Out of the Rough: Sanderson Farms Championship (2023)
As the dust of Team Europe’s impressive victory at the Ryder Cup settles, the PGA TOUR returns to action for the second stop of the Fall Swing.
The TOUR turns its attention to the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi for this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.
This event, although under other names and held at various other courses, has been a part of the PGA TOUR since 1968.
Since its introduction to the schedule, the Sanderson Farms Championship has raised over $8 million for charity.
This event has been played at the Country Club of Jackson since 2014 and Sanderson Farms, one of the United State’s leading food corporations based in Mississippi, took over sponsorship in 2013.
With the Ryder Cup taking place just a week prior and being a part of the PGA TOUR’s Fall Swing, we’ll see a weaker field this week.
Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard who were part of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Rome, Italy will be making the trip to headline this week’s field.
Joining them is the defending champion of this event in Mackenzie Hughes who took down Sepp Straka in a playoff a year ago.
Other notable names teeing it up this week include Akshay Bhatia, Cameron Champ, Eric Cole, Joel Dahmen, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Lucas Herbert, Erik Van Rooyen, Alex Noren, Keith Mitchell, Webb Simpson, Ryan Palmer, Patton Kizzire and Kevin Kisner.
Although we’ll be seeing a weaker field this week, there is still plenty to play for those teeing it up.
This week’s winner will receive the full benefits of a regular PGA TOUR event by receiving 500 FedEx Cup points and an invitation to The Masters.
Additionally, there are full exempt spots for the 2024 season and the ability to play in signature events up for grabs.
At the end of this Fall Swing, the top 50 within the rankings will receive full exemption for all signature events. The top 70 will be exempt into all full-field events and THE PLAYERS Championship.
On top of that, whoever finished 51st to 60th will qualify for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational. The top 125 will be fully exempt for 2024.
The Country Club of Jackson plays as a Par 72 at 7,461 yards.
It was opened in 1914 and consists of 27 holes comprising of three sets of nine holes. These nine hole sets are named Dogwood, Azalea and Cypress. Dogwood and Azalea combine for the championship course. Dogwood serves as the opening nine.
The course was originally designed by Dick Wilson and was redesigned by John Fought in 2008/2009.
The remodeled layout can be best described as a parkland style routing with small and tricky Bermuda greens.
These greens vary in size from 5,000 to 8,500 square feet and are oftentimes situated with testing run-off areas.
Although this track appears long on paper, it plays much shorter than that suggests. Players are able to pull driver regularly here to cut off angles. This helps with allowing both long bombers and fairways alike to compete.
Through all of this, the majority of the approach shots we’ll see here at the Country Club of Jackson playing between 100 to 150 yards.
Par-five scoring will be crucial this week as three of the four par-fives play over 580 yards. Those golfers who can reach these greens in two will see a large advantage.
Seven of the par-fours this week measure under 450 yards, including the driveable 330-yard 15th which plays as the second easiest hole on the entire course.
Like we saw at Silverado a few weeks back, this course ranks in the bottom-ten of PGA TOUR tracks in terms of fairway width. However, the Bermuda rough this week is not penal and the greens are receptive to approaches from the rough.
Overall, this course offers little resistance in terms of defenses and in years past, has resulted in a birdiefest. It’ll boil down to strong ball striking, approach play and putting. Having plus distance off the tee is an advantage but not a must.
The average winning score of this event being played at the Country Club of Jackson is -18.9.
As of the time of writing this, the weather looks to be in line for a great week of golf. The highest chance for precipitation comes on Friday with just a 20-percent chance. The rest of the days offer a 10-percent chance or less. Temperatures will begin at 89-degrees on Thursday before falling to 74-degrees by Sunday. Thursday will be cloudy as the rest of the week will be slightly cloudy with mostly sunshine.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Average Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)
Par 5 Average Scoring
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Proximity to the Hole From 100-150 Yards
Birdie or Better Percentage
With just four golfers in this top price range, I’m going to offer just one suggestion here and two for the other price ranges. My suggestion in this price range is Stephan Jaeger ($10,400.) There is just one golfer more expensive than Jaeger this week and that is Ludvig Aberg. Aberg is fresh off the Ryder Cup and making the trip from Rome, Italy to Jackson, Mississippi so I’m counting him out. Jaeger is currently seventh on TOUR in SG: ATG, 21st in SG: TTG, 23rd in par five average scoring, 26th in ball striking, 39th in birdie or better percentage, 40th in SG: OTT, 44th in average driving distance, 59th in SG: APP, 67th in bogey avoidance, 93rd in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards and 110th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Jaeger has made the cut in 11 straight events. He placed T20th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and most recently placed T45th at the Fortinet Championship. He’s on my betting card at +2200 for two units.
