The 2022 season began with wins from Max Homa and Team USA in its first two weeks. So if all good trends come in threes, we can all save ourselves some time, bet Sam Burns to repeat in this week’s PGA TOUR odds, and collect our money on Sunday. If it’s not that cut and dry, then hopefully this 2023 Sanderson Farms Preview of the Country Club of Jackson serves as a nice contingency plan.
SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES
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Fall Swing Scoring Conditions: The Birdie-Fests
When I think of the PGA TOUR’s Fall Swing, I consider the Sanderson Farms Championship to be the best embodiment of it. We see our fair share of weaker fields with young up-and-coming rookies this time of year, as the TOUR defers Sunday eyeballs to the juggernaut that is the NFL. We also tend to see the courses set up as easier birdie-fests, which will certainly be the case again at the Country Club of Jackson. Without a bona fide off-season, and positioned to immediately follow the conclusion of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and Presidents Cup, it’s not a week you expect to find many elite, in-form players.
The closing stretch of the calendar year will predominantly play as birdie-fests on Bermuda greens where aggressive play in easier scoring conditions are rewarded. So I’ll be looking to narrow in on players in PGA TOUR odds who have shown proven results in similar conditions. With a concentration of six par-4s between 400-450 yards, it’s also an important week to hone in on the best wedge players, particularly from the 100-150 yard range, where approaches consistently funnel to year over year.
Now let’s get into the key facts and info about Country Club of Jackson for the 2023 Sanderson Farms Championship.
COUNTRY CLUB OF JACKSON CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: FIELD AT A GLANCE
The Sanderson Farms Championship is not the most storied tournament on the PGA TOUR schedule, nor does the brand of Sanderson Farms (a Mississippi company which sells fresh and frozen chicken) possess the deepest pockets to drive up its purse. So with that in mind, our expectations for the field this early into the season in the Fall Swing should be kept modest.
Sam Burns is back to defend his title after edging past a crowded Sunday leaderboard at last year’s event which included other young burgeoning stars like Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala, and Will Zalatoris. This year, Burns will be the only player from Team USA back in action since last week’s Presidents Cup. On the other side, 2020 champion, Sebastian Munoz, is joined by Christiaan Bezuidenhout to represent the International Team. There will be a total of five OWGR top-50 players in the field this week, as Burns will also be joined by Sepp Straka, Seamus Power, Harris English, and Keegan Bradley to highlight this field. The gap in OWGR between Burns (No. 12) and Sepp Straka (No. 36) is enough to consider backing Sam Burns once again, even at expectedly short PGA TOUR odds.
Past winners at the Sanderson Farms Championship in this field include Sam Burns, Sebastian Munoz, Cameron Champ, Ryan Armour, Peter Malnati, Nick Taylor, Scott Stallings, Cody Gribble, and Chris Kirk.
INTRODUCTION TO COUNTRY CLUB OF JACKSON
The Sanderson Farms Championship was established in 1986 and has been at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi since 2013. In recent years, as the TOUR has pushed more of a wrap-around schedule, the quality of field has diminished compared to its early days.
Positioning this event in Mississippi has proven to be a hit amongst players, especially those who grew up in the south or played college golf in the SEC. Sam Burns was quoted in his post-victory interview last year that Jackson, Mississippi is one of the closest TOUR stops to his hometown in Louisiana, and that this is one of his favorite events to play all year, given the local hometown support. Davis Riley, Lee Hodges, Chad Ramey, Trey Mullinax, Davis Thompson, and Hayden Buckley are amongst a longer list of players in this week’s field who have ties to the surrounding Mississippi area.
Similar to the set up we watched in the season opener at the Fortinet Championship, the Sanderson Farms Championship has seen an even split of bombers and plodders go on to win, so there is not one clear profile needed to find success here. Over the last several years, Sam Burns, Sergio Garcia, and Cameron Champ have claimed victory at this event by bombing drives through the fairway as often as Ryan Armour, Peter Malnati, and Nick Taylor have by simply laying back off the tee and ensuring a high volume of their approaches from the fairway.
