Sobel’s 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship Preview and Betting Picks: Redman Could Lead a Ball-Striker Leaderboard
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Doc Redman.
The analytics tell us that driving distance should be a key to success at the 7,460-yard Country Club of Jackson this week, with big hitters holding an even more distinct advantage than usual. The numbers also hint that putting is vital, though long-term green stats, as we know, are less sustainable over a four-day span than other ones.
That’s all well and good — and I’d never suggest that hitting it far and pouring in putts is an unenviable way to go about the week. There’s something else, though, that caught my eye over the past few years at the Sanderson Farms Championship: the list of contenders.
Ready or not, here they come: Sebastian Munoz, Sungjae Im, Byeong-Hun An, Kevin Streelman, Dylan Frittelli, Harris English, Corey Conners, Chesson Hadley, Ryan Armour and Jason Kokrak have all finished top-10 at this tournament in the past three years.
Those are some ball-striking ballers right there.
With less-heralded fields and fewer players capable of winning titles competing on a weekly basis, we might believe these early-season fall tournaments are more predictable than those that are chock full of superstars. The numbers, however — yes, those pesky numbers trying to prove stuff again — show us that each of the first two non-majors of the 2020-21 season were won by players (Stewart Cink at the Safeway Open and Hudson Swafford at the Corales Puntacana) who were 200/1 pre-tourney, as archived by golfodds.com.
Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to chase some high-priced ball-strikers in Mississippi this week.
One player to win the tournament.
Doc Redman (+4500)
Though he might not be as low-priced as we’d like, Redman is developing into a world-class ball-striker before our very eyes, currently ranking second in strokes gained on approach shots after ranking 11th during the recently-completed season. He’s been knocking on the door recently, too, with a pair of third-place finishes in his last three starts. There should be a correlation between this course and Sedgefield Country Club — host of the Wyndham Championship — where Redman claimed the first of those two T-3 results, so don’t be surprised to see him up there again.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Cameron Tringale (+10000)
Cameron Percy (+9000)
Chesson Hadley (+7000)
I’ve listed these three for OAD selections — and they certainly work for this category — but these are the guys who best fit the profile of ball-strikers with some big odds entering this week. Tringale (eighth), Percy (22nd) and Hadley (30th) were each among the better iron players during the 2019-20 season. They’ve all played some solid golf at this event recently, too. Tringale and Percy each own a pair of top-20 finishes in the past four years, and Hadley was runner-up two years ago. They should each also own value in prop plays and DFS lineups this week.
One player to finish in the top five.
Will Zalatoris (+500)
Too much too soon? You can be excused for having Zalatoris fatigue over the past few weeks, but it’s not going to subside yet. I’m not ready to anoint him the “Next Big Thing,” but I do think he’s already one of those guys who can ball-strike his way to some impressive results without having to own more than an average short game. The truth is, this week’s venue sets up way better for him than last week, when he finished T-8, thanks to a final-round 65. When he was asked what was different on Sunday, he commented, “I had my back up against the wall.” I’ve never understood criticism for those who “back-door” into top-five and top-10 finishes — I mean, aren’t they supposed to play their best golf when it means the most? – but I do think we should be very aware of this ability when it comes to prop bets. In fact, if you wanted to hold off and take Zalatoris for a live top-five after R1 or R2, I don’t dislike that idea at all.
One player to finish in the top 10.
Scottie Scheffler (+150)
I still maintain that Scheffler was going to finish in the top 10 at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, and you can’t prove me wrong, as a positive COVID-19 test knocked him out of the field. He hasn’t played since finishing with the second-lowest 72-hole score at the TOUR Championship, which followed a pair of fourth-place results in his previous three starts. He was T-16 here a year ago, but his game is way more mature than it was then, as he can now be considered the class of this field. Let’s hope he doesn’t run away with the title at low odds, but we can at least buy him for a top-10 finish this week.
