Sanderson Farms Championship Betting Tips: Six tips for Week Two of the PGA Tour
Week two of the 2022/23 PGA Tour season brings us to Jackson, Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson; an event which started in 1968 and has taken place here at the CCoJ every year since 2014.
It was previously an alternate-field event; staged opposite majors, WGCs and team events up until 2018, as it was granted full tour status in 2019.
It’s an event where scoring is typically low, with winning scores of -16 or better in every renewal and it has exceeded -20 on three occasions, possessing an average winning score of -19.125 over the eight years in which the event has been held here.
The Sanderson Farms Championship and Country Club of Jackson had previously combined to provide a happy hunting ground for first time PGA Tour winners, with each of the first six renewals here going to such players. Though over the last two years, with the 2020 edition going to Sergio Garcia and Sam Burns claiming the trophy last year, we’ve seen an end to that run.
That being said, with the weakness in field strength and a hungry group of Korn Ferry Tour graduates thrown into the mix, it is a trend that we could well see return this week.
The Country Club of Jackson is a 7461 yard par 72, originally designed by Dick Wilson in the 1950s. It has undergone many renovations over the years but the most important came in 2008, as John Faught oversaw significant changes, drawing inspiration from the great Donald Ross.
What we have is a flat, tree-lined course (though not too claustrophobic) with relatively narrow fairways, many which dogleg gently, though are not abound with difficulties should you miss despite water being in-play on around 1/3 of the holes, with rough non-penal and a lack of dangerous bunkers. This represented by the course possessing a high percentage of greens hit not just from the fairway but also when you miss the short grass off the tee.
The greens themselves are not the most demanding and when you add into the fact it rates as one of the easiest to scramble around on the PGA Tour, with an average of 61% successful up-and-downs here over the previous six years, we soon see why scoring has been so consistently low.
Scoring opportunities await throughout the course, in the shape of the four par 5s, numerous short, attackable par 4s and a couple of shorter par 3s. With the par 3 7th and 10th holes, along with a trio of lengthier 480+ yard par 4s, including the 505 yard 18th hole proving to be the most challenging around the setup.
Sanderson Farms Championship Tips
- Sepp Straka 40/1 – 1/5 8 places (Betfair) – 1.25 pts ew
- Gary Woodland 50/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1 pt ew
- Brendan Steele 66/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1 pt ew
- Will Gordon 100/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1 pt ew
- Davis Thompson 125/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew
- Carl Yuan 125/1 – 1/5 8 places (Betfair) – 1 pt ew
With the length of the Country Club of Jackson, along with the lack of penalty aside these fairways, it’s a course which screams strong drivers, particularly those who don’t lack for distance. Something which has proven to be the case since we got our first look at the venue in 2014.
Of the eight winners here, six ranked top 10 off-the-tee when they won. Each of the last two winners, Sam Burns in 2021 and Sergio Garcia in 2020 ranked 1st; Cameron Champ ranked 2nd in 2018; Nick Taylor ranked 3rd in 2014; Sebastian Munoz 4th in 2019; and Cody Gribble was 9th OTT when winning in 2016.
Not just the winners proving this trend but many others found their way into contention with the driver. Cameron Young ranked 8th when finishing 2nd to Burns last year, whilst in 2019, 2018 and 2016 the closest challengers to Munoz, Champ and Gribble all ranked top 11 OTT. With further strong driving performances found from Chesson Hadley when 2nd in 2017, ranking 3rd and Boo Weekley when 2nd in 2014, ranking 5th.
Each of those six mentioned winners then ranked high in driving distance, even going back to Nick Taylor in 2014 who was long back then. Whilst again, plenty of the other contenders didn’t lack for power, Cameron Young last year, Byeong An in 2019 and Luke List in 2016 to name but three.
Not just mirroring each other off-the-tee but the last two winners of this event, Burns and Garcia, both used the driver as part of a strong all-round ball-striking performance, complimenting that area of their game with top class iron play. Both ranked 1st in GIR, with Burns then ranking 2nd in approach and Garcia 3rd.
This represents a slight deviation from the previous editions, in which the putter had been a huge asset in every winner from 2014-2019, with each of them ranking top 7 on the greens for the week. Indeed it was the biggest factor in helping the two outliers in the strong driving stats, Ryan Armour in 2017 and Peter Malnati in 2015, to win in their respective years. Whilst it was still very much on show in those two most recent editions from the nearest contenders to the eventual champions, as each of the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in 2021/2020 ranked 8th or better on the greens.
This is a week to keep it simple statistically. The driver has clearly been a key asset in deciding the winner here and with the way the course sets up, it is easy to see why the longer of those strong drivers have had enormous success. In addition to this, combining that with strong iron play is getting increasingly important, whilst as with any birdie-heavy contest, there is still plenty of requirement for a hot week on the greens.
