Mississippi native Chester Arthur Burnett – most called him Wolf, as in Howlin’ – wrote a number about the Little Red Rooster many years ago not having a notion the title character would one day adorn the finest trophy in professional golf.
I have nothing but affection for Mississippi and one pro golfer will surely share the sentiment Sunday afternoon when he receives the bronzed barnyard boss as the fading sunlight filters through the tall pines around the Country Club of Jackson.
He’ll be 500 FedEx Cup points and $1.2 million richer after solving the par-72, 7,461-yard layout and securing the famous fowl, taking the faux feathered fella home to reside prominently in any trophy case if not on the mantle or the front porch, by God, for the neighbors to admire.
Gonna take a bunch of birdies to earn that bird.
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This straightforward tree-lined layout isn’t particularly demanding off the tee or on approach. Bombers and fairway finders have succeeded here at an equal rate in recent years and conditions could be firmer than usual, considering the water issues in Jackson. In all, seven of the last eight champions landed in the top 10 in greens in regulation while six of the last eight were top 10 in SG: Off-the-Tee.
The CC of Jackson has been kind to frontrunners of late. Best to start dropping putts early and often. You can come back, but you can’t come back all the way.
Crushing the par 5s is imperative. Recent top-10 finishers reached double figures under par on those four holes over four rounds. The champion Bermuda greens are also found at Sedgefield, Quail Hollow, TPC Southwind, Congaree and Trinity Forest, and the rankings are filled with pros who have thrived in the South and on similar surfaces in recent years.
The course presents an interesting mixture of approach shots. More than a third are struck from 100-150 yards (good morning wedge artists) while 22 percent come from outside 200 yards.
There’s a fresh, aggressive crop of talent ready to feast on Tour this fall. Think young and go strong. As always, good luck.
Sanderson Farms Championship Fantasy Golf Power Rankings
25. Austin Eckroat – We’ve only seen flashes of his talent thus far. Finished in the top 20 in six of the last seven Korn Ferry Tour events with two runner ups. Believe in his ability and should be a suitable course fit against a glorified KFT strength of field.
24. Sebastian Munoz – The former Sanderson Farms champion would be much higher but it’s difficult to assess the impact of the Presidents Cup experience. I mean, he played great, unleashing a torrent of birdies and such to defeat world No. 1 Scheffler in Sunday singles. Could enhance an upward trending career arc. But maybe not this week. The storyteller makes no choice.
23. Emiliano Grillo – Folks like Cameron Champ and Sergio Garcia, neither exactly known for a smooth putting stroke, winning here in recent years should give Grillo backers hope. Ranks third in the field in scoring on 550-600 yard par 5s and sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee on driver heavy courses.
22. Brendan Steele – Was a big disappointment in Napa, where he’d won twice. One of only three players in this week’s Rankings to slot top 10 in SG: Off-the-Tee on longer courses and in SG: Approach anywhere. Top 20 here last year in his only recent appearance.
21. Keegan Bradley – Has a top 5 here two years ago and ranks well above average in all the key categories – except putting, of course. Scuffled down the stretch last season but this feels like a good spot for him to rebound.
20. Adam Svensson – Finished T-12 at the Fortinet despite losing almost a shot on the greens. Excellent from 100-150 yards and in easy scoring conditions. Just needs to hole a few putts.
19. Taylor Moore – Took him a while to settle in last season but when the scoring conditions turned favorable in the summer he stayed hot, finishing 24-21-6-5 in the last four regular season events to earn entry into the FedEx Cup playoffs and he advanced to Delaware. Top 5 in scoring and Tee-to-Green on easy courses. Ranks second in Birdies or Better over last 36 rounds.
18. Byeong Hun An – Regained Tour status by winning on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and jumped right into contention at the Fortinet, finishing T-4. Had a top 3 here two years ago and CC of Jackson has been good to below average putters in recent years.
17. Dean Burmester – Bombs it and has an elite short game, so the par 5s should be pushovers for this 33-year-old Zimbabwean who has been plying his trade around the world for the last decade.
16. Stephan Jaeger – Friend of the Power Rankings, the esteemed John Rathouz, planted a seed about Jaeger and the Sanderson Farms a couple months ago and I can see why. Finished T-26 here last year, T-13 at the Wyndham (with Rathouz on the bag) in August and is in a solid ballstriking groove, gaining Tee-to-Green in six of the last seven tournaments. Also 17th in Birdies or Better.
