This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $792,000
FedEx Cup Points: 300 to the Winner
Location: Jackson, Miss.
Course: The Country Club of Jackson
2017 champion: Ryan Armour
We really shouldn't give the Sanderson Farms, the Little Engine That Could of PGA Tour events, any guff. This will be the 50th edition of the tournament, a remarkable achievement under any circumstances though surely for Mississippi, a state without any major professional sports teams. Still, finding the tournament's big names – and we use that term loosely – is always a challenge. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, here's the mind-boggling history of this David vs. Goliath event.
The Sanderson Farms has been known by many names through the years, but it's always been an opposite-field tournament, even before it became an official PGA Tour event more than halfway through its existence, in 1994. Before that it was embarrassingly considered a "satellite" tournament – the money was real but the results were "unofficial." Get this: It's been played in seven different months: April, May, July, August, September, October and November. Along the way, it's been played opposite – and how's this for a heavyweight lineup of tournaments – the Masters, the Open Championship, the Tour Championship, what is now the WGC-Mexico, even the Ryder and Presidents Cups. The only one with tougher opponents than the Sanderson Farms has been the Washington Generals. For the past three years, the tourney has been played the same week as the WGC-HSBC Champions, which really is the best position it's ever been in. The WGC event is in China, so this tourney gets plenty of face time on the Golf Channel during what would be considered "normal" golf-viewing hours. Among the former champions are Payne Stewart (1982) and Roger Maltbie, who in 1980 opened with a 65 and won when the final three rounds were rained out. He earned $4,500 – and cracked that it wouldn't even cover his bar tab.
Okay, now to the field. The tournament delivers only 300 FedEx Cup points, no Masters invite to the winner and, thus, this is perhaps the weakest field on the entire calendar. It's 132 deep ("deep" being a matter of opinion). 49 of the 50 newly minted Web.com Tour graduates are entered. So are 11 guys who weren't even inside the top 150 last season. But as for big names? That's always in the eye of the beholder. The PGA Tour website goes with Retief Goosen, the two-time U.S. Open winner just elected to the Hall of Fame. But good gosh, he's virtually the same age as the tournament – seriously, they're less than a year apart. Other possibilities include Ryan Armour, the defending champion; South African Dylan Frittelli, at No. 73 the highest-ranked golfer in the field; Bill Haas, the 2010 winner and a former FedEx Cup champion; and former U.S Open winner Lucas Glover.
Armour, J.J. Spaun and Web.com regular-season money winner Sungjae Im are the only three golfers in the field who played last week in South Korea, which seems like reason enough to fade them.
This will be the fifth year for the Country Club of Jackson, and the 104-year-old track has actually proven to be quite formidable. It ranked as the 21st hardest course on Tour last season, out of 50. It's a decent length for a par-72, though it oddly closes with four par-4s. Many holes feature wide and straight fairways, allowing anyone to let fly. The tournament will be decided from the second shot on in, which we'll delve into in the Champion's Profile below.
Weather-wise, there is 100 percent chance of rain on Thursday, and a good change on Saturday. Highs will be in the low-70s. Winds are forecast to be light.
Key Stats to Winning at The Country Club of Jackson
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Birdie or better percentage
2017 - Ryan Armour (CC of Jackson)
2016 - Cody Gribble (CC of Jackson)
2015 - Peter Malnati (CC of Jackson)
2014 - Nick Taylor (CC of Jackson)
2013 - Woody Austin
2012 - Scott Stallings
2011 - Chris Kirk
2010 - Bill Haas
2009 - No tournament
2008 - Will MacKenzie
We look back at only the past four years. Armour finished second in the field in strokes gained: putting, Gribble and Malnati were both first and Taylor was seventh. That's a pretty strong indicator. All of them but Gribble were top-4 in the field in greens in regulation – and Gribble countered that by ranking first in scrambling. There doesn't seem to be much connection between driving distance/accuracy and winning at the CC of Jackson. All four of the recent champions have come as complete surprises. The past four winning scores, from oldest to newest, have been 16-under, 18-under, 20-under and 19-under. So, whoever wins likely will need to make a bunch of birdies.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
Harold Varner - $9,900 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 25-1)
In theory, Tier 1 has come to be defined at $10,000-plus golfers. There are four of them this week, and it takes a little getting used to seeing Patrick Rodgers, Ryan Armour, Sungjae Im and Lucas Glover with five figures next to their names. Favorites have not delivered at this tournament, and Rodgers seems a curious choice for top dog anyway. Armour and Im just got back from South Korea, and we're guessing there were no direct flights to Mississippi – we are fading both of them this week. And Glover has played just one PGA event since the U.S. Open. Ergo, we turn to Varner, who opened his season with a T14 in a far tougher field at the Safeway Open. He ranked 69th on Tour last season in greens in regulation, which is tantamount to being Ben Hogan in this group. Varner's biggest strength may be off the tee. Varner's weakness is putting, but he putted pretty well in Napa, needing only 49 total putts over the final 36 holes.
Aaron Baddeley - $9,700 (25-1)
Baddeley has had one of most accomplished careers of anyone in this field, but that was long ago. The former No. 16-ranked golfer is now No. 249 and had to return to the Web.com Tour to keep his card. He finished top-25 in three of the four playoff events, that after a top-25 at the regular-season-ending Wyndham Championship. Baddeley promptly opened this season with a T4 at the Safeway Open, and was laser-like with his irons, finding the green in regulation more than 80 percent of the time. When his putter is on, he's among the best on the greens.
