Sanderson Farms Championship: Davis can double up

Golfer Cam Davis
Cameron Davis with the Rocket Mortgage Classic trophy

The PGA Tour stops off in Mississippi this week for the Sanderson Farms Championship so read our man's extensive preview ahead of Thursday's start...

"Cam Davis has ticked over nicely since he broke his PGA Tour duck in July. He’s a fabulous putter and if his 63 in round three last year is anything to go by, he has a real aptitude for the venue."

Tournament History

The Sanderson Farms Championship was first staged at the Hattiesburg Country Club in 1968. In 1994, it moved to the Annandale Country Club and then seven years ago it moved to the Country Club of Jackson. The event also changed its position in the PGA Tour schedule in 2014, moving to the autumn from the July slot it had occupied for the previous three years.

Originally played opposite the US Masters in April, it's also been played opposite the Tour Championship, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the WGC-American Express Championship (now known as the WGC-Mexico Championship), the Open Championship and between 2014 and 2018, the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in China.

This is the third year in-a-row that the Sanderson Farms Championship isn't playing second fiddle to another PGA Tour event.

Venue

The Country Club of Jackson, Jackson, Mississippi.

Course Details

Par 72, 7,461 yards
Stroke Index in 2020 - 71.08

The Country Club of Jackson was founded over 100 years ago but this week's host course only opened in 1962. It's a composite of two Dick Wilson-designed nines called Dogwood and Azalea and the 18 holes have been extensively remodelled several times. On the last occasion, in 2008, by the heavily Donald Ross-influenced, John Fought.

The course is Bermuda and the greens vary in size and are often perched up with tricky looking run-off areas. They'll be set to run at 13 on the Stimpmeter.

CC of JACKSON 2021 1.jpg

This is the eighth time the Country Club of Jackson has hosted the tournament and it's always averaged under-par.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days - starting at 22:00 on Thursday. Live Featured Group coverage begins at 13:00 behind the Red Button.

Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2020 - Sergio Garcia -19 70.069/1
2019 - Sebastian Munoz -18 75.074/1 (playoff)
2018 - Cameron Champ -21 70.069/1
2017 - Ryan Armour -19 110.0109/1
2016 - Cody Gribble -20 110.0109/1
2015 - Peter Malnati -18 500.0499/1

What Will it Take to Win the Sanderson Farms Championship?

Although the last three winners have ranked inside the top-10 for Driving Distance, bombing it off the tee isn't essential. The 2015 winner, Peter Malnati, ranked 65th for DD and the 2017 champ, Ryan Armour, only ranked 69th.

Although last year's winner, Sergio Garcia, ranked 14th for Driving Accuracy, finding fairways isn't crucial either. The first three course winners ranked 40th, 35th and 38th for DA, the 2019 winner, Sebastian Munoz, ranked only 36th and the 2018 winner, Cameron Champ, only 65th.

Champ's DA percentage in round three was only 42.86% but his Greens In Regulation percentage was 83.33% and it was a similar story in round four. He had a DA percentage of just 35.71% but his GIR percentage was 61.11% and that looks like an important stat.

Cody Gribble, the 2016 winner here, only ranked 29th for GIR but the other six course winners have ranked inside the top-10 and nobody hit more putting surfaces than Garcia 12 months ago.

Had Sung-Jae Im won the playoff two years ago, it would have only been five out of seven winners ranking inside the top-10 for GIR, as he was 13th to Munoz's ninth, but he'd have improved the average Putting Average rankings of the winners.

Munoz only ranked 11th for Putting Average, whereas Im ranked first and that's arguably the strongest stat. The first five winners ranked fifth, second, first, second and first and Sergio ranked 10th last year.

The last two winners putted fractionally poorer than the first five winners and that resulted in slightly fewer birdies. Sergio ranked tied second for birdies and Munoz ranked sixth, whereas the first five winners all made more than anyone else so the picture's quite clear: you need to find plenty of greens and putt the lights out to win. Events like this are always hard to predict given it's almost impossible to know beforehand who's going to have a great week with the flat-stick. Which will go some way to explaining why so many outsiders have won here.

Is There an Angle In?

There are almost too many course correlations to consider here but the three strongest appear to be Detroit Golf Club, Sedgefield Country Club and Victoria National.

Although they fell back over the weekend, Sanderson winners, Cameron Champ, Peter Malnati and Ryan Armour were all inside the top-10 of the inaugural Rock Mortgage Classic at the Donald Ross designed, Detroit Golf Club, and this year's RMC winner, Cameron Davis, was tied for the lead here with a round to go last year.

Last year's edition of this event provided plenty of evidence to suggest there's a strong link to another Ross-designed course - Sedgefield, home of the Wyndham Championship.

