Sanderson Farms Championship
Since its 1994 upgrade to an official PGA TOUR event, the Sanderson Farms Championship has been played as an alternate event. Less money, less points and no invite to the Masters. With the best on duty elsewhere, the fields were thin. Not so this year. The Sanderson Farms has been elevated to full status; 500 FedEx Cup points, 2-year exemption to the winner and a ticket to Augusta.
Granted, the absolute cream won’t be present this week, but there’s some pretty fair talent teeing it up in Jackson. Last week’s winner Joaquin Niemann is riding high but needs to stay above the “expected” emotional letdown after his maiden win last week. Korean machine Sungjae Im is fresh off a T19 at Greenbrier and a hot putter. A win this week would surely wrap up rookie of the year honors.
Brandt Snedeker and Aussie Cameron Smith are the highest ranked players OWGR in the field, 38 and 45 respectively. Whilst making his tournament debut, Snedeker’s short game stacks up along with a pair of top-10’s in the recent FedEx Cup Playoffs. Smith played his way into contention for the weekend at Greenbrier, then produced a mediocre 72 on moving day to fall away.
Sangmoon Bae, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Si Woo Kim, defending champ Cameron Champ, Aaron Wise, Corey Conners, Lucas Glover and classy rookie Scottie Scheffler add depth to the field. Champ was thrust into the spotlight after winning in just his second start on TOUR. His prodigious length and a surgeons touch on the greens had everybody talking. But the season is long and expectations both from within and from the media took their toll. Expect a much improved season from the young star.
Joining Smith on the starters sheet are Robert Allenby, Matt Jones, Cameron Percy, Rhein Gibson, Cameron Davis and John Senden. Allenby’s last win was the Australian PGA in 2009. Jones played beautifully last week at Greenbrier shooting 4 sub-70 rounds to finish T10. A 73 on moving day hurt Percy after opening with a pair of 67’s. Gibson finished T57 last week after opening and closing with 71’s. Davis and Senden missed the cut last week.
The host of this week’s tournament, the Country Club of Jackson opened in 1904. The layout consists of 27 holes with the championship 18 measuring 7,460-yards off the tips, the longest it’s been since its debut in 2014. The course weaves its way through a very picturesque parkland setting and is challenging off the tee. CC of Jackson presents with small, tricky greens making proximity and converting important stats.
Once again, this week provides a "lesser light" with the opportunity to shine and score some valuable points - not to mention an increased purse and a ticket to the Masters.
This is the premier event on the European Tour calendar and has been for a very long time. This tournament dates back to 1955 where it was just the British PGA Championship, but sponsors always take over and the event has changed names several times. In 1972 it became an official Euro Tour event and was first won by Tony Jacklin at the Wentworth Club, which is the site of this years tournament as well.
It was first staged away from Wentorth in 1975 and that was the first and last time an American won the event with Arnold Palmer beating Eamonn Darcy by 2 strokes with a total to par of +5! From '75 to '83 it was played at several courses before making it's way back to Wentworth and there it has stuck for the last 36 years. 1805 was the time when the Wentworths bought the land and decided to build the estate. The clubhouse and grounds were established in 1922 and although it started as a private residence for the Duke of Wellington, it is now a prestigious golf course.
This week marks the start of the much sought after Ryder Cup points so players will be trying to impress the new captain, Padraig Harrington. He has the opportunity to fix his tee times to any player he wants to consider for team selection and to start he has put himself down with the talented Frenchman, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and 22 year old Norweigan, Victor Hovland who turned professional after his low amateur finish at the Masters.
An event like this usually attracts a quality field and this year is no exemption. The list of names reads like a who's who or European golf; McIlroy, Fleetwood, Rose, Molinari, Casey, Lowry, Stenson, Rahm, Wallace, Fitzpatrick, Poulter, Cabrera Bello, Hatton, Noren, Pepperell, Els, Kaymer, Willett and Lee Westwood. There is also the invasion of the Americans this year including Finau, Reed and Horschel who grew up loving this event and has made it his passion to get here and play. All those Americans are looking to break the long drought the USA has had since the King in 1975.
The golf course has staged many world class events including the World Match Play, the Ryder Cup and the World Cup and the original West Course, Harry Colt design was refined by Ernie Els in 2005 and then in 2007. The Big Easy added 280 meters to the course and 30 bunkers as well to make it a tougher test. It's not the longest course around at 6,682m but it is challenging. Winning scores have ranged from -6 to -21 so we will have to wait and see how it is playing when the golf starts on Thursday. With this field, there could be some very low scores. Alex Noren holds the course record with a 62.
Only 4 Australians tee it up this week and they are Wade Ormsby, Scott Hend, Jason Scrivener and Lucas Herbert. There is also the young crop of stars looking to make an impact and players like Hovland, Macintyre, Migliozzi and Kinhult all have the pedigree to pop up and show the world their skills at any time. It should be a great week of quality golf from a world class venue and a premium field. Don't miss the action!
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