As detailed in the opening of the Power Rankings for last year’s Sanderson Farms Championship, the annual stop in Jackson, Mississippi, understands what it’s like to adapt. From a long-time role as a dutiful wingman to a cancellation and spots all over the calendar, it could hold a master class not only in understanding its valuable role but also how to capitalize on opportunity.
Ironically, the scheduling of this week’s edition was not significantly impacted by the pandemic, so it’s business as usual at the Country Club of Jackson. But even that must be qualified. This is just the second (consecutive) SFC to be contested as a stand-alone tournament. So, in addition to numerous spoils, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points and an exemption into the 2021 Masters.
For more on what this tournament meant to defending champ Sebastián Muñoz, how the course plays and other insight, scroll past the projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP
Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include reviews of Henrik Stenson, Emiliano Grillo, Sergio Garcia, Byeong Hun An and Corales runner-up Tyler McCumber among other notables.
As of midday Monday, 64 of 144 in the field at the Sanderson Farms Championship are non-winners on the PGA TOUR, and don’t be surprised if this week’s champion is among them. With six consecutive first-time winners (dating back to Nick Taylor in November of 2014), the tournament boasts the longest streak of breakthroughs among all. The Barracuda Championship slots second with five in a row.
Muñoz was trending in advance of his coronation last year, but it was merely a spike in a consistently strong run of form that peaked again with his debut in the TOUR Championship to conclude 2019-20. In fact, he walked off his career season by going T18-T8-T8 in the FedExCup Playoffs. (As it was for many others, his automatic exemption into the Masters was delayed until this November.)
Aside from an extensive irrigation and drainage improvement project, most notably around many greens, CC of Jackson is largely similar to what returnees will remember. Officially, at 7,461 yards, the course is one yard longer thanks to an additional pace on the par-5 third hole that now tips at 591 yards.
The stock par 72 surrendered a scoring average of 70.896 in 2019. That’s the second-easiest it’s played since it debuted in 2014, but it’s averaged under par in every edition.
A record low is unexpected this week as the Champion bermudagrass greens are prepped to run out to 13-and-a-half feet on the Stimpmeter, a foot longer than usual and unusually long in general. And they just might get there with sunny and dry conditions forecast throughout. It might get breezy on Friday, but daytime highs will touch at least 70 degrees every day.
Challenging par 5s as a set are uncommon on par 72s, but the quartet at CC of Jackson qualify. They’ve ranked inside the top-20 toughest on TOUR in every season and inside the top 10 twice, including eighth in 2019 at 4.74. Of the 132 par 5s played over 36 events in 2019-20, three at CC of Jackson ranked inside the top-50 hardest.
Muñoz slotted T5 in par-5 scoring here last year at 4.44 with 10 birdies, five pars and a bogey. Overall, he authored a rock-solid performance. En route to 18-under 270, he finished fourth in distance of all drives, T9 in greens hit, 13th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and fifth in Strokes Gained: Putting, and then outlasted Sungjae Im in a playoff.
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
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Wednesday.