Key Stats: SG: Off-the-Tee, Driving Distance
Secondary Stats: SG: Approach, SG: Putting
Fortinet Championship @ Silverado Resort
I mentioned the Sanderson Farms as a good comp for the Fortinet Championship two weeks ago and see no reason not to flip that here. Both courses place an emphasis on strong drivers, with fairways that are tough to find but not too penal should you miss and aren’t too tricky around the greens.
Cameron Champ has lifted the trophy at both courses, whilst on that leaderboard two weeks ago, we found the form-ties between the two venues strengthen further, with Byeong An, Harris English and Sahith Theegala all finishing top 10 and possessing similarly impressive finishes here. Whilst 2014 Sanderson Farms winner, Nick Taylor added to his excellent record at Silverado, finishing 6th, his third top 10 at the course.
3M Open @ TPC Twin Cities
Though fairways are tough to find here in Jackson, we’ve established that the lack of penalty for missing them plays into the hands of the bigger hitters, which in turn means it correlates nicely with some of the more open courses with wider fairways. This is very much the case with TPC Twin Cities, a course where power off the tee has been hugely beneficial.
Cameron Champ once again holds the key piece of correlating form, as he’s also won the 3M Open, whilst two other Sanderson Farms winners, Sam Burns and Ryan Armour have each recorded top 7s at Twin Cities. Form-ties are strengthened by Carlos Ortiz, JT Poston and Chesson Hadley.
Puerto Rico Open @ Grand Reserve Country Club
The Puerto Rico Open is an alternate event played opposite the WGC-Matchplay and matches up well statistically to the CCoJ. Fairways are of average difficulty to find but this is offset by a lack of penalty, which means it ranks very closely to this week’s venue in GIR & GIR from off the fairway, as well as scrambling difficulty. It’s also a course where bombers have enjoyed plenty of success.
As you’d expect, as an opposite event away from mainland USA, it attracts a generally weak field, so form-ties aren’t overly abundant, though there are some. Nick Taylor has a top 5, whilst Chesson Hadley has won there and has finished 2nd here. In addition to this Kevin Streelman, Jhonny Vegas, Martin Laird and Shawn Stefani possess strong records at both venues.
Charles Schwab Challenge @ Colonial Country Club
The next two are generally more difficult tests but require a similar skillset to here in Jackson and possess some strong form-lines, starting with the Charles Schwab Challenge. A course which plays similarly from a ball-striking perspective but ramps up the penalty of errant shots.
Sam Burns has won both events, whilst David Toms, Boo Weekley and Chris Kirk have all won the Charles Schwab and finished 2nd here. Jason Kokrak is also a past champion there and has a strong book of form here. Further form-ties found from the likes of Sebastian Munoz, JT Poston and Chesson Hadley amongst many more.
Farmers Insurance Open @ Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines (South) is a long course which suits strong drivers, where fairways are tough to find, though the big greens are not, even when straying a little from the fairways. Though it is more penal than the CCoJ, it’s surprisingly not as much as you’d think from a ball-striking perspective, with the biggest difference in challenge between the two courses coming around and on the greens.
Luke List won there this year and has a strong record here, including a 2nd place finish in 2016; Henrik Norlander finished 2nd there last year and has two 4th place finishes here, with additional links found from players such as Kevin Streelman, Scott Stallings, Keegan Bradley and Martin Laird.
Utah Championship @ Oakridge Country Club (Korn Ferry Tour)
Like the first event of the new season I felt it necessary to find an event on the Korn Ferry Tour to give us some added insight into the new graduates and in Oakridge Country Club I’ve found an attractive correlation this week. It has hosted the event since 2017 and has developed strong form-ties with the Sanderson Farms, matching up to it statistically in virtually every way, as a long course where fairways are not easy to find but lacking penalty; and where there’s also a dearth of difficulty in scrambling.
Cameron Champ won there in 2018; Kristoffer Ventura, who finished 6th on his only try at the Sanderson Farms won in 2019; whilst Sam Burns and Sebastian Munoz have each finished top 6. Further form-ties are on offer from Hayden Buckley, who went well on debut here last year and finished 2nd in Utah, as well the likes of Seth Reeves and Trey Mullinax, with top 10s in each event.
We’re set for a warm, dry week in Mississippi, with clear, sunny conditions predicted throughout the week. Wind may play a part over the opening couple of days, with a strong breeze currently forecast, though dies down over the weekend.
Defending champion, Sam Burns is the clear standout in the field at #12 in the world rankings. He’s joined by Sepp Straka, Seamus Power, Harris English and Keegan Bradley from inside the world’s top 50.
