Sanderson Farms Championship 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

Corey Conners and caddie Danny Sahl. Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Only one Ryder Cup participant appears in the Sanderson Farms field this week in Jackson, Miss. and it just so happens to be the defending champion Sergio Garcia.

Cheers to Europe’s all-time points leader for returning to defend his crown days after he landed on the wrong side of a blowout at Whistling Straits. His outstanding performance for two decades in those matches, consistent excellence around the world and Masters title cement his place as one of the best in this generation.

But a certain induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame isn’t enough to make this week’s Power Rankings.

Instead, appearing near the top of our list are two young Americans who were likely inspired by their peers’ performance last week in Wisconsin and perhaps motivated to start making a move toward representing their country in upcoming matches.

‘Under The Strap’ Podcast: A chat with rising PGA Tour star Sam Burns

More on them in a moment.

The Country Club of Jackson is a 7,461-yard, par-72 layout that was renovated by John Fought in 2008. He’s put his touch on several Donald Ross courses in the Carolinas in recent years and there’s a similar rolling runoff flavor to the greens this week. Tee-to-green it’s a straightforward test. Looking back at the champions since the tournament moved here in 2015, six of seven finished top 10 in greens in regulation (Garcia led last year) and five of the last seven were top-10 in SG:Off the Tee.

The greens are slightly easier to hit than the Tour average (69.1 percent) and the fairways are slightly more difficult (54 percent). There are six par 4s between 400 and 450 yards and 23 percent of the approach shots are launched from outside 200 yards.

Ryan Armour and Peter Malnati won here by hitting fairways and making everything. Cameron Champ overpowered the course with his driver. Garcia had an out-of-body putting experience for four days last year, rolling in the short ones with his eyes closed to claim the most glorious trophy in golf.

With the game’s stars resting, this week provides a great opportunity for a veteran to rediscover his touch but also for the game’s budding stars, recent graduates from the Korn Ferry Tour, to move toward securing a solid schedule in the 2021-22 season. Racking up points in the fall creates more playing opportunities early next year on the West Coast and in Florida.

Bargain Bin

  • John Augenstein, Russell Knox, Denny McCarthy, Davis Riley, Camilo Villegas

The Bermuda greens specialists received consideration this week, along with course history and recent performance as always. Expect a winning score in the 20-under neighborhood and a subpar total will be required to play the weekend. Birdie makers are those with a strong track record of going low found their way into the rankings.

As always, good luck.

Golfer power rankings

25. Keith Mitchell – Fits in the category of those who can dominate a course off the tee. Recorded a pair of top 10s in his last four starts a year ago and ranks 11th in the field over the last 50 rounds in easy scoring conditions, Bermuda greens.

24. Bronson Burgoon – Gained 5.4 strokes on approach in a T-16 at the Fortinet and was equally dialed at CC of Jackson in 2019, gaining 8.2 with his irons to finish T-6. Thrives in easy scoring conditions and putting is just slightly worse than the Tour average on Bermuda.

23. Ryan Armour – Past champion is playing out of the 126-150 category this season so needs to take full advantage of each start. T-54, MC and T-46 at CC of Jackson since that victory but showed form late last season with two top 10s in July.

22. Sebastian Munoz – Gained 3.2 shots on approach when he won here in 2019 and we’re willing to attribute his dismal Fortinet ballstriking effort to rust. Putts his best on Bermuda greens and is 4-for-4 making the cut at this event.

21. Adam Schenk – Is also a perfect 4-for-4 in this event with a T-7 in the fall of 2018. In this field he’s close to a sure thing, having made 9 of 11 cuts dating back to last summer. Short game has been weak of late but he’s 16th in the field in SG: Total over the last 24 rounds.

20. Carlos Ortiz – Top 20 in the field in proximity from outside 200 yards, better than the field average in SG:OTT and Good Drives Gained and also an excellent Bermuda greens putter. Posted consecutive top 5s in Jackson prior to missing the cut last year.

19. Brian Stuard – He’s third in the field in SG: Total over the last 24 rounds, finished T-4 here in 2017 and ranks 13th in the field in scoring on easy courses with Bermuda greens. After losing 2.4 shots on approach at Fortinet hopefully found something during the week off.

18. Joseph Bramlett – If you’re interested in following the strong ballstriking / weak putter who has a hot week on the greens narrative, Bramlett could be your guy. Gained 3.5 shots OTT and 4.9 on Approach at the Fortinet.

17. Si Woo Kim – Finished T-61 and T-37 here the last two years and he’s an easy course specialist (leads field in SG: Tee-to-Green) coming off a T-11 at the Fortinet. There’s always risk involved with Kim but he was strong through the bag two weeks ago, which is promising.