In short, players who have dialed in their wedges from 100-150 yards and who are comfortable going low on second-shot, Bermuda course layouts have been able to find fairly consistent results here.
How It Breaks Down
The scorecard reads 7,462 yards for this par-72 at Country Club of Jackson, however the true distance plays much shorter, with players able to pull driver regularly here to cut off angles. This has helped open up the playing field to both long and short hitters off the tee, as regardless of length, most approach shots tend to find themselves in the 100-150 yard range.
Par-5 Scoring will be pivotal yet again this week, and with three out of four par-5s measuring over 580 yards, there’s an advantage to be had on these holes for players who possess the distance to reach in two. Seven of the par-4s measure under 450 yards, including the drivable 330-yard 15th hole, which plays as the second easiest scoring hole on the course.
Overall there is a fairly even split of ten holes with a scoring average under par, and eight holes which average over par. That is skewed in part by the lack of star-power in these Sanderson Farms fields, but in any case, the winning score has regularly lived in the -18 to -22 range.
Traits And Recent Notable Facts
There are no defining characteristics at Country Club of Jackson which pose a formidable challenge to the field compared to the other courses on the PGA TOUR rotation. Like Silverado, this course ranks bottom-10 in fairway width, which has yielded Fairway in Regulation percentages well below TOUR average. But despite the challenges TOUR players often face with Bermuda rough, these larger greens have been receptive to approaches from the rough, as Greens In Regulation percentage here is well above average at 73%.
Last year, the Par-3 Scoring average was bottom-3 in difficulty, leveling the advantage to be had by top-tier par-3 scorers. What I found most interesting though, is that the 2022 Sanderson Farms Championship marked the first time since 2015 where Putting Difficulty ranked bottom-10, and no course on TOUR last season allowed more putts to drop from outside 15 feet. That is not necessarily a reflection on these greens, but rather a suggestion that we are less likely to see multiple scores beyond 20-under-par this year when putting regression corrects itself. It’s pretty remarkable to consider that Sam Burns won this event despite losing 2 strokes putting, in an event where the larger field was holing putts from all over the green.
COUNTRY CLUB OF JACKSON COURSE SPECS
- Yards: 7,462
- Par: 72 (4x 3’s / 10x 4’s / 4x 5’s)
- Greens: Bermuda
- Architect: John Fought & Mike Gogel
- Comp Courses: Silverado Resort & Spa, TPC Twin Cities, Detroit GC, Stadium Course, Innisbrook Resort, TPC Southwind
- Historical Cutline: -2
- Median Four-Round Score: -12 (’22), -12 (’21), -8 (’20), -7 (’19), -3 (’18)
- Past Winners: Sam Burns -22 (’22), Sergio Garcia -7 (’21), Sebastian Munoz -18 (’20), Cameron Champ -21 (’19), Ryan Armour -19 (’18)
- Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
Bermuda savant, Denny McCarthy, leads the way in terms of total strokes gained at the Sanderson Farms Championship over the last five years. He’s followed by Sam Burns, JT Poston, Kevin Streelman, Adam Schenk, CT Pan, Sebastian Munoz, Henrik Norlander, Scott Stallings, and Peter Malnati to round out the top-10 in Course History over that span.
Course History has not proven to be especially repeatable from the players in the field this week, as Emiliano Grillo is the only player who has avoided missing a cut at this event with a minimum of three starts over the last five years. CT Pan, Stewart Cink, and Nicholas Lindheim have recorded top-30 finishes in each of their respective two starts at the Sanderson Farms over the last five years.
Eight players in this week’s field have recorded multiple top-20 finishes over the last five years here: McCarthy, Burns, Poston, Streelman, Pan, Norlander, Rory Sabbatini, and Seamus Power.
