By Rusty Hampton, Special to PGATOUR.COM
MADISON, Miss. -- Play was suspended at 2:01 p.m. local time at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
The rain has stopped but thunder continues to rumble at Annandale Golf Club and officials say more inclement weather is a possibility.
In the meantime, home cooking seems to suit Jonathan Randolph just fine.
Randolph, a 24-year-old second-year pro from nearby Brandon, Miss., playing on a sponsor’s exemption, fired a 6-under 66 in Thursday’s opening round and is tied for second, three shots behind leader Daniel Summerhays.
Randolph got it to 8 under when he rolled in a 36-foot birdie putt from off the green on the par-5 seventh (his 16th hole) but then bogeyed his final two holes. Still, he wasn’t complaining too much.
“They say bogeys make dinner taste bad, so I guess lunch will taste bad,” said Randolph. “But there’s a lot of positives to take from this. I hit the ball OK and I really rolled the rock well.”
Randolph, an All-American at Ole Miss in 2011, is in his second summer of what he calls “the grind,” traveling by car on the minor league NGA and Adams Golf tour circuits. “I put 45,000 miles on my car last summer,” he said.
That’s why a sponsor’s exemption into his “hometown” event is so nice. There’s less driving and much more familiarity – on and off the course. “I’m very comfortable on this course,” said Randolph. “It’s a good fit for me.”
He also has a familiar caddie this week, Ole Miss assistant coach Jack O’Keefe, a former TOUR player who carries for Randolph on special occasions. O’Keefe was on the bag here last year when Randolph finished T-21 here, fading to a 72 on Sunday after getting into the hunt on Saturday.
Is he ready to stay in the hunt this year?
“Absolutely,” Randolph said. “I’ve been saying leading up to this tournament this is the best I’ve ever felt coming in here. I’ve got a year of playing professional golf, learning how to shoot low consistently and improving the parts of my game I needed to improve. I know I can hang in there.”
Likewise, Mississippi seems to suit Ryan Blaum just fine.
The Coral Gables, Fla., resident, fresh off winning the NGA Tour’s Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic last week in Natchez to earn a spot in the field.
Thursday, he made a hole-in-one.
Blaum’s ace came on the par-3 15th and was a bright spot in a dull day. He shot 2-under 70 and wasn’t thrilled. “I didn’t do anything really well, honestly,” he said. Until the 15th hole, that is, when he feathered a three-quarters 7-iron from 158 yards into the wind. “As soon as I hit the shot I was like, ‘finally,’” he said. “I did a three-quarter swing and it just disappeared.”
Among the group of seven from the morning flight tied for fifth at 5-under 67 is Tour rookie Donald Constable, a 2012 Minnesota graduate. Constable is hoping the 13th TOUR start is his lucky number -- he’s missed the cut in his first 12 TOUR events this year.
As for the 9-under 63 fired by first-round leader Daniel Summerhays it's the second 9-under round he’s shot in his last three. He shot 62 in the third round of last week’s John Deere Classic.
Summerhays is 35 under over his last nine rounds on TOUR. He was 24 over in the previous nine rounds.
A week after nearly winning, Daniel Summerhays is in contention again after a 63. (Cox/Getty Images)
By Rusty Hampton, Special to PGATOUR.COM
MADISON, Miss. – He didn’t finish the John Deere Classic the way he would have liked, but Daniel Summerhays was far from bitter after bogeying the 72nd hole from a plugged bunker lie and missing out on a playoff in last week’s PGA TOUR event by a stroke.
Actually, he was quite stoked -- and it showed Thursday, when he opened the Sanderson Farms Championship with a scorching 9-under 63 at Annandale Golf Club.
“You take all the positives,” said Summerhays, 29. “I shot 18-under par for 72 holes and was standing on the 18th fairway with a chance to win the golf tournament. That can only breed confidence.”
That confidence obviously carried over, from TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., to steamy Annandale in suburban Jackson, Miss.
“When you’re driving the ball well and hitting your wedges well and feel like you can make almost any putt, it’s a really fun game,” Summerhays said. “I was really excited to come play this morning.”
Summerhays’ bogey-free round at Annandale included seven birdies and an eagle. The eagle came at the par-5 18th (his ninth hole), when he rolled in a 17-footer from the fringe. He then birdied four of the next five holes, including the long par-4 fourth, which usually ranks as the toughest or second-most difficult hole in this event.
“I definitely got things going with that eagle on 18,” Summerhays said. “That was nice.”
And compared to the last time he played a hole No. 18 in competition it must have felt like a little payback, too.
At Deere Run, Summerhays started the final round with a two-shot lead and gave it away with a four-hole bogey-binge on the front. He got back in the tournament with four birdies on the back, but hit his second shot on the par-4 18th into a buried lie in a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey. Jordan Spieth won the tournament, beating David Heam and Zach Johnson in a playoff.
