DraftKings PGA: Sanderson Farms Championship Picks and Strategy

DraftKings PGA: Sanderson Farms Championship Picks and Strategy

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP

Purse: $7.9M 
Winner's Share: $1.442M 
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner 
Location: Jackson, Miss. 
Course: The Country Club of Jackson 
Yardage: 7,461 
Par: 72 
2021 champion: Sam Burns

Tournament Preview

The Sanderson Farms Championship has had a five-decade history unlike any other PGA Tour event. It has undergone incredible change through the years and faced enormous obstacles just to remain standing today. Last year it followed the Ryder Cup and this year the Presidents Cup, leaving tournament organizers challenged to find marquee names.

The history of the Sanderson Farms is mind-boggling. It has been known by many names since its inception way back in 1968 as the Magnolia Classic, and it's safe to say it's the biggest professional sports event in the state of Mississippi. For more than half its existence, until 1994, it wasn't even considered an official PGA Tour event; it was embarrassingly called a "satellite" tournament -- the money was real but the results were "unofficial." Then it became an opposite-field event. Along the way, it has been moved around more than an army brat, having been played in seven different months: April, May, July, August, September, October and November. It has been an alternate-field event the same weeks as -- and how's this for a heavyweight lineup of tournaments -- the Masters, the Open Championship, the TOUR Championship, the WGC event in Mexico, and even the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. The Washington Generals can relate. Until 2018, the tourney was played the same week as the WGC-HSBC Champions but then was elevated to the top tier of tournaments.

Of course, tournament organizers likely are thankful just to be a full-status event, now for the fourth year, so life is good, even a week after the Presidents Cup and opposite the NFL, college football and the final week of the MLB regular season.

Twelfth-ranked Sam Burns is the top player in the 144-man field and he is on hand probably only because he is the defending champion. He is one of two players who have made their way from last week's Presidents Cup, joined by Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Burns is the only top-25 golfer entered and one of four in the top 50, along with Sepp Straka, Seamus Power and Harris English. Just outside the top 50 are rising Sahith Theegala and J.T. Poston. Some others of note are Scott Stallings, Davis Riley, Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Justin Suh and Taylor Montgomery, the last two being part of the full complement of 50 Korn Ferry graduates in the field.

Bezuidenhout, Theegala, Riley and others are looking for their first PGA Tour victories, and this is a great week for it to happen. Before Burns last year and Sergio Garcia in 2020, there was a six-year run of first-time winners. Whoever emerges on Sunday will likely have had to have gone low, following Burns' 22-under total and Garcia's 19-under.

This will be the ninth year at the Country Club of Jackson. The course is a 1962 Dick Wilson design, with a John Fought/Mike Gogel renovation in 2008. The course has occasionally showed some teeth but last year was the sixth easiest track on Tour. It's a moderate length for a par-72, but the tree-lined fairways are largely flat, wide and straight, allowing everyone to let fly. Even on narrower holes, there's little impediment to taking out driver. The tournament likely will be decided from the second shot on in, notably on the greens. They are bermudagrass and average 6,200 square feet. The key is, they are set up super fast, 12-13 on the Stimpmeter. There are only 56 bunkers on the entire course and water comes into play on five holes. One of the five is the 479-yard 16th, which is considered the signature hole and plays as the hardest hole on the course. It is part of an odd closing stretch of four straight par-4s that begins with the drivable 330-yard 15th and ends with the 505-yard 18th. 18 often plays as the second hardest hole.

Weather-wise, we're looking at four very similar days with highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, almost no chance of rain and moderate wind.

Fun Sanderson Farms factoid: NBC's lovable Roger Maltbie won it back in 1980 when it was called the Magnolia Classic. He shot an opening 65 and then saw the final three rounds all rained out. He earned $4,500 and reportedly joked that it might not even cover his bar tab.

Key Stats to Winning at the Country Club of Jackson

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Greens in Regulation/Strokes Gained: Approach 
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Strokes Gained: Putting 
• Birdie Average/Birdie or Better Percentage

Past Champions

2021 - Sam Burns (CC of Jackson) 
2020 - Sergio Garcia (CC of Jackson)
2019 - Sebastian Munoz (CC of Jackson)
2018 - Cameron Champ (CC of Jackson)
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 (Annandale GC)
2012 - Scott Stallings (Annandale GC)

Champion's Profile

The past two years we've seen remarkable displays of ball striking from the winners, Burns and Garcia. Burns led the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Approach and Tee-to-Green, and greens in regulation. Garcia was also first in greens in regulation. Most years, the winner will have to putt great, but Burns and Garcia were so good tee to green they were able to win despite being 57th and 28th in putting, respectively. Both years, the runner-up led the field in SG: Putting. In years past, Gribble and Malnati both ranked first in SG: Putting when they won, Champ and Armour were second, Munoz fifth and Taylor was seventh. It all adds up to a pretty strong indicator that putting will go a long way in deciding this tournament, with the caveat that other-worldly ball striking could be the decider. Probably more notably, all the winners in the eight years at the CC of Jackson but Gribble were top-10 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 and winning here. Malnati and Armour are really short hitters, while Burns and Champ are long. The past seven years the winning score has fallen between 18- and 22-under. The over/under on this year's winning score is 267.5 per golfodds.com -- 20.5 under par.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Sahith Theegala - $10,400 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +2000) 
Theegala nearly went wire-to-wire here last year, but after shooting 64-67-67 he put up a 71 on Sunday and landed in a tie for eighth, three shots behind winner Burns. A similar situation happened to him a few months later in Phoenix, when Theegala also lost the lead late. So he's clearly circling the, um, winner's circle. This year he arrives as the No. 2 guy on the DraftKings board and could generate more action than the guy above him, Burns.