Adam Schenk - $9,200 (30-1)
The 26-year-old Indianan had a rough go as a PGA Tour rookie last season, missing the cut in half his 28 events and finishing outside the top 150. But he flourished in the Web.com Tour finals, finishing with three straight top-10s. Schenk followed that up with a tie for 14th at the Safeway Open – and that's how a guy who last month was battling for his card winds up as the No. 9 guy on the DK board. Schenk was ranked 75th in both greens in regulation and strokes gained: putting last season.
Bill Haas - $9,000 (30-1)
Haas is trying to put his worst season on Tour in the rear-view mirror, and he started by tying for 10th at the Safeway Open. You have to go back only to 2016-17 to see Haas' strengths in action: 42nd in strokes gained: approach and fourth in SG: around the green. Haas was the 2010 champion of this event.
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
Chris Kirk - $10,400 (30-1)
Last year, Kirk arrived at this event coming off a runner-up the year before, and he promptly missed the cut. But the thing is, he was in South Korea at the CJ Cup last year. As mentioned above, we are fading those guys this year (we learned the hard way). Kirk made it through three playoff events last season, pretty much what we'd expect from someone who struggles off the tee but was ranked 17th in strokes gained: approach, 18th in scrambling and 64th in putting average.
Cameron Davis - $8,900 (30-1)
Davis is only 23, and he cracked the top 100 for the first time after tying for 17th at the Safeway Open. That followed two top-5s in the Web.com Tour playoffs, which gave him top-25s in more than half his starts on the secondary tour. He has played only six events on the PGA Tour, with a best of T15 in Mayakoba two years ago as a 21-year-old. He also made the cut at the 2017 Open Championship. Big things are ahead for this young Australian.
Nicholas Lindheim - $8,600 (50-1)
Lindstrom is 33, and he's been on the PGA Tour only the past two years. He used three top-20s during the Web.com playoffs to return for this season, and he hasn't played since the Web.com Tour Championship. He was dismal off the tee last season, but was a better-than average 71st in greens in regulation and a stellar 31st in strokes gained: putting. He tied for seventh here a year ago.
Peter Malnati - $8,400 (50-1)
The champion here three years ago, Malnati has posted top-25s in the past two PGA starts, the season-closing Wyndham Championship and the season-opening Safeway Open. In between, he ran off three top-20s in the Web.com playoffs, including a runner-up to Robert Streb in the opening event. Malnati is an elite putter, ranking eighth on Tour last season.
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
Cameron Champ - $8,000 (40-1)
The 23-year-old Californian certainly is exciting to watch, especially with a driver in his hands. Champ averaged 343 yards off the tee last season on the Web.com Tour. He averaged nearly 330 in tying for 25th at the Safeway Open, and currently ranks first on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee. The rest of his game surely needs work, but when you hit it that far, getting on the green in regulation is much easier. Champ had a Web.com win and five top-10s last season.
Nick Taylor - $7,900 (60-1)
This one is all about course history. Taylor has played this event three times, and he's finished top-25 all three times, including his lone career win back in 2014, the first year at the CC of Jackson. That was Taylor's best week on Tour, obviously, but another one of his best came just two months ago when he tied for eighth at the Wyndham Championship. Taylor was ranked a decent 83rd in greens in regulation last season.
Jhonattan Vegas - $7,800 (40-1)
Vegas tied for 53rd at the Safeway Open, then was all set to head to Asia, only to be thwarted by visa troubles. He likely wouldn't be here this week if he had. Vegas is just as capable of winning in a strong field as he is at stinking up the joint in a weak one. But the upside, especially at this price, is enormous. Vegas played this event only once before, tying for fourth in 2015.
Alex Prugh - $7,600 (80-1)
Prugh is a 34-year-old who played his first PGA Tour event more than a decade ago. He's logged more than 100 since, but the last few years he's been exclusively a Webbie. Prugh ended last season with seven top-25s in his final eight starts, then added a T33 at the Safeway. So, safe to say it's one of the best stretches of Prugh's career. He bombed it an average of almost 320 off the tee at the Safeway Open – not too shabby for an "old" guy.
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
Seamus Power - $7,200 (60-1)
Power missed the cut at the Safeway Open. He also missed the cut there last year, then tied for 18th at the Sanderson Farms event. He also missed the cut at the Safeway Open two years ago, then tied for 29th here. Power struggles mightily until he gets near the green, but then he's really good. He ranked 16th on Tour in scrambling and 14th in strokes gained: putting last season.
Anders Albertson - $7,100 (80-1)
He sounds Swedish but is actually a native Texan, and the 25-year-old Albertson was among the top Web.com players last season. He had a win and a runner-up while compiling a whopping 14 top-25s. Albertson missed the cut at the Safeway Open, only his second PGA Tour start.
Corey Conners - $6,800 (125-1)
Conners appeared to run out of gas toward the end of his rookie season, falling out of the top-125 then underperforming in the Web.com finals. He was ranked 22nd on Tour in greens in regulation last season, only to be foiled by his putter. Same thing at the Safeway Open: he was second in greens in regulation, but missed the cut. Even mediocre putting should get him to the weekend.
Jonas Blixt - $6,700 (150-1)
Blixt has at least shown a propensity to hang around for all four rounds in weaker fields (how's that for an endorsement?). The veteran Swede tied for 33rd at the Safeway Open, and a repeat performance would be fantastic at this price. He also had a similar result, T36, in the Wyndham Championship against a much stronger field. Blixt's game gets stronger closer to the green, which always gives him a puncher's chance.