Summerhays earned $190,133 for his T-4 finish and learned a little something about himself, too.
“You have to enjoy these moments,” Summerhays said. “Sometimes we take good golf for granted and you forget how hard this game is sometimes. It can be a really hard game, so I’m just soaking it in. I’m really excited about where my game is at and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things on the weekend and testing myself again.”
Brendon de Jonge hits his approach to the 17th green in 2010. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Anyone who follows golf instantly recognizes the island green at TPC Sawgrass. But did you know the PGA TOUR also has an island fairway?
It’s found at Annandale Golf Club – also at No. 17, where it might play a role in deciding this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.
A driver down the left side of the 409-yard hole presents the safe route. But the right side, where the island is protected by rough as well as water, not only will allow players to go in with a shorter club but presents a better angle to the shallow green.
No. 17 typically ranks near the middle of the pack in terms of difficulty, coming in last year just under par at 3.941. But it was No.1 for the week just three years ago, producing 23 double bogeys and eight triples as windier conditions prevailed.
In 2011, Chris Kirk put himself in position for his first PGA TOUR win with a confident 9-iron into from 140 yards into a stiff breeze, setting up a 5-foot birdie that broke a tie with George McNeill.
“The wind was hurting just enough to make it a perfect club,” Kirk said afterward. “Obviously, that made me a little more comfortable with being aggressive.”
The 18th at Annandale is a par 5 guarded by water. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
As with its fellow PGA TOUR venues in the South, Annandale Golf Club took a hit from the cold spring that socked the region a few months ago.
In this case, though, the calendar worked in Annandale’s favor.
A July date meant the course had plenty of time to recover in time for this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship. Considering some of the trials encountered by Al Osteen’s peers, no one would blame them for being a little envious.
“We’ve had something of a pretty routine year,” said Osteen, Annandale’s director of golf course operations for the past 13 years.
Osteen and his crew did have to take action against the fungal diseases pythium and leaf spot when nighttime lows dropped back into the 40s after the club’s primary Bermudagrass had awakened from dormancy.
But no turf had to be replaced, and there were plenty of warm nights in May and June to get the rough up to its prescribed 3 inches for this week.
“We were fortunate,” Osteen said. “Some places got really thin and weak and we had to do some babysitting, but they bounced back.”
If anything, the biggest challenge for Osteen’s crew was putting certain spring maintenance projects on hold until the weather warmed up for good.
“That basically had us try to cover more ground in less time,” he said. “Projects like a bridge replacement or cart path repair or tree trimming to do – it puts your behind. We’re trying to play catch-up from that poin forward.”
With several creeks running across the property, Annandale’s layout is dotted by more than a dozen bridges, some surpassing 30 years in use.
Forecasts call for temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s all week, with as much as a 40 percent chance of pop-up thunderstorms common to the Southeast. Thursday and Friday pose the greatest storm threats.
Davis Love III finished a season-best T-9 at The Greenbrier Classic earlier this month. (Fiume/Getty Images)
Three major champions make up the featured group at the Sanderson Farms Championship, which begins Thursday at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Miss. With many TOUR players at The Open Championship, the Sanderson Farms Championship is an important opportunity for others to earn FedExCup points in advance of the playoffs. Here’s a look at some of the groups PGATOUR.COM will be watching:
David Toms-Davis Love III-Mike Weir: These three major champions tee off at 12:55 p.m. Thursday off the first tee. All three need to earn points before the Playoffs, as all three are ranked outside the top 160 in the FedExCup standings. Love III ranks 162nd, Weir is 166th and Toms is 169th.
Charlie Beljan-Michael Bradley-Rory Sabbatini: All three of these players have won in 2011 or later. Beljan dramatically won the finale of the 2012 season, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, while Bradley and Sabbatini both won in 2011. Bradley claimed his second Puerto Rico Open that year (he also won in 2009) and Sabbatini won the Honda Classic.
Sean O’Hair-Chris Kirk-Stuart Appleby: Kirk, the 2011 Sanderson Farms Championship winner, is joined by two fellow PGA TOUR winners. Appleby, a nine-time PGA TOUR winner, lost in a playoff to Ernie Els the last time The Open Championship was at Muirfield, the site of this year’s championship. O’Hair’s fourth PGA TOUR victory came at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open. All three of these players will have their eyes on the FedExCup points list as well. Kirk is 26th and looking to qualify for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time. O’Hair (158th) and Appleby (132nd) are both outside the top 125.
