to roll the dice on him to produce the goods again this week.