Power Rankings: Sanderson Farms Championship
3 Min Read
Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf
2021-22 FedExCup Season Has Begun
Now that that limited-field exhibition event contested only once every other year is over, we can return to focusing on golf that actually matters!
OK, OK, don’t hurl your 1-iron in this direction … as you might damage your screen. Still, unlike the Ryder Cup, the Sanderson Farms Championship contributes to the FedExCup. Yes, performance in the FedExCup contributes to qualifying for and raising awareness to be called upon to play in the Ryder Cup, so, and of course, the biennial competition matters. Don’t be silly.
And hey, what better segue into the Sanderson Farms since the defending champion is Sergio Garcia. He was Europe’s inaugural recipient of the Nicklaus-Jacklin Award presented by Aon on Sunday. Scroll past the ranking of projected contenders for the relevance of the timing of this tournament, how the Country Club of Jackson is expected to challenge and more.
Matthew Wolff, Cameron Tringale, Si Woo Kim and 2015 champion (and 2020 runner-up) Peter Malnati will be among the notables reviewed in the Fantasy Insider.
With autumn upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, daylight hours are dwindling, so the field at the County Club of Jackson reserves space for 144 golfers instead of the maximum of 156 for an open. It’ll be the norm for a while, too. The next 156-man individual competition on a singular course won’t be staged until the Wells Fargo Championship in early May.
In the interim, there are four multiple-course tournaments that will be hosting 156 in November, January and February, there are a pair of additional events in March and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April has a PGA TOUR-high 160 in play for its two-man team format, so there will be opportunities to play regularly for the top performers, but it’s also a reminder for why position in the opening order of the Korn Ferry Tour graduate reshuffle category is as vital as securing a TOUR card. As of Monday, 2021 grads who aren’t on medical extensions comprised the first three alternates at the SFC.
Those who do play will find a lush track in central Mississippi. CC of Jackson is a stock par 72 measuring 7,461 yards. Last year’s field averaged 71.081, essentially what’s expected. Garcia prevailed by one stroke at 19-under 269, also within the bull’s-eye.
There is an elevated challenge to split fairways but it exists in the shadow of distance off the tee. Garcia led – Garcia … led! – the field in distance of all drives (306.6 yards) and in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. He also co-led in greens in regulation (15 per round) and paced the field in SG: Tee-to-Green. The precision has been his profile throughout a sparkling career, but he still needed to pay it off with the putter. Naturally, he did in finishing 28th in SG: Putting (saving almost three strokes in 72 holes) and 12th in converting GIR into par breakers.
Because greens are tricky and the four par 5s are difficult on average, the tournament swings the door wide open for all skill sets to contend. Putting percentages in most ranges inside 10 feet perennially are among the most unfriendly as compared to all courses lasered by ShotLink, so a hot putter has just as strong of a chance to emerge with victory as a bomber like Garcia(!) or, say, Cameron Champ, who connected for his first PGA TOUR title here in 2018. True to his strength, Champ led his field in distance of all drives, but he also slotted second in SG: Putting.
Speaking of Garcia and Champ, the Spaniard ended the tournament’s six-year run of breakthrough champions, all since CC of Jackson debuted as host in 2014. The first five occurred when the SFC was an additional event, so that’s not surprising, but there were no KFT grads last year. Now, with a fresh class and its momentum entering this week, it also wouldn’t be surprising if the 2021 champion is a first-timer.
Summertime weather spills into the picture as warm and humid conditions are expected throughout the tournament. Daytime highs will reach the upper 80s and there’s a fair chance of a pop-up boomer or two on Thursday. The threat returns fractionally on the weekend. Winds will be light away from the energy.
Bermuda greens are prepped to run 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. Any moisture would slow them enough not only for them to fall short of that, but they’d be more receptive on approach. This is how a shootout develops, but low scores are anticipated no matter what. The primary rough is trimmed to 2½ inches, but while accuracy of the tee can be forgiven, collection areas across the property have been restored, so precision with the irons should be highlighted in the playbook.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
SUNDAY: Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Rookie Ranking