Other notables include, Dean Burmester, making his first start since earning his tour card at KFT Finals; Mississippi resident Hayden Buckley, who finished 4th here last year; along with Mississippi natives, Davis Riley and Chad Ramey.
Sam Burns heads the market at 10/1 and as the defending champion is clearly the man to beat this week, though is not under consideration at the price. He’s followed by Sahith Theegala at 20/1, then J.T Poston and Russell Henley at 25s. In truth I found this very top section of the market a little underwhelming, plenty of quality up there but by and large a group of players who either haven’t won or struggle to do so.
Taylor Montgomery very much falls into this category and was a player I was keen on this week but does nothing for me at the 28/1 he’s currently available at and instead I start this week’s selections at 40/1 with Sepp Straka.
I think Straka looks great value this week; not only is he now a proven winner after picking up the trophy at the Honda Classic last year, but he comes into this with some of the best recent form of anyone in the field.
This recent form came in a superb FedEx Cup Playoffs for the Austrian, where he really ought to have beaten Will Zalatoris to the St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind, eventually losing the playoff to finish 2nd; followed by a 28th place finish in the BMW Championship and most recently was 7th in the “Without Starting Strokes” leaderboard at The Tour Championship on his first visit to the course.
We haven’t seen him since that event four weeks ago, which would normally be a concern if everyone else had been playing during that time; however everyone else is coming into this after a two-week break following the Fortinet Championship because of the Presidents Cup last week, so Straka is in effect only a week behind these and shouldn’t be too far behind in terms of sharpness.
I certainly hope this is the case as last we saw him, every part of his game was firing. This is particularly evident in his approach play, where Straka produced his best performances of the year when ranking 4th in The Tour Championship and 13th in the St Jude Championship, too gaining strokes in the BMW.
In addition he gained in each start around-the-greens, 2/3 starts off-the-tee and that usually trusty putter, which saw him rank 39th on the PGA Tour last season was also on song in 2/3 starts. Add in the fact he doesn’t lack for power off the tee and Straka should be a serious player this week if still in the same form.
He’ll have to overturn a poor series of results at this venue, as he’s missed the cut on each of his four previous visits, though it is worth noting he hasn’t been in this kind of form when coming here to Jackson before. He has recorded top 20s in the Farmers Insurance Open, Puerto Rico and the Fortinet to boost my belief.
Straka is in form and confidence should be flying after recent starts; if, as expected, he hasn’t lost too much ground on others over this four-week break, I fully expect him to improve considerably on his recent visits here.
Onto two players of whom I backed in the Fortinet and though they underwhelmed, there was enough there to give them another shot this week on another favourable setup, starting with Gary Woodland.
Though eventually finishing 64th, Woodland opened with consecutive under par rounds at Silverado before shooting two rounds of +1 over the weekend. Despite this he maintained a strong level of performance in approach play, ranking 7th for the week, gaining strokes in three of the four rounds, whilst he also putt well over the first couple of days.
The driver gave the biggest call for concern, which was a surprise as Woodland had been driving it excellently at the end of last season, leading to him being ranked 43rd on the PGA Tour, so is easily forgiven that off week with the club. In addition he has that power we want around here, ranking 23rd in driving distance last season and if able to bring that and combine with the quality he showed in approach last time out, he can ball-strike his way into contention this week.
Despite missing the cut he actually showed last year how this course could suit his game, opening with a 67 to sit 7th after round one in which he struck the ball as well as anyone, before succumbing to a 73 in round two to miss the cut by one. Further to this I am buoyed by top 10s in the Farmers Insurance Open and Charles Schwab Challenge, as well an 11th on his one and only start in the 3M Open.
There is an argument that with the length of this course and the slightly easier to find fairways, that Woodland should be more suited to this week than the Fortinet, something he certainly showed in that opening round here last year and he should be in the mix if able to find form with the driver this week.
Brendan Steele up next, who played appallingly in the first round at the Fortinet, firing +5 and looking out of sync with every part of his game. He went on to miss the cut but improved dramatically in the second round, shooting level par and though he was still at odds with the short-game he figured the ball-striking out, ranking 7th in approach and 10th off-the-tee in that second round, the best round two ball-striking performance of anyone in the field.
That round two performance was much more like it for Steele, who ranked 6th off-the-tee and 43rd in approach on the PGA Tour last season. This engineered a solid end to the season, where he picked up a number of top 10s, the best of which was a 9th place finish in the PGA Championship.
There were also some better signs in the short-game late last season too, particularly around-the-greens, where he gained strokes in 3/7 starts and only lost small strokes when not quite on it. This is why I’m willing to put the short-game performance last time out to a little bit of rustiness following a near month-long absence and hoping he can improve, much the same way he did with the ball-striking, in time for another course which sets up well for him this week.
