Power Rankings: Sanderson Farms Championship
October 23, 2018
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Bill Haas is in the field this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi. (Getty Images)
The essence of every additional event – as this week's Sanderson Farms Championship is designated, the first of five this season – is to provide playing time for the golfers who did not qualify for the concurrently contested invitational. While these tournaments have been considered an expectation for some time, inherent to the competition is the bonus of a surprise champion no matter how characterized.
A year ago, Ryan Armour was a journeyman with four seasons of PGA TOUR status and over 100 starts dating back to 2007. He was a Web.com TOUR Finals graduate at the age of 41. What transpired at the Country Club of Jackson was nothing short of remarkable and impossible to predict.
Scroll past the ranking for what he achieved, how the course has tested in its first four years as host and more
After opening with 6-under 66 to co-lead the Sanderson Farms Championship last year, Armour held outright advantages after 36 and 54 holes before galloping through the tape to post 19-under 269. His five-stroke margin of victory equaled the tournament record. He was essentially untouchable, finishing third in both fairways hit and greens in regulation while leading the field in proximity to the hole and strokes gained: putting. Excelling in more than one of those areas is commonplace for most champions, but to flourish in all drifts into career-defining stuff.
This is all that the Country Club of Jackson has known. All four of its winners were first-timers, each was locked in with the putter en route to victory and each is committed to this week's tournament. Nick Taylor (2014) and Cody Gribble (2016) were PGA TOUR rookies. Peter Malnati's triumph in 2015 was his first top 10 in 22 career starts.
The test is a stock par 72 capable of stretching 7,440 yards. The only significant modification since last year occurred at the par-5 third hole. A new tee has extended it by 29 yards — it can now play 590. It reflects the increase of overall yardage.
Bermudagrass canvasses the entire property with two-inch primary rough laying in wait for wayward drives and 6,200-square foot greens rolling up to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. Last year's scoring average of 71.828 both places Armour's execution on a pedestal and deserves a double-take in reaction to it as the Country Club of Jackson stands tall.
Hitting greens in regulation is a soft spot with little terror to salvage par if in that predicament, so aggressive strategies are rewarded more than they're penalized. This is validated in the consistency of its resistance in yielding distance off the tee, fairways hit, proximity to the hole and par-5 scoring, as the course easily has ranked inside the top half-hardest in each stat in every season.
Rain is all but guaranteed during if not throughout the opening round when it might not touch 60 degrees. It could feel slightly colder, too, given a moderate wind out of an easterly direction (read: not prevailing). Dry, warmer conditions move in but more precipitation cannot be ruled out through Saturday. The stage for the finale is for a classic autumn day in the South.
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.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings (WGC-HSBC)
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Sanderson Farms), Sleepers (WGC-HSBC), Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done (WGC-HSBC), One & Done (Sanderson Farms), Twitter live fantasy show
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.