Look no further than the first event of the 2023 season as a proxy for what lies ahead at the Country Club at Jackson. Silverado Resort & Spa is another example of a par-72 course which features narrow fairways and a premium on birdie-making, particularly on the four par-5s, and has produced champions on opposite sides of the distance and accuracy off-the-tee spectrum. Cameron Champ has won both the Fortinet Championship and Sanderson Farms championship with a bomb & gauge approach, while Kevin Streelman and Emiliano Grillo have enjoyed overlapping success at both courses by leaning on their driving accuracy.
TPC Twin Cities and Detroit Golf Club have also typically rewarded longer-hitting birdie-makers over recent years. And if looking to hone in more specifically on Bermuda courses that reward birdie-makers and favor bombers off-the-tee without significantly threatening rough around the fairways, then the Stadium Course, Innisbrook Resort, and TPC Southwind are also worth a look for overlapping performance.
Combine performance across this list and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Sam Burns, Scott Stallings, Harris English, Sahith Theegala, Keegan Bradley, Henrik Norlander, Zac Blair, Sepp Straka, Mark Hubbard, and Kevin Streelman.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER
- SG: APP
- Birdies or Better Gained
- Driving Distance
- Good Drives Gained
- Prox: 100-150
- Par 5 Scoring / P5: 550-600
- P4: 400-450
- SG: Putting (L36, Bermuda)
- Course + Comp Course History
Looking at the best approach players heading into this week, the top-10 in terms of SG: APP include Russell Henley, Chez Reavie, Brendan Steele, Lee Hodges, Mark Hubbard, Stephan Jaeger, Luke List, Sam Burns, Davis Riley, and Alex Smalley. Honing in more granularly on the 100-150 yard range, where about one-third of approaches will funnel from this week, the top-10 wedge players are Henley, Burns, Lucas Glover, Brian Stuard, Max McGreevy, Ben Martin, Chris Stroud, Hubbard, Ben Griffin, and Reavie.
Any time we get to the Fall Swing, it’s always good to zero in on the top birdie-makers who can capitalize on easy scoring conditions. The top-10 in Birdies or Better Gained are Trey Mullinax, Burns, Adam Svensson, Emiliano Grillo, Stephan Jaeger, Thomas Detry, JT Poston, Michael Kim, Nick Hardy, and Scott Stallings.
With a majority of the scoring opportunities concentrated on the par-5s and par-4s under 450 yards, the top players from these ranges should be best suited to capitalize at this course. Thomas Detry is No. 1 from these ranges by a fairly wide margin, and he’s followed by JT Poston, Taylor Montgomery, Ben Taylor, Justin Lower, Sahith Theegala, Emiliano Grillo, Robby Shelton, Davis Thompson, and Dean Burmester to round out the top-10.
While there are plenty of exceptions from the list of winners at this event, I’m drawing a preference to players who are elite in Driving Distance, Birdies or Better Gained, and Prox: 100-150 as the ones best equipped to contend this week. There are nine players who rank top-40 in each of those three categories: Scott Stallings, Sam Burns, Emiliano Grillo, Ben Griffin, Davis Riley, Michael Kim, Harry Hall, Wyndham Clark, and MJ Daffue.
The ideal player for this week should rank above-average in Par-5 Scoring, Birdies or Better Gained, Prox 100-150, SG: P (Bermuda), Scrambling Gained, and Comp Course History. Only six players meet that criteria in this week’s field: Scott Stallings, Sam Burns, Mark Hubbard, Stephen Jaeger, Ben Griffin, and Harry Hall.
Looking at the correlation charts this week for Country Club of Jackson, it’s Par-3 Scoring and Par-4: 450-500 which fall outside their usual place inside top-10 in correlation compared to TOUR average. That clears the eye test on a course which features some of the easiest par-3s on TOUR, and concentrates its par-4s in the longer 450+ yard range.
Scrambling Gained makes the most notable jump inside the top-10 most important stats at Country Club of Jackson compared to TOUR average, which is a common trend on courses which feature narrow fairways and a larger volume of approach shots from the rough into fast greens.