Doug Ghim ($9,100) is my favorite in this price range and he comes with some great lineup flexibility at the bottom of this price range. Ghim placed T17th at the Fortinet Championship in the first stop of this PGA TOUR Fall Swing. He’s made the cut in nine of his last ten tournaments. He is currently seventh on TOUR in ball striking, 43rd in SG: TTG, 44th in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards, 52nd in SG: OTT, 57th in par five average scoring, 65th in SG: APP, 82nd in SG: ATG, 89th in birdie or better percentage, 92nd in bogey avoidance and 118th in average driving distance. His downfall comes on the greens as he ranks 147th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. I’m playing a unit on Ghim at +4500. Also consider Keith Mitchell ($9,900) who is the opposite of Ghim and at the top of this price range. Mitchell finished the season by going T5th at the 3M Open and T43rd at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Mitchell is currently sixth on TOUR in SG: OTT, 13th in average driving distance, 27th in ball striking, 39th in SG: TTG, 45th in bogey avoidance, 83rd in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 87th in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards and 113th in SG: ATG. His downfalls come in the form of 124th in par five average scoring, 142nd in SG: APP and 152nd in birdie or better percentage.
After starting the previous price range off at the bottom, we’re going to start at the top here. My first suggestion in this price range is Alex Smalley ($8,900.) Smalley is currently 30th on TOUR in all three of SG: TTG, SG: APP and ball striking. He is also 48th in SG: OTT, 71st in par five average scoring, 74th in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards, 79th in average driving distance, 91st in SG: ATG, 94th in birdie or better percentage, 115th in bogey avoidance and 125th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Not a bad resume for someone in this price range. Smalley put together a great stretch of tournaments between June and July, going T25th at the RBC Canadian Open, T9th at the Travelers Championship, T47th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and T2nd at the John Deere Classic. I’m playing a unit on Smalley at +3500. Also consider Davis Thompson ($8,200.) Like the previous price range, I have a golfer in each the top and bottom of this price range. Thompson is elite when it comes to par five average scoring as he ranks fifth on TOUR. He is also 20th in average driving distance, 23rd in SG: OTT, 39th in ball striking, 40th in birdie or better percentage, 64th in bogey avoidance, 70th in SG: TTG, 76th in SG: ATG, 106th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 116th in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards. His downfall comes with a 149th placement in SG: APP. Thompson has made the cut in four of his last five events, highlighted by a T22nd at the Wyndham Championship.
Once I announce the names, it should be no surprise that I’m in love with both of my suggestions in this price range. First off we have Kevin Yu ($7,300.) Yu actually is my overall favorite this week per my model. Surprise. Yu is not in good form by any measures heading into this week but with just two tournaments being played since early August, we can look past that. He did place T6th at the John Deere Classic back in July however. Yu is currently first on the entire TOUR in ball striking, fourth in both SG: OTT and bogey avoidance, tenth in SG: TTG, 23rd in par five average scoring, 25th in average driving distance, 56th in SG: APP, 63rd in SG: ATG, 67th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 125th in birdie or better percentage. His downfall comes with a 157th placement in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards. He is still an elite ball striker so I’m not the most concerned there. I’m playing a unit on Yu at +6000. Also consider Dylan Wu ($7,600.) Wu placed T5th at the 3M Open back in July and went T14th in the latest PGA TOUR event at the Fortinet Championship. He is currently 15th on TOUR in par five average scoring, 31st in both ball striking and birdie or better percentage, 47th in SG: APP, 50th in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards, 57th in SG: TTG, 64th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 89th in SG: OTT, 90th in bogey avoidance, 108th in SG: ATG and 109th in average driving distance. In other words, he’s above average or average in each of the 11 statistical categories I took into consideration this week. I’m playing a unit on Wu at +5500.
Now for the difference makers. My first suggestion here is Will Gordon ($6,900.) Gordon is currently fourth on TOUR in ball striking, 22nd in average driving distance, 32nd in SG: OTT, 64th in SG: APP, 71st in par five average scoring, 84th in birdie or better percentage, 88th in SG: TTG and 114th in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards. Now, he does some with some red flags, as anyone in this price range would. His downfalls include a 135th placement in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 167th in bogey avoidance and 176th in SG: ATG. He is god awful around the greens so we can hope his above average approach play and ball striking will allow him to find the greens in regulation more often than not. He also comes into this week missing three consecutive cuts but did place T25th at the Genesis Scottish Open back in July. I’m playing a unit on Gordon at +9000. Also consider Kevin Roy ($6,600.) Roy is currently tenth on TOUR in SG: APP, 28th in birdie or better percentage, 57th in par five average scoring, 60th in both SG: TTG and average driving distance, 61st in ball striking, 72nd in bogey avoidance, 83rd in proximity to the hole from 100-150 yards and 129th in SG: OTT. Now for his downfalls. He’s 140th in SG: ATG and his biggest downfall is a 175th placement in SG: PUTT Bermuda. There are few golfers on TOUR worse than him in putting on Bermuda. If he can catch not even a hot flat stick but a warm putter, his elite approach play can carry him across the cut line.
Stephan Jaeger (+2200) - 2u
Alex Smalley (+3500) - 1u
Doug Ghim (+4500) - 1u
Dylan Wu (+5500) - 1u
Kevin Yu (+6000) - 1u
Will Gordon (+9000) - 1u