Prize Fund: $4,000,000
Winner’s Share: $720,000
Course: Country Club of Jackson (Par 72, 7,354 yards)
Alongside the WGC on the PGA Tour will be the Sanderson Farms Championship this week and with it a quite interesting field. We rarely cover tournaments that play second fiddle to a bigger event, but we felt there could be some value in what is, for us, a relatively strong line up. Well considering the situation at least.
There are plenty of PGA Tour stalwarts to get excited about and arguably (although at the time of writing, odds haven’t yet been released) there will be better value than the WGC. The tournament itself has always run alongside big events, whether it be The Open, The Masters, a WGC, Tour Championship or even Ryder Cup. Basically it’s always regarded as a ‘second’ tournament. Yet when you look at past winners, there are some decent names, which makes you think it can be used a stepping stone, because whatever you may say about it, it still counts as a PGA Tour title, well only since 1994. BUT before then you still had the likes of Payne Stewart and Craig ‘The Walrus’ Stadler winning. Since it’s official recognition though people like Fred Funk (1998), Luke Donald (2002), Heath Slocum (2005), Chad Campbell (2007), Will Mackenzie (2008), Bill Haas (2010), Chris Kirk (2011) and Scott Stallings (2012) win this trophy. In fact 14 of the 18 winners since it was made an official PGA Tour event have all been either 1st or 2nd time winners, which proves even more so that this is a stepping stone.
All that being said, when you then sit down and take a look at what sort of player could win here, you realise that yes this is a new host course. Brilliant. It is a relatively unknown track in the professional circuit but has regularly hosted the Mississippi Amateur State Championship. Clearly very few players will be teeing it up this week who played in that, but there are surprisingly a few, including a winner in the form of Jonathan Randolph. No idea. But from what we do know it is a 7,354 yard par 72 with 4 par 5s and 4 par 3s. The fairways are tree lined, but not particularly tight and the greens are certainly larger than average. There are the odd water hazards dotted around the course, but the fairways are not particularly winding, so because they are straight and the greens are expanse, we should expect low scoring.
The bunkers don’t offer a great deal of defence either because they are not deep, pot holes but simply long and expansive. Basically, it should be relatively simple for players of high calibre to find GIR and attack pin positions if the find the centre of the fairway. Simple tee to green efficiency and a love of grabbing birdies seems to be the combination here.
Peter Uihlein (40/1 various)
We have to say that Peter Uihlein at 40s felt like very decent value. He is undeniably one of the up and coming players in the game and if there was one of those guys in this field that would make sense using the tournament as a stepping stone, it’s Uihlein.
He didn’t really have a great year to be honest, certainly compared to his breakthrough 2013, but he has still shown his potential at times. That was proved a couple of weeks back with a very solid T9 in Australia which is one of the main reasons we were encouraged by him here. He was absolutely battering the ball, as we have come to expect of the American, so on a course like this, that could result in some serious damage. He was hitting the ball really well with his irons as well, which makes him even more encouraging. If his tee to green game is even 3/4 on the ball then his ability can easily destroy high-scoring tracks.
Interestingly, he has done really well on 2 of these ‘second fiddle’ tournaments in the past year – T6 at the Puerto Rico Open (a PGA side event to the WGC Cadillac) and his only Tour win to date at the Madeira Islands Open (a European Tour side event to the Volvo World Matchplay.) With all his talent, there will be few doubters against his potential, so what an opportunity this is to cement himself on the big stage and lay the foundations for a perfect season ahead.
Adam Hadwin (66/1 StanJames)
As we’ve mentioned before, Adam Hadwin is one of our players to really keep an eye on over the coming year. He has a great future in the game and for those that follow us regularly, you will know that this will be the 3rd time we’re plumping our money on him.
He nearly won the Canadian Open back in 2011 when he was a Web.com regular, so the guy has credentials. But what really drew us to him was the fact that during an impressive T10 at the Shriners a few weeks back, he looked perfect for a low scoring challenge. Another one of these young players with absolutely no fear, who can tonk a ball miles. He clocked one drive at a whopping 348 yards. That is beyond ridiculous! Interestingly though he found himself at 10th for the field in ball striking as well, which makes this a perfect sort of track for his abilities.
He is under par for all par 5 holes this season and considering he is 56th for strokes gained putting, makes you think that 66s is incredibly good value. A lot of people will probably be jumping on the Cameron Smith bandwagon this week and yes that is understandable in some ways, we would be the first to comment how highly we rate him, but he will be coming over to America for the first ever time and this is someone with plenty of PGA experience and just as much talent. Get on him.
Shawn Stefani (80/1 Ladbrokes)
Like our first 2 picks, we just felt that 80s was too good to turn down for someone like Shawn Stefani. He is one of those players that you often see in and around leaderboards, but he is yet to ever win a PGA Tour event. He has 2 Web.com titles to his name, but not a big one as of yet. Although we’re sure you all remember that fateful night back in July last year. It was him vs Justin Rose at the Quicken Loans National and we had him at 200/1. He went into the final day joint top with the major champion, going toe to toe with him before succumbing to some magical approach heroics from Rose.
What impressed us most is how he didn’t back down from the challenge against one of the top, top players in world golf. He drove the ball ridiculously long and straight throughout the 4 days and that is backed up by the fact he was 6th in total driving for the season. If you’re hitting the ball like that on this sort of course, alarm signs will be ringing.
In fact tee to green he is a very consistent player, he can just struggle with the short stick. Admittedly he hasn’t started the season brightly, but we just have one of those feelings about him for this.
Andrew Putnam (100/1 various)
Another interesting outsider in Andrew Putnam. In fact another pick to have never won a PGA Tour title, but he is still not a PGA Tour regular. This will be his first proper season on the big tour and he has started it brightly. T33 a couple of weeks ago, whilst a T12 at the McGladrey gives us great confidence. Even more impressively though, he shot 4 rounds in the 60s. Tee to green he is incredibly efficient and he does have the potential to drive it long.
But you have to consider that this course needs birdies and his one win on the Web.com last year was a cracking -20 score. He is only 25 and will have already shamed off the nerves of official PGA status, so he should be in the thick of it now. 59th for ball striking adds to the appeal, so a very decent outsider.
Fabian Gomez (150/1 various) and Andrew Loupe (200/1 various)
Two VERY interesting outsiders this week in the form of Fabian Gomez and Andrew Loupe. Firstly Argentinean 36-year old Gomez. He is an incredibly experienced player who, for the 2nd time in his career, has earned a PGA Tour card. He finished 23rd in the Web.com season earnings last year and is now going for the big time again. He has 11 professional titles to his name, which is a very credible return, whatever the standard, so he does know how to win. Interestingly, he finished T8 in his first event back, at the McGladrey, by playing some fine tee to green golf. He is a cracking player with the short stick as well, so this could be an interesting bet.
As for Loupe, he undeniably had a shocking season last year, but he still has plenty of potential. Last year he was one of the top putters on Tour – 24th overall for strokes gained, whilst 4th for driving distance shows his capabilities off the tee. He finished 24th for GIR in his one outing so far this year at the McGladrey Classic where he finished T41. Certainly worth a few coppers!