The best bets for the 2021 Sanderson Farms Championship
The golfing world was shaken to its very core last week as the Americans romped to a decisive victory in the Ryder Cup. But it wasn’t Team USA’s dominance that came as a surprise – more the sight of Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka hugging it out as Justin Thomas serenaded them with an a cappella version of "Why Can’t We Be Friends?"
And now, just three days later, we have the Sanderson Farms Championship, where golfers play for the coveted chicken trophy. This sport is wild...
For the Sanderson Farms Championship, we head to Mississippi and the Country Club of Jackson, which has several tricky greens and Bermuda grass. The key to success here is having a red-hot putter and finding greens in regulation. However, finding a winner is far harder than it seems, with the last six winners all being +7000 or bigger entering the event.
Hopefully we can instead strike gold in the prop markets and take advantage of some clear trends going into the week.
Sanderson Farms Championship 2021
Sun, October 3 2021, 8:00 PM
Si Woo Kim
Matchbet: Sam Burns to beat Will Zalatoris (-114)
Putting is so important in this tournament that siding with Sam Burns over Will Zalatoris here was one of the most straightforward selections of the week. Burns ranked fifth on Tour for putting average and ninth for strokes gained putting last year. His birdie or better conversion percentage was 35.59%, the seventh highest on Tour.
Compare that to Zalatoris, who was outside the top 120 on Tour last year for shots gained putting and down in 140th for his putting average. He also ranked 120th in birdie or better conversions. In a competition that has often been decided by the best putter, it’s clear the bet is Burns.
The Valspar Championship winner comes into this event off the back of an excellent couple of months, finishing second in the WGC St Jude Invitational, 21st in the Northern Trust, eighth in the BMW Championship, and then 18th in the Tour Championship. He missed the cut in this event last year, but was third in 2019, showing flashes of brilliance on this course.
Zalatoris has bags of talent, but given he missed the cut here on his debut last year and the two player’s contrasting stats on the greens, it’s certainly a week to avoid him.
Top Former Georgia Bulldog Player: Chris Kirk (+250)
Kirk is a former winner of this event, albeit under a different guise. The Viking Classic, as it was formally known, held at the Annandale Golf Club, was the scene of Kirk’s first win on Tour, so no doubt this tournament holds some special memories for him.
And he continued that here when the Sanderson Farms Championship changed location – finishing second in 2017. He missed the cut in 2019, but then was in the top 20 at half-way here last time after shooting 68-70. He eventually fell outside the top 50 after a tricky weekend.
The thing that appeals to me most about Kirk is his love for the area and the Bermuda grass. He’s won seven times as a pro, and six wins have come in southern states. A few years ago, he said that "Growing up in the South and playing on Bermuda grass definitely helps. I definitely enjoy the golf course here. Putting on these fast Bermuda greens is my favourite surface that we play on for sure."
Hopefully a return here can reignite his form on the greens.
Top 40 Finish: John Augenstein (+225)
With so may surprise winners in recent years, it would be no surprise to see a big outsider challenging the top of the leaderboard again, which makes a couple of Top 40 prop flyers very tempting.
John Augenstein ticks that box and has bags of quality as he’s a former U.S. Amateur runner-up. He’s an excellent ball-striker, and his last three finishes have been 20th in the Charles Schwab Challenge, 37th in the Wyndham Championship, and sixth in the Fortinet Championship earlier this month.
That’s excellent Tour experience for the youngster who has carded nine rounds in the 60s through those three tournaments. Augenstein also went to college in Tennessee, so hopefully has some solid experience on Bermuda grass.
Top 40 Finish: Anirban Lahiri (+175)
Similar to Augenstein, it’s worth taking a chance on Lahiri. Last season was a mixed bag, but he did manage two top 5 finishes on Tour, and his best effort came when he finished third in the Barbasol Championship, another course played on Bermuda grass.
Lahiri ranked 10th for overall putting average last season, and was in the top 20 for his birdie or better conversion rate (34.05%). If he can warm up the flat-stick again here, there’s no reason why he can’t mix it with the top 40.
Lahiri was 45th on debut here and then was inside the top 10 at the half-way stage last year courtesy of an opening 66-70. A disastrous round three saw him card 77, and he eventually finished 37th. The signs are there that he likes this course though, and he is a solid bet to put in a good show this week.