Sanderson Farms Championship 2017 Preview: Martin to Show Class in Youthful Field

On these pages we often dabble in golf previewing, and typically it will be the main PGA Tour events or the majors that get our juices flowing. But this week we are going to try something slightly different.

The main tournament this week takes place in China, and that is the WGC HSBC Champions event played at the Sheshan International track of Shanghai. Many of the world’s finest players are there, including Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jon Rahm and Henrik Stenson, as they attempt to get their hands on a slice of the $9,750,000 pay day!

That’s all well and good for them, but from a punter’s perspective it’s not so great betting on an event where there are maybe 10/15 players with a genuine shot of winning, and most are under the 50/1 mark.

And that’s why we’ve taken an interest in the Sanderson Farms Championship instead. This is known as an ‘alternate’ tournament on the PGA Tour, which basically means that all of the players that didn’t qualify for the WGC are eligible to play in Mississippi.

Not many have taken up the offer though, and only a few established names are in the field. Instead, the field is largely made up of Tour graduates, which for the uninitiated is, to use football parlance, like when a Championship team gets promoted to the Premier League. Their good form may continue, or they may struggle against the step up in class.

One Tour graduate who didn’t struggle is Cody Gribble, who 12 months ago won this tournament after finishing in the top-10 of the Safeway Open on his PGA Tour debut. He took the spoils after another young star, Grayson Murray, led after 36 holes, so the good news for punters is that there is plenty of scope for a big-priced winner this week.

Here’s how the last three Sanderson’s champions have been priced:

  • 2016 – Cody Gribble (80/1)
  • 2015 – Peter Malnati (175/1)
  • 2014 – Nick Taylor (250/1)

As you can see, the Sanderson Farms Championship is a brilliant event through which to bag a huge winner – it’s just finding them that’s the hard part! Here’s four that may be worth tracking:

Ben Martin (33/1)

One of the most established players in the field this week is Ben Martin, and while he deviates away from the recent narrative, we do believe he is the most likely champion if recognised class is the order of the day.

Martin has already won a PGA Tour event back in 2015, and in the same year he finished fourth at the Players’ Championship – perhaps the most prestigious tournament in golf outside of the majors.

The years since have not been so kind, although he has recorded a number of other top-fives and regularly performs well in weak field ‘alternate’ events.

Martin played well enough in finishing 17th at the Safeway Open three weeks ago to suggest he is ready to add to his trophy collection.

Tyler Duncan (60/1)

One of the main starlets to look out for this week is Tyler Duncan, who actually led the Safeway Open at the 54-hole stage just a couple of weeks ago.

All facets of his game, from tee-to-green and putting, were in decent working order at the course known as Silverado, and he has clearly carried forward the confidence gained from a stellar campaign.

He notched stacks of top-10s on that tour, and also ranked first for Driving Accuracy. Finding the fairway is key at this week’s venue, the Jackson Country Club, so there’s no reason why Duncan can’t repeat.

Aaron Baddeley (80/1)

Here’s a curious case: in golf stat men produce metrics called ‘Strokes Gained’ to show how well a player has performed in various aspects of the game.

At the Safeway Open a couple of weeks ago we noted that Baddeley had played very well from tee to green, and yet missed the cut there because his putting was awful.

That’s strange, because according to the stats the Aussie was the eighth best putter on the PGA Tour in 2015.

We have to assume that the quicker Bermudagrass greens will suit him this week, and if he can strike his irons and wedges like he did in the Safeway then he could match or even better the fourth place finish he managed here in 2015.

Adam Schenk (200/1)

And finally, how about taking a chance on another talented graduate at an obscene price.

In a run of four weeks at the end of June and the start of July, Adam Schenk recorded a quartet of consecutive top-five finishes on that tour, including a win at the Lincoln Land Charity Championship. Another of those excellent showings came at the Nashville Open – suggesting he is comfortable playing golf in the Deep South.

A huge hitter off the tee, Schenk ranked ninth on the Tour for Par 4 Scoring Average last season; a key stat heading into the Sanderson Farms Championship. Huge priced winners have done the business here before, so why can’t Schenk recreate those incredible scenes!