Only eight players in the field rank above average in each of the above 10 key stat categories: Thomas Detry, Keegan Bradley, Sahith Theegala, Michael Gligic, Michael Kim, Patrick Rodgers, John Huh, and Taylor Montgomery.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TAYLOR MONTGOMERY
Taylor Montgomery was the odd man out after the 2021 Korn Ferry Season, finishing in the dreaded 26th position. It seems he’s channeled that heartbreak as motivation since however, as he left no doubt to his promotional status the following season, producing 12 top-15 finishes over 16 starts on the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season. He closed out the KFT season on fire with four consecutive top-10 finishes, and showed no signs of slowing down once making it to the TOUR, firing a 3rd place finish in the season opener at the 2023 Fortinet Championship. It’s easy to over-react one event into the new season, but Montgomery appears to be the clear rookie to watch this season.
His game profiles to the extremes of elite Driving Distance and Putting, a very appealing combination for a course like Country Club of Jackson which is susceptible to bombers and can often boil down to a pure putting contest. Montgomery’s season debut at the Fortinet was carried entirely by a hot putter, gaining a whopping 11 strokes putting to mask an otherwise negligible showing from tee-to-green. That may not seem sustainable, until you realize that he also gained 5+ strokes putting in his only two previous PGA TOUR starts (2022 Farmers Open, 2021 U.S. Open). Long drives and a hot putter is a combination that’s worked well for Sam Burns, and it seems to be a formula that Montgomery has already proven he’s capable of channeling.
Despite the limited backlog of PGA TOUR stats to model from, Montgomery rated out No. 11 in my model this week, ranking top-15 in Driving Distance, Birdies or Better Gained, Comp Course History, Par-5 Scoring, Par-4: 400-450, and SG: P. Montgomery makes for a very appealing outright consideration this week, given the course fit if this becomes another putting contest like we saw last year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP
It’s not the most glamourous field we’ll see this year, but in the heat of the NFL season and Aaron Judge’s chase for the AL home run record, I personally don’t mind easing into the new season this way. It’s tempting to build out a long card in anticipation of another birdie-fest, but a win from Max Homa in the season opener serves as a nice reminder that top players do possess a more distinct advantage over these less top-heavy fields. In any case, it sets up to be an ideal field to bet on, and a tournament I look forward to tracking.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the PGA TOUR odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
In my model, I’m emphasizing Birdies or Better Gained, Comp Course History, Par-5 Scoring, and Prox: 100-150, followed by a more balanced mix of SG: APP, P4: 400-450, Good Drives Gained, Driving Distance, Scrambling Gained, and SG: P (Bermuda + L36).
Surprisingly, it’s not Sam Burns – the defending champion and clear-cut favorite to repeat – who claims the No. 1 overall mark in the model this time around. That honor instead belongs to Scott Stallings. Stallings closed out the 2022 season in hot form with five top-15 finishes in his last seven starts, including a runner up finish to Patrick Cantlay at the BMW Championship. He ranks top-15 in the key categories of Birdies or Better Gained, Comp Course History, SG: APP, Par-4: 400-450, Prox: 100-150, Driving Distance, and SG: P, proving he possesses the all-around skillsets needed to contend on this course. His best career finish at Country Club of Jackson was a T6 in 2020, but he has won this event before in 2012, when operated as the True South Classic at Annandale GC.
After Stallings, the rest of my model’s top 10 features Sam Burns, Emiliano Grillo, Thomas Detry, JT Poston, Mark Hubbard, Russell Henley, Stephan Jaeger, Keegan Bradley, and Brendan Steele.
When PGA TOUR odds open on Monday, I’m hoping to construct a tighter card, going heavy on the favorites, if odds on Sam Burns, Scott Stallings, and Taylor Montgomery will allow. Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the Sanderson Farms Championship and PGA TOUR odds!
COMPLETE PGA TOUR ODDS: Sanderson Farms Championship
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