16. Keegan Bradley – Finds his way into contention a few times each season on Bermuda greens. Always worry about him in a putting contest but he’s second in the field in SG: Approach over the last 50 rounds and fourth in Good Drives Gained. Tied for fourth last year (15 under).

15. C.T. Pan – Was among the best in the field on approach in a T-6 at Fortinet and also had a strong week with the irons at CC of Jackson a year ago to finish T-12. Third-place finish in Tokyo boosted his confidence.

14. Charley Hoffman – He’s 24 under at the CC of Jackson the last two years (T-23, T-6) and outstanding on Bermuda greens in easy scoring conditions (third in SG: Approach, fifth Tee-to-Green). Leads the field in SG: Approach and Opportunities Gained over the last 50 rounds.

13. Aaron Wise – He’s 124th in the field in SG: Putting over his last 36 rounds on Bermuda and that club has obviously kept him from contending more frequently. I am confident he’s going to have his best season in 2021-22. Has made a check in nine consecutive starts. Finished 39th or better in his last three trips to Jackson.

12. Scott Stallings – Not many PGA Tour golfers are more fit than the 36-year-old three-time winner who has nearly $13 million in earnings. Contended late at the Fortinet (T-6), gaining 2.3 shots on approach and 1.1 OTT. Made the cut in 5 of 6 trips to CC Jackson with a T-6 last year.

11. Seamus Power – After locking up a two-year exemption with his Barbasol victory last July, expecting a career year for the affable Irishman. Nobody in the field has played better over the last 24 rounds. He’s been hot with the driver, irons and putter at different stages of his recent run.

10. Cam Davis – Made the cut in 9 of 10 events to close last season including his first PGA Tour victory in a thrilling playoff at the Rocket Mortgage. Flashed his talent in this event last year, playing in the last group on Sunday with Garcia and finishing sixth. Also T-28 here the year before.

9. Harold Varner III – On the longest run of solid consistent play of his career (four top 20s in his last six starts) and encouraged to see he gained at least four shots on the green in two of those outings. He’s 11th in Opportunities Gained over the last 50 rounds. T-39 and MC in two prior appearances.

8. Matthew Wolff – He had a difficult 2021 but still posted a pair of runner-up finishes and let’s not forget he’s only been a pro for two years and change. Can overpower a course off the tee and flush laser iron shots at the flag. Ton of talent and eager to start a new chapter in his young career.

7. Cameron Tringale – Has overcome substandard driving to finish 26th or better in five of his last six starts. Also a solid record at CC Jackson (4-for-4 playing the weekend). Paying a premium on the Vegas board and in fantasy formats but he is 10th in the field in SG: Total over last 36 rounds.

6. Kevin Streelman – Ran out of gas late last season but should feel rejuvenated after a month of rest and eager to attack a course where he’s had good results (two top 10s since 2017). Also inspired by Jon Scheyer’s recent recruiting efforts.

5. Sungjae Im – It felt like last season was a disappointment for the uber talented young South Korean star yet he still landed in Atlanta for the Tour Championship. Some sophomore slump. He’s top 10 in Good Drives Gained and proximity outside 200 yards and second in the field in SG: Total in easy scoring conditions. Also the runner-up here in 2019.

4. Mito Pereira – It’s Mito Season. Not a matter of if but when. His supreme flushing ability will make him a leaderboard resident throughout 2021-22. International team Presidents Cup captain Trevor Immelman was giddy watching Pereira stripe shots down the stretch in a T-3 at Fortinet, which was his third top 6 in the last four starts.

3. Will Zalatoris – The next young gun to join the American entourage in a team competition. Fourth in SG: Approach and ninth in Birdies or Better Gained over the last 36 rounds. Should feel comfortable on the Bermuda greens. Towering approach shots allow him to flourish outside 200 yards and attack CC of Jackson’s par 5s.

2. Sam Burns – Lost in sudden death on Bermuda greens in Memphis. Hit his irons poorly at the Tour Championship but gained 4.8 strokes with the flat blade. Over the last 36 rounds he’s 10th in the field in SG: Approach, first in SG: Putting and second in SG: Short Game. Will have an excellent shot to win if he drives it average or better.

1. Corey Conners – Tied for 17th in Jackson last fall and finished second in 2018 despite gaining only 1.5 shots on the greens for the week. Leads the field in SG: Ballstriking and SG: Off-the-Tee over the last 50 rounds in easy scoring conditions on courses with Bermuda greens.

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