SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP: After a Ryder Cup that had plenty of passion and pageantry but lacked any real drama or suspense, the PGA Tour returns to action this week in Mississippi, where a field that includes exactly one Ryder Cupper– defending champion Sergio Garcia– will compete for the right to finish the week holding an oversized cock.
This tournament was held in Hattiesburg, MS for a quarter century but has now moved 90 miles up the highway to Jackson, where the Country Club of Jackson will serve as the host course for the 8th consecutive year. A par 72 that measures over 7,400 yards, the CC of Jackson is a fairly straightforward test consisting of fairways that get narrow in spots, sticky Bermuda rough, and large greens that feature run-offs and a few false fronts. The scoring is generally low here, with the winner finishing at 18-under or better in each of the past five years, and the list of recent champions is proof that the course caters to several different styles, from the short but straight types like Ryan Armour to outright bombers like Cameron Champ. Sergio, long known for his brilliant ball-striking, put together an incredible week on the greens last year to get the job done, and I’m sure the tournament directors and local fans are grateful that the future Hall of Famer has returned to defend his crown just days after what was surely an exhausting week at Whistling Straits.
Sergio may be the headliner this week but he’s certainly not the only quality player in attendance, as the top of BETDAQ’s Win Market is populated by names like Sam Burns, Will Zalatoris, Corey Conners, and Sungjae Im. There’s a fresh crop of Korn Ferry grads as well, giving the tournament a “beginning of the season” feel (and, of course, this is technically the second event of the new season), and this has not been an event to chase the short odds in recent years, so one of those in-form Korn Ferry guys may be worth a shot. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Corey Conners (22.0)- Conners has made some serious noise on Tour over the past couple of years, staking his claim as one of the world’s finest ball-strikers. And if you think “world’s finest” is a bit of an exaggeration, you should know that Conners is the only player on the PGA Tour to have ranked in the top-15 in both strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained tee-to-green in each of the past three seasons. So… yeah. Conners is a ball-striking savant. He also happens to have an excellent record in this event, finishing runner-up in 2018 and 17th last year, when he broke par in all four rounds but couldn’t quite get it going on the greens. All that’s missing from the resume are victories: Conners has only one, and it came in 2019. He’s been knocking on the door pretty consistently, however, and something tells me he’s going to kick the door down again soon… possibly this week. He’s worth a bet at better than 20/1.
Cameron Tringale (42.0)- Long known for playing his best golf out West, the 34-year old Tringale has come into his own in recent years and has been posting good results just about anytime he’s teed it up lately, finding the top-25 in 5 of his past 6 starts. An excellent putter who is generally among Tour leaders in birdie percentage (26th last year), he often does his best work on the courses where you have to go low, and CC of Jackson fits the bill. Though Tringale has yet to truly contend in this tournament, he’s made the cut in all four of his appearances and he found the top-20 in 2019, finishing 16th, so he should be very comfortable with the course and how best to attack it. In a field devoid of big names, an in-form Triangle stands out as an excellent value at a price like 42.0.
Denny McCarthy (118.0)- There’s an old saying in golf that a great putter always has a chance, and folks, there may not be a better putter on the planet today than 28-year old Denny McCarthy. The Maryland native led the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting in both 2019 and 2020 before “falling” all the way to 22nd last year, though he still ranked first in putting from 3′ and in (no yips here). His ball-striking has been inconsistent throughout his career, but when he puts it together for a few days he’s a genuine threat to win because of his prowess on the greens, which is why his results can swing wildly– from top-5s to missed cuts. In this tournament, however, McCarthy has been a picture of consistency, finishing 7th in 2018, 18th in 2019, and 6th last year, so I think we can safely call this a “horses for courses” situation– this is one of the spots where McCarthy makes his money. Considering he’s only three starts removed from a T15 at the Wyndham Championship, there’s a lot to like about him as a dark horse contender this week. You won’t find a better value in the triple-digit range.