The Sanderson Farm Championship, played at the Country Club of Jackson, is the next port of call for the PGA Tour. After a break in the schedule, so the best of the best could compete in golf’s number one team event, a whole host of players can get back down to business and show the world what they can do.
As mentioned in the fantasy preview, with many of the best in the world out this week, the trip to Mississippi must be seen as a chance for several in this field to achieve rare success, while for a few it is a gilt-edged opportunity to add to their collection. In an event of this nature, rising stars such as Will Zalatoris and Sam Burns are suddenly thrust to the head of the queue, will someone like Sergio Garcia, who is the only Ryder Cup player to feature, looks like a much more likely winner than he might if all the usual suspects were in the line-up.
What does it take to win the Sanderson Farm Championship?
Whether or not there is an easily identifiably formula for success at the Jackson course, which for this tournament is made up of two separate nine-holes, utilizing the Dogwood and Azalea courses, is debatable, though there are definitely a few things that players will need to do if they want to be in with a chance of success come Sunday evening.
At 7,461 yards, the course is longer than the PGA Tour average of 7,200 yards, so a big hitter should be in their element. However, in true Parkland course fashion, many of the fairways are on the tight side and are guarded by trees on either side, so being able to couple optimum positioning with distance is important too. Those who can put the ball in the right position off the tee should be at an advantage, as approach is likely to be key this week too, at least in the sense that since there are lots of smaller greens, many of which have sharp run-off areas, coming in correctly will be important, and to do give themselves the best chance of doing that, players will want to be playing from the best positions.
If we look at recent winners, gaining strokes of the tee has been something of a common theme. Sergio Garcia gained 5.492 strokes from the tee boxes when winning last year, which was more than all but one other player in the event, while he also gained the third most strokes, picking up 7.011 on approach. In 2019, winner Sebastian Munoz, was the fourth-best in the field for strokes gained off the tee. He didn’t thrive as Garcia did when it came to approach, ranking only 20th in strokes gained: approach by Sunday night, so you can get away without being the absolute best in that sense, but if that’s the case, then you’re going to have to putt well, which is something of a requirement here anyway. Munoz gained 6.250 strokes with the flatstick in 2019, while 2018 winner Cameron Champ collected 9.088 strokes with the putter, finishing the week second for strokes gained: putting.
Picks for the Sanderson Farm Championship
Outright Winner – 1 unit @ +3500
Top 10 Finish – 2 units @ +350
Woodstock’s Keegan Bradley hasn’t won for just over three years, but he’s coming off the back of a very pleasing campaign last time around. The four-time PGA Tour winner went close at the Valspar back in May, finishing second to Sam Burns, while he registered two other top-ten finishes, as well as four top 20’s.
Finishing the season as the 28th best player in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green means that Bradley is no slouch off the tee, which we know is positive ahead of this week. In fact, with so many big players missing out, on last season’s efforts, he’s one of the very best in this field in terms of strokes gained: off-the-tee, while he’s also a man with a strong approach game, finishing fourth on tour for strokes gained: approach last season. Furthermore, only five players picked up more strokes from tee to green on the PGA Tour during the 2021 campaign, and NONE of those five players are in this line-up, so the 35-year-old really is top dog.
Jackson hasn’t been a regular stop for the player who finished 39th in the FedEx Cup last season, though that didn’t seem to matter when he finished fourth on debut a year ago. On that occasion, Bradley showed that his game is well-suited to this course, so it’s no surprise to see him back, and with the lack of top-tier talent up against him, he really ought to be licking his lips ahead of Thursday’s start.
Of those in the field to have played four or more rounds at the Sanderson Farm Championship since 2016, only 2020 winner Sergio Garcia has gained more strokes on average than Keegan Bradley, who in this field also ranks inside the top ten for strokes gained: off-the-tee, not to mention fourth for strokes gained: tee-to-green. Putting is going to be necessary this week, and an average of +0.75 strokes gained per round with the flatstick here 12 months ago suggests that this is a player who can deliver the goods on the green too.
A big name in a low-grade field of this nature, Keegan Bradley won’t get many better opportunities to bolster his trophy cabinet this season, and just like he was a must-have in fantasy, the man from Vermont goes down as a sportsbook play not to be missed, both for the win overall and for a top ten finish.