It won’t quite have the same pop as the Ryder Cup, but for diehard golf gamblers, the Sanderson Farms Championship is here to suck us right back in.
Only one Ryder Cupper—future star Ludvig Aberg—will be in the field this week, and, coincidentally, he is the favorite to win at 11-1. It’s a wild price for a player so young who still has so much to prove, but given the strength of field, it’s not all that surprising. Whether or not he’ll be able to avoid the literal, and figurative, hangover from Rome remains to be seen. Our experts are leaning toward him not being able to, though one