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Course Spotlight: How one type of grass makes a (betting) difference

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Course Spotlight: How one type of grass makes a (betting) difference

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    The Sanderson Farms Championshiptakes place in Jackson, Mississippi. The Country Club of Jackson has hosted this PGA TOUR event since 2014. The TOUR scorecard is a par-72 parkland course measuring 7,461 yards. The layout features 56 bunkers, five holes where water comes into play, and larger-than-average-sized green surfaces (6,200 sq/ft).

    In nine editions at The CC of Jackson, the average winning score has been 19-under par. The course is annually one of the easiest to play on the PGA TOUR. Eleven holes have a birdie rate over 15% with the four par-5s and the par-4 15th averaging a birdie or better 35% of the time. With such a scorable venue, it’s sometimes tough to identify a winner: eight of the last nine winners have held pre-tournament odds over +5500.

    Any player in the 144-man field can make 20 birdies and win this week in Mississippi. Differentiating the best in the world is a tough task. If we start off the tee, those same nine winners gained on average of less than three strokes against the field. Nearly 40% of the approach shots come from 125-175 yards. Those are iron shots in the most popular approach ranges we research every week. A struggling TOUR player is still going to be elite from 150 yards.

    Separating these guys comes down to the details. If they are all good on approach from that range, how much of an influence does the putter have? The CC of Jackson boasts some of the most well-maintained green surfaces on the PGA TOUR. The champions of the Sanderson Farms have gained an average of six strokes against the field with the flatstick. If you take a quick glance at the PGA TOUR’s strokes gained putting leaders in the field, Harry Hall, Eric Cole, Sam Ryder, Peter Malnati, and Alex Noren pop up.

    Before you go bet Eric Cole (+2000 at BetMGM), The CC of Jackson greens are covered in Champion Bermudagrass. Does that make a difference? If I take the SG: Putting list and filter the data by success on just Bermudagrass, Alex Noren (+5500) jumps to the top of the list and Cole falls to No. 17! Experience putting on different agronomy can alter a player’s confidence and ability to contend.

    RankSG: Putting Bermudagrass
    1Alex Noren
    2Ben Taylor
    3Chesson Hadley
    4Adam Long
    5Ben Griffin

    I have already stressed the importance of Strokes Gained: Approach. The top TOUR players in the field on approach are Tom Hoge, Kevin Roy, Mark Hubbard, Akshay Bhatia, and Russell Knox. We have all heard Mark Hubbard (+4000) mentioned many times as a great outright option. Does the 419 type of Bermudagrass in the fairways affect approaches as well? Filter again and Hubbard drops to 13th and Doug Ghim (+3500) rises into the top five in the field.

    RankSG: Approach Bermudagrass
    1Tom Hoge
    2Charley Hoffman
    3Russell Knox
    4David Lipsky
    5Doug Ghim

    Always consider the playing surfaces when you are studying analytics. The CC of Jackson is one of the most agronomy-influenced venues on the PGA TOUR. Picking winners in a field without many favorites is difficult, so give yourself another edge against the oddsmakers (and your friends) by paying attention to the grass if you are looking for more green in your wallet.

    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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