This has been shown in his two visits here, where he’s made the cut both times, looking particularly good when 17th last year, an event where he did everything well but most eye-catchingly produced his best putting performance of the previous season. Whilst I found further encouragement in his strong record at the Fortinet (last effort notwithstanding), where he’s twice tasted success.
It’s easy to jump straight off a player who starts as bad as Steele did a fortnight ago but the excellent ball-striking he produced in round two gave more than enough confidence that he can dispel the memory of that performance and bounce back with a contending performance this week.
Three triple-figure Korn Ferry Tour graduates to finish, starting with a player we were also on at the Fortinet, Will Gordon. He finished 36th there, looking good with the ball-striking and combining it with a promising couple of rounds on the greens, something this big-hitter can put to even better use this week.
The strong ball-striking saw Gordon rank 8th off-the-tee and 21st in approach, the 4th best ball-striker in the field there, whilst he was 32nd on the greens. His long-game performance in particular is what we’ve come to expect from Gordon, not only in his starts on the PGA Tour but last year he ranked 8th on the Korn Ferry Tour in ball-striking; his length with the driver, where he ranks 5th and his ability to find greens, ranking 13th the most contributing factors. Overall, a good fit for this test.
Gordon won’t be coming into this week blind, as he’s played in this event twice, improving on a missed cut in 2020 by finishing 53rd last year, a result strongly engineered by a good week on the greens. He has some solid efforts in Puerto Rico and at Torrey Pines, but the most encouraging bit of form pertaining to his potential this week comes in the shape of a 5th place finish in the Utah Championship last year.
That finish was the start of a trio of events that resulted in him collecting his first pro title in the Albertson Boise Open and as I iterated last time, he’s a player who I’m certain has what it takes at this level. I see the Sanderson Farms as a good fit and he can reignite the first-time winners trend this week.
Davis Thompson is a former #1 amateur and one of the main ones to watch from this latest batch of Korn Ferry Tour graduates. He showed that when 9th at the Fortinet two weeks ago, the seventh time he’s made the cut in ten PGA Tour starts and as he showed when 35th here last year, he has the game to go well at the Country Club of Jackson.
Thompson roared into contention at the Fortinet Championship thanks to a superb third round 65 and entered the final round just two off the lead, though he couldn’t get anything going in round four, shooting level par and eventually settling for a 9th place finish.
We saw everything he was about there, as he gained strokes in all areas with an impressively well rounded performance; something he’s shown throughout those ten PGA Tour starts to date, though he arguably excels most in ball-striking, which is backed up by last season’s ranking of 14th on the Korn Ferry Tour. Also a player who possesses plenty of power, ranking 6th there in driving distance.
This enabled him to go well here last year, finishing 35th, shooting under par every round and closing with a 5-under 67; a result largely engineered by a good performance tee-to-green, where he ranked 25th. He is at the start of his pro career, so hasn’t built up a significant book of correlating form, though we needn’t look far as that 9th at the Fortinet works well.
Thompson has a higher ceiling than not just the majority of other Korn Ferry Tour graduates but arguably higher than the majority of this field. He wasted no time getting to winning ways as a pro last year on the Korn Ferry Tour, picking up the Rex Hospital Open back in June and with the form he showed last time out, this test will provide an excellent opportunity to become a PGA Tour winner in next to no time.
China’s Carl Yuan is incredibly fun to watch and has one of the most eccentric swings in golf but don’t let this fool you, he’s a superb talent and I expect him to develop into a big player on the PGA Tour going forward.
Yuan earned his first shot at the PGA Tour thanks to finishing 2nd on the KFT Money List last season, where he picked up his first title outside of China, as well as a further three runner-up finishes and three more top 5s.
These results were engineered by a game which should be a great fit for the Sanderson Farms, one of a power packed ball-striker, who also improved markedly on the greens last year. Ranking 5th in driving distance, 8th in GIR and 25th on the greens.
This was evidenced at the Fortinet Championship despite a missed cut, as Yuan upped his solid T2G performance in round one, ranking 47th, to an excellent T2G ranking of 10th in round two where he gained 1+ stroke in each recorded area. Ultimately the putter was his undoing as he lost an unaffordable 5 strokes over the opening two rounds, though I am hoping from his stats on the Korn Ferry Tour last year that he can quickly rectify that.
If he can, he should like what he finds at the Country Club of Jackson, a course more forgiving on his sometimes wayward driving and if able to produce the type of tee-to-green performance he showed two weeks ago, whilst rediscovering the touch with the putter he developed last year, he can get in the mix on his first visit.