MADISON, Miss. -- From 1993 until 1998 and again since 2011, the Sanderson Farms Championship has been contested opposite The Open Championship. Its significance, however, has been no less pivotal to countless careers.
In 2011, Sanderson Farms winner Chris Kirk jumped from No. 46 to 21 in the FedExCup standings and qualified for three FedExCup Playoffs events. Last year, Scott Stallings jumped from No. 98 to No. 62 and qualified for the first two FedExCup events with his win in Madison.
With just five weeks remaining before the start of this year’s FedExCup Playoffs, the Sanderson Farms Championship once again plays a pivotal role in the shaping of the Playoff fields. The Sanderson Farms Championship is one of three “additional events” scheduled the same week as a major championship or a World Golf Championships event and this year. The additional event winners are awarded increased FedExCup points, 300, up from 250.
“These opposite events are huge. This week is a major for a lot of guys,” 20-time TOUR champion Davis Love III said. “There are guys still dreaming of making it on to the PGA TOUR and this event is a perfect opportunity for them to do that, or at least get closer to it. It’s an incredible event, with a tremendous sponsor in Sanderson Farms.”
Despite being second alternate into this week’s Open Championship field at Muirfield, Charles Howell III opted for opportunity over odds with his decision to play at Annandale Golf Club.
“I’ve played in this event before and Sanderson Farms has done such an amazing job of stepping up,” Howell III said. “It’s hard not being in the Open, but at the same time, we have a wonderful PGA TOUR event to play here. We’re very fortunate in that regard. There’s an entire field of guys here that can win.”
As he looks for his third title on the PGA TOUR, Howell III comes into the week ranked No. 21 in FedExCup standings. He doesn’t need to be here. He wants to be, however, and sees it as a missed opportunity for anyone who can be here to not be.
“It’s a great place to be,” Howell III said. “Events like the Sanderson Farms Championship are the backbone of the PGA TOUR. Anybody in this field can have a good week here and still have a wonderful finish to the year. Why wouldn’t you be here if you could be?”
As any player on TOUR will attest, having a vision is tantamount to success. One must visualize everything from each shot to each chance to progress in one’s career. Sanderson Farms sees this event in much the same way.
“The more a tournament like this is around, the bigger it will become. I think Sanderson Farms sees the opportunity for this to grow in the future,” Love said. “Look at the Frys.com Open and the McGladrey Classic. They were smaller, Fall events. Now, they’ve grown into FedExCup tournaments. I think it’s a win-win for everyone and I am thankful to have this event to play in this week. Whether you’re looking for win No. 21 or win No. 1, this is a PGA TOUR event. This event creates a lot of opportunity all the way around.”
Last week, defending Sanderson Farms Championship winner Scott Stallings said the only thing that would ever keep him from returning to Madison would be the chance to compete in the Open Championship. With Phil Mickelson’s win at the Scottish Open, Stallings got that opportunity.
The Sanderson Farms Championship has champions who’ve held the position of No. 1 in the world. It has FedExCup champions and PLAYERS champions. Quite perhaps, it could soon have the 2013 Open Champion.
“That’s the great thing about this tournament. They can say ‘Hey, look. Our champions have gone onto do great things,’ ” Love said.
Added Howell: “This is still the PGA TOUR and is, without question, the best Tour in the world with the greatest opportunities going.”