Ken Looper gets another shot at TOUR glory this week. (Revere/Getty Images)
By Michael Curet, PGATOUR.com Contributing Writer
Former LSU golfer Ken Looper and Georgia mini-tour veteran Nathan Rau fired rounds of 62 at the Lake Caroline Golf Club in Madison, Miss. on Monday to share medalist honors and qualify for this week's Sanderson Farms Championship at Annandale Golf Club.
Also playing their way in was Mark Silvers and Andrew Johnson, who shot 63 and 64 respectively.
It will be the second PGA TOUR start for the 23-year-old Looper, who made a huge splash in his PGA TOUR debut at the Zurich Classic with a T21 finish only minutes from his home in Mandeville, La. In the Monday qualifier, Looper's round was a bogey-free 10-under (31-31), while Rau birdied nine holes, eagled another to go along with one bogey on the day (30-32).
Rau, a 26-year-old native of Cumming, Ga., played golf at Darton State College in Georgia before turning professional. He is making his PGA TOUR debut start this week.
Silvers, who won the Golf Channel's "The Big Break" in 2012 to earn an exemption The Greenbrier Classic, is playing in only his second career PGA TOUR event in a span of two weeks. The 26-year-old Savannah native played golf at the University of South Carolina before turning pro in 2009. He missed the cut at The Greenbrier Classic after shooting 71-71.
Johnson, a 40-year-old Indiana native now living in Orlando, earned the final start into the Sanderson Farms Championship field with an 8-under 64. Johnson, a Ball State University product, turned pro in 1995 and won The Cleveland Open Presented by Legend Financial on the Web.com Tour in 2005. He missed the cut in his only other PGA TOUR appearance at the Tampa Bay Championship in 2007.
Each week, PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton offers his Power Rankings for the weekly TOUR event. But what about the players who don't make the Power Rankings? Bolton will make one "wild card" selection from the large group of players who don't make the top 10, but might rise up to claim the title. This week's pick is ...
First start since the U.S. Open. Only top-45 finish in a stroke-play event this season remains an impressive T13 at the Masters. Survived all six of his cuts at Annandale dating back to the course's debut in 1994. Most recently placed T8 in 2008 and T11 in 2010. Currently 23rd on the PGA TOUR in fairways hit and 25th in proximity to the hole.
The 18th hole at Annandale Golf Club. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
• COURSE: Annandale GC, 7,202 yards, par 72. Opened in 1981, the Jack Nicklaus design is built on the site of the former Annandale Plantation and ranked as Mississippi’s top course by Golf Digest. The course played host to the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 1986, before becoming home to Mississippi’s annual PGA TOUR stop in 1994. Though damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 forced the tournament to be pushed back a month, Annandale’s recovery received high marks when play commenced after just nine weeks. Circumstances weren’t so kind in 2009, when heavy rains and soggy conditions forced officials to cancel the tournament.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 300 points.
• CHARITY: Friends of Children’s Hospital, which helps provide Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children with everything from medical equipment to stuffed animals. Batson Hospital is Mississippi’s only facility built specifically for the treatment of children.
• FIELD WATCH: Charles Howell, who came up 18 points short of an Open Championship berth via the FedExCup standings, and former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III head the roster, along with HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Sang Moon Bae. … Love and double U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen are among six major champions traveling to Mississippi, along with Masters winners Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir and PGA Championship victors David Toms and Shaun Micheel. … Steve Lowery makes his 19th start in Mississippi, most among active players. Dicky Pride plays for the 15th time.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 263, Dan Halldorson (1986 at Hattisburg GC). Annandale GC record: 264, Scott Stallings (2012).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Keith Clearwater (2nd round, 1996).
• LAST YEAR: Scott Stallings blistered Annandale with the lowest total since the tournament moved there, producing a two-shot victory that turned around an injury-plagued season. A pair of 64s helped Stallings finish at 24-under 264, two better than Annandale’s previous low and one off Dan Halldorson’s 1986 tournament record at Hattisburg GC. Jason Bohn finished second, with Billy Horschel another two shots back. It was Stallings’ second win in as many years, separated by struggles early in 2012 as he dealt with two herniated discs and torn cartilage in his ribs.
• STORYLINES: Bohn, who needed just 96 putts in last year’s runner-up effort, begins the event with a string of five consecutive rounds in the 60s at Annandale. His last round in the 70s was an opening 73 at the 2011 event. … Love, working his way back after neck surgery in the spring, tees it up in Mississippi for the first time. The last of his 20 wins came in 2008 at Disney.
• SHORT CHIPS: Since the tournament’s move to Annandale GC in 1994, just four editions have gone to a playoff. The most recent came in 2008, when Will MacKenzie outlasted Brian Gay and Marc Turnesa. … Just two men have captured the tournament more than once – Brian Henninger (1994, ’99) and Fred Funk (1998, 2004).
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Sunday, 4-7 p.m. EDT (Golf Channel).
• RADIO: None.