It’s been said that someone wins the lottery on the PGA TOUR every week. While tongue-in-cheek, it’s nonetheless accurate for everyone with the opportunity to play. To a man, each of the entrants at the Sanderson Farms Championship begins the tournament as one of 132 chances to win. While odds to prevail don’t favor the field as equitably, everyone chasing the trophy at the Country Club of Jackson in Mississippi is empowered by the unlikely conversions here by Nick Taylor (2014) and Peter Malnati (2015).
Taylor was in just his fourth start as a TOUR rookie. His title was his only top-20 of the season in which he finished 101st in the FedExCup standings. He has only one other top-10 in 58 PGA TOUR starts as a professional. Malnati would total three top-10s last season, but he also missed 21 cuts. Combined, the duo has missed 60 of 111 cuts as pros on the PGA TOUR.
Now, it wasn’t like either showed up and magically hit the jackpot. That’s not how it works. Everyone who has ever achieved success in any sport understands that victory is a destination. Malnati maintains one of the most active and thoughtful blogs among his peers. In his season recap, he admitted losing focus of what got him to the promised land and rightfully acknowledged that putting is the strongest tool in his skill set. He put it on display at the Country Club of Jackson last year, leading the field in strokes gained: putting with an average of +2.943 per round, easily the best among all 2015-16 winners at tournaments in which every round is measured.
Of the 11 golfers who finished inside the top 10 on the final leaderboard, five ranked inside the top 10 in strokes gained: putting for the week. Six cracked the top 10 in greens in regulation, which is where the course is vulnerable. It yielded a clip of 73.09 percent last year. It was also the second-easiest on which to save par. The field’s scoring average was 70.471 to slot CC of Jackson as one of the easiest par 72s on the schedule. It played an entire stroke lower than its debut when Taylor won.
New back tees at the par-4 12th and par-3 13th have extended those holes by 40 and 17 yards, respectively. CC of Jackson now tips at 7,421 yards. Fantastic, warm weather after what was a dry late-summer period will allow for the bermudagrass greens to touch 12 on the Stimpmeter. This should contribute to the kind of putting contest that spotlighted Malnati a year ago. Primary rough grown to two-and-a-half inches won’t offer as much of a challenge as it will help frame targets off tees.
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's events. Look for the following features later this week:
MONDAY: Rankings (WGC-HSBC Champions)
TUESDAY*: Rankings (Sanderson Farms), Sleepers, Fantasy Insider, Comfort Zone (Sheshan International GC)
WEDNESDAY: One-and-Done (WGC-HSBC Champions), One-and-Done (Sanderson Farms)
THURSDAY: Most-picked players (Sanderson Farms)
* = Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM's Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.