J.T. Poston - $10,200 (+1600) 
Poston, a great putter, rediscovered his lost putting stroke late last season, resulting in a two-month surge yo the finish. He was second at the Travelers, won the John Deere and made it all the way to the TOUR Championship, where he was top-10 when scoring the low-72. You're going to need to make some putts to win this week, and Poston has come close before, tying for third in 2020.

Russell Henley - $10,100 (+2200) 
There are very few guys who hit the ball straighter than Henley, who makes a remarkable number of birdies despite not hitting his putts very straight. He was 12th on Tour last season in birdie average. At this price, we almost need Henley to win, so that is a bit of a concern. But the field is weak enough for Henley to potentially emerge.

Taylor Montgomery - $9,600 (+3000) 
We were on Montgomery at the season-opening Fortinet Championship, where he tied for third. He led the field in putting by a large margin. He arrives on a big-time heater, with four straight top-10s to close the Korn Ferry season before adding another in the PGA Tour season opener.

Tier 2 Values  

Thomas Detry - $8,800 (+4000) 
The Belgian who played his way onto the PGA Tour via the Korn Ferry playoffs is an intriguing consideration. He's also higher priced than we would've have liked to have seen. But we're going to roll the dice, especially after Detry tied for 12th two weeks ago at the Fortinet. He has played 14 PGA Tour events in his career and recorded a top-25 in six of them.

Adam Hadwin - $8,700 (+5000) 
It's hard to imagine Hadwin doing worse than his fellow Canadians did at the Presidents Cup. Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith combined to go 0-8-0. Hadwin had a good finish to last season, making eight of his final nine cuts and reaching the second playoff event. He didn't have his best putting season, ranking 73rd, but still was 61st on Tour in birdie average.

Harris English - $8,600 (+5000) 
English missed about five months from January to June after hip surgery, and struggled to find his form after returning. But he finished top-10 two weeks ago at the Fortinet, his best showing since coming back. English tied for sixth here three years ago in his most recent visit to the Sanderson Farms. We were targeting English in this field from the get-go, and once we saw the favorable price it was full speed ahead.

Taylor Moore - $8,500 (+4500) 
It's surprising to us that Moore has shorter odds at the Sportsbook than English (45-1 vs. 50-1), but that goes to show what they think of Moore. We like him too, just like we did at the Fortinet, where he had a mediocre T36. Moore had a good finish to his rookie season and a good start, which included a T17 here a year ago.

Tier 3 Values

Wyndham Clark - $8,000 (+4500) 
We always laud Clark for his driver and putter being the two best clubs in his bad -- a great and rare combination -- yet is doesn't often work out for us. But it is too enticing to pass up this week in this field, especially after an outstanding putting week at the Fortinet. Despite that, Clark finished only 43rd. The oddsmakers over at the DK Sportsbook are fairly high on Clark at 50-1, the same price as top-50 golfers Straka and English.

Alex Smalley - $7,500 (+6000) 
Smalley had a very good finish to his debut PGA Tour season, totaling four top-25s over the final two and a half months, one of which was a top-10. He was a horrible putter last season but did make strides late and had a very good week on the greens at the Fortinet. Smalley tied for 31st here last year, following up an opening 76 with a second-round 63.

Nick Hardy - $7,500 (+10000) 
Hardy had a decent rookie season, finishing with four top-25s and just missing a fifth at the Sanderson (T26). He ranked 25th in greens in regulation last season and 61st in SG: Putting -- again, decent. Hardy opened this season with a made cut at the Fortinet, and he had a, yes, decent week going before ballooning to a 77 on Sunday.

Stephan Jaeger - $7,200 (+8000) 
Jaeger was one of the benefactors of the LIV defections, which allowed him to move into the top-125 and keep his card. He did manage six top-25s last season and just missed another at the Sanderson Farms (T26). Jaeger has played this tournament a number of times, with a best of T14 in 2019. He's coming off a tie for 43rd at the Fortinet.

Long-Shot Values

MJ Daffue - $6,800 (+13000) 
The South African had a great season on the Korn Ferry Tour, with two runners-up, two thirds and 10 top-25s, to earn his PGA Tour card for the first time. He was one of the longest hitters on the KF Tour, and one of the best putters, leading to him being third in birdie average. Daffue has made 15 starts on the PGA Tour. One of them was a missed cut at the Fortinet two weeks ago but another was a tie for 12th here two years ago.

Ben Taylor - $6,800 (+13000) 
Taylor graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour and turned in a top-25 at the Fortinet. He had been a PGA Tour member before, playing 19 tournaments last season and 17 the year before. The 30-year-old Englishman who went to LSU finished last season with a flourish, with two top-5s in his final four KF events. Sometimes, a golfer doesn't make the leap to the PGA Tour with immediate success. Sometimes, it takes a few years.

Sam Stevens - $6,700 (+15000) 
Stevens is another one of the Korn Ferry grads. He made 14 of his final 15 cuts last season, which included nine top-25s. He ranked third on the KF Tour in greens in regulation, 12th in ball striking and 25th in birdie average, a very attractive combination just about any week. Stevens missed the cut at the Fortinet two weeks ago in just his third PGA Tour event. He made the cut last year in the other two -- at the Honda Classic and a little something they call the U.S. Open.

Nicolas Echavarria - $6,200 (+30000) 
Yeah, we hadn't heard of him either. But we promise one $6500-or-under pick each week, and here it is. The Colombian by way of the University of Arkansas made his PGA Tour debut with a missed cut at the Fortinet. Before that, Echavarria finished fifth at the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship to punch his ticket to the big time. It was one of his six top-10s last season. He ranked in the top-10 on the KF Tour in putting, was top-50 in greens in regulation and top-30 in birdie average.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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