One player to finish in the top 20.
Emiliano Grillo (+250)
The type of player who continually leaves us disappointed, I wrote up Grillo as a top-10 play last week — and wouldn’t you know it, he parlayed a position of 11th place entering the final round into a T-21 finish. I have no doubt he might leave us similarly disenchanted this week, as last year’s opening-round 67 at this event led to only a T-39. Perhaps I continue to overestimate Grillo more than he continues to disappoint us, but I’ll give him one more week to prove me right.
One player to finish in the top 30.
Hey, let’s take a walk down Narrative St., as I’m taking a player from Jackson to play well in Jackson. OK, so Stuard is from Jackson, Michigan, and this tourney takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, but these are just immaterial details. Really, though, he’s cashed top-30 props in two of the last three years at that other Jackson and was T-3 at the Safeway before a T-33 in Puntacana last week.
One player to finish in the top 40.
There’s something intrinsically scary about taking a player to finish a meager top 40 when he hasn’t done so in his last nine starts, but with a T-41 and T-42 in his last four starts, it’s not as if NeSmith has been that far off. This one should suit his game, so here’s hoping he can improve a spot or two on those recent results.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
Corey Conners (DraftKings $9,200)
There are plenty of ball-strikers from which to choose, and while I considered An or Im here, I like the duality of a “safe” option who might also be a contrarian play, coming off two straight missed cuts. This course should be right up Conners’ alley, and while not having his best stuff should be a bit concerning, it shouldn’t totally dissuade us from rostering him on a course where, as mentioned earlier, he was runner-up just two years ago.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Wesley Bryan (DraftKings $6,300)
Prior to a missed cut at the Safeway Open, Bryan continued his return from injury with a half-dozen consecutive paychecks in combined PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour starts, which is about all you can ask for when going this deep into the salary pool. The South Carolina native tends to play his best golf in the Southeast, so a Mississippi-based tourney should be another good one for him.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Chase Seiffert (+12500)
While I like that trio of players I listed under the OAD category for the first-round lead this week, we shouldn’t ignore Seiffert, who has somehow unlocked some key to playing well on Thursdays. During the recently-completed season, the Florida State product ranked 168th in second-round scoring average, 158th in the third round and 125th in the final round — and yet, he was sixth in opening-round average, with a Thursday number of 69.12 that was 1.58 better than any other day. I’m not sure what the secret to hot starts at the highest level is, but I do know that Seiffert’s number isn’t a happy little accident.
One player who should beat comparable players.
There was a little while when Glover was the epitome of a guy we wanted in matchups — just a solid player who would reach the weekend, finishing between 20th and 23rd in his four starts after the PGA TOUR’s return from the COVID-19 schedule suspension. At the end of last season, though, he missed four straight cuts, leaving us to wonder whether he’d lost a little something along the way. Instead, a T-17 at Winged Foot has me right back in the same place with Glover, and it comes on a course where he owns three finishes of 22nd or better in the last five years.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Adam Long (+4500)
I’m going to be honest: I originally had Brandt Snedeker listed here because he hasn’t played well recently, but +11000 is a bargain on a player of his talent level with so much history on Donald Ross courses and with this course resembling one of those. Then I went with Louis Oosthuizen because, I mean, Louis with the second-lowest odds in a non-major is ridiculous, but he WD’d. So instead, I’ll somewhat begrudgingly go with Long, whose great golf in Puntacana hit a wall on Sunday, as he looked spent from a few long weeks.
My favorite non-PGA Tour play of the week.
Lee Westwood at the Scottish Open (+2800)
Since early in the year, once I spoke with Westwood and got a good sense that he’s in the right frame of mind for playing high-level golf once again, I’d thought he would win a big event at some point. Well, we’re running out of big events to win, but this week’s Scottish Open features a strong enough field — Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters top the board — that it bumps Westy down to a reasonable number at a tourney he’s certainly capable of winning.