15. Taylor Montgomery – The modern golfer. Bombs it and goes low because he can sizzle on the greens (gained 11 shots putting at Fortinet!). Led the Korn Ferry Tour in birdie average (4.88) and scoring average (68.36) last season.
14. Thomas Detry – Always liked his skill set when I dabbled in DP World Tour markets in recent seasons. Finished T-12 at the Fortinet, gaining more than seven shots Tee-to-Green. Expect him to finish well inside the top 125 this season and he’ll take another step in that direction in Jackson.
13. Scott Stallings – Played the most consistently good golf of his career toward the end of last season and his outstanding performance at the BMW must have boosted his confidence. Putts great on fast Bermuda, dialed from 100-150 yards and finished T-6 here two years ago.
12. Sahith Theegala – A popular play this week for certain considering he finished top 10 at the Fortinet and in last year’s Sanderson Farms. Can get loose off the tee but there aren’t many penalty shots after errant drives at the CC of Jackson.
11. Davis Riley – Going back to Mississippi, it’s where he hopes to find his game. Mixed results since the back nine implosion on that crazy Sunday in Fort Worth – no top 10s and three missed cuts. But he gained 1.5 shots on approach in Napa and that’s something on which the Magnolia State native can build.
Sanderson Farms Championship Fantasy Golf Best Bets
10. Denny McCarthy – Do we trust Denny on the weekend? Ranked 118th on Tour in final-round scoring average last season, finishing top 25 on 12 occasions. Has putted like Crenshaw in Jackson, landing in the top 20 four consecutive years with a T-6 in 2020.
9. Davis Thompson – Strong candidate to contend for Rookie of the Year after starting the season with a T-9 at Fortinet, gaining shots across the board. Auburn native attended Georgia and won on the Korn Ferry Tour last year.
8. Mark Hubbard – Feels like he finally became comfortable on the PGA Tour last season, recording seven top-40 finishes in 2022 and starting the new season with a T-21 in Napa. Below average Off the Tee but top 10 in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green in easy scoring conditions.
7. Russell Henley – If it’s a Bermuda grass course with a plethora of approach shots inside 150 yards, Henley is certain to pop in a model. He’s broken hearts across the globe with Sunday suffering in recent years but it’s difficult to ignore the numbers – first in SG: Tee-to-Green on easy courses and first in SG: Approach anywhere.
6. Seamus Power – A fantasy favorite early in 2022, Power lost his groove after squandering a hefty 36-hole lead at Pebble Beach. But he’s the best in the field on easy courses and after years of grinding, the month at home probably served him well. Top 20s here in 2017 and 2018.
5. Sam Burns – The defending champion and Vegas favorite led any model built this week. Would I be surprised if he repeated, like his Presidents Cup teammate Max Homa did two weeks ago at the Fortinet? No. Might question his energy after last week though.
4. Harris English – One year ago, English was on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Hip surgery cost him four months last season but he appears prime for a bounce back after a T-9 at the Fortinet. Play him while you can. Elite Bermuda putter is fifth in scoring on easy courses.
3. Alex Smalley – Top 25 in SG: Approach anywhere and SG: Off-the-Tee on longer courses over the last 50 rounds. An above average Bermuda putter who flourishes in easy scoring conditions and handles the par 5s. T-31 last year here despite poor putting.
2. J.T. Poston – When he finished third here two years ago, Poston entered the tournament ranked 54th in SG: Total over the last 50 rounds, 90th in SG: Ballstriking, 51st in SG: Off-the-Tee and 114th in SG: Approach. Entering this week, he’s first, 21st, 43rd and 16th in those same categories. A rebuilt swing propelled him to his first trip to the Tour Championship and his putting stroke remains one of the best on Tour.
1. Trey Mullinax – Won in Kentucky, contended in Tennessee and should be in the mix in Mississippi. Gained 17 shots Tee-to-Green in his last three starts and has four top 25s in the last six. One of the best drivers in the field will feel just right on the Southern grass. Ranks third in Birdies or Better over the last 36 rounds. Finished T-4 here last year before a golf ball beaning and family matters disrupted his season.
Sanderson Farms Championship Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Erik Barnes, Joel Dahmen, Ben Griffin, Peter Malnati, Vincent Norrman, Adam Schenk, Matti Schmid, Matthias Schwab, Austin Smotherman, Callum Tarren.