Garcia won the Wyndham in 2012 and two other Wyndham winners pressed the Spaniard on Sunday. Brandt Snedeker, the 2018 winner, was matched at a low of 3.55/2, and J.T Poston the 2019 Wyndham winner, hit a low of 2.526/4.

At first glance, it's perhaps odd that two Donald Ross tracks appear to link but it stands to reason considering Jackson was extensively remodelled in 2008 by Fought who was, as mentioned already, heavily influenced by Ross.

Quite why the Bentgrass Tom Fazio designed Victoria National in Indiana should correlate with the Bermuda grass Country Club of Jackson, Mississippi is a bit of a mystery but there are results to suggest it does.

The 2016 Sanderson Farms Championship winner, Cody Gribble, finished second to Seamus Power in the United Leasing Championship at Victoria National on the Korn Ferry Tour in May '16. Power contended at the SFC again in 2017, having been in the thick of the action early on in 2016 on debut, and alongside Gribble in second in Indiana was Jonathan Randolph, who finished third here three years ago.

Smylie Kaufman, who came fourth here in 2017, won the United Leasing Championship six years ago and the 2016 SFC runner-up, Greg Owen, won the 2014 edition of the United Leasing Championship, with the 2017 SFC winner, Ryan Armour, finishing second!

The last edition of the United Leasing Championship was in 2018 but the Victoria National is now the host course for the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

Finally, the Barbasol Championship links strongly to the Wyndham so that's another event to consider.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Now that it's a standalone event, the calibre of the winners may increase over time. Last year's result suggests that might be the case. Prior to Sergio's success, all six course winners had far more experience on the Korn Ferry Tour than on the PGA Tour, so whether young or old, looking to recently graduated Korn Ferry Tour players looks a good angle in.

Sergio Garcia.jpg

Prior to two years ago, Luke Donald had been the only player from outside the States and Canada to win this title in more than 50 years so that's something that might be changing too but players from the southern states do particularly well in this event as a rule.

Tyan Armour comes from Ohio, so he's a bit further north but Gribble comes from Texas and the 2015 winner, Peter Malnati, is from Tennessee, where he won on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The first four course winners all went off at triple-figure prices and the last three have been fairly unfancied too, going off at around 70.069/1, so it's been a good event for outsiders.

With form figures reading MC-MC-MC-MC-56th, it was just about impossible to pick out Malnati before the off six years ago and in Taylor's first three PGA Tour events in 2014, he'd finished MC-56-MC before winning. It's perhaps not that surprising that they were both matched at 1000.0 before the off!

Woody Austin caused a huge shock in 2013 too, when he was matched at more than 400.0399/1 before the off, so this doesn't look like an event to put too much faith in the market leaders.

As many as seven of the last nine victors were winning for the first time on the PGA Tour.

Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2010 - Sergio Garcia - tied for the lead with two others 4.94/1
2019 - Sebastian Munoz led by one stroke 3.39/4
2018 - Cameron Champ led by four strokes 1.51/2
2017 - Ryan Armour led by five strokes 1.684/6
2016 - Cody Gribble trailed by one stroke 13.5
2015 - Peter Malnati trailed by one stroke 13.012/1

In-Play Tactics

It's been a mixed bag here so far. Both Champ and Armour won wire-to-wire and the very first course winner, Taylor, sat second after round one and he was always on the premises thereafter but given Gribble sat 10 off the lead and outside the top-100 places after round one in 2016, and that Malnati overcame a slow start in 2015 (sat tied 42nd and seven off the pace after day one and he was still six adrift at halfway) this is definitely a venue at which a fast start isn't essential.

The last two winners both trailed by five at halfway before strong third rounds propelled them to the front with a round to go.

Market Leaders

Sam Burns is a worthy favourite given he's in cracking form, he putts brilliantly, and he was third here back in 2018, but it's a wide-open tournament and they bet 20.019/1 the field.

Sam Burns 1280.jpg

Will Zalatoris looks short enough given he's still yet to win, his putting stats aren't spectacular, and he missed the cut last year.

Although there's a risk that he's tired and emotional after the Ryder Cup, the defending champ is one to consider. Sergio Garcia has won a couple of PGA Tour titles twice (the Northern Trust and the Byron Nelson) and he's successfully defended the Valderrama Masters in his homeland.

He won a couple of points alongside the world number one, Jon Rahm, last week and he might just put up a bold defence.

Selection

I've got a couple of outsiders I quite like and I'll look at those in detail in the Find Me a 100 Winner column later today or tomorrow morning but for now I'm playing just the recent Rocket Mortgage Classic winner Cam Davis.

Davis has ticked over nicely since he broke his PGA Tour duck in July. He's a fabulous putter and, if his 63 in round three last year is anything to go by, he has a real aptitude for the venue.

Selection:
Cam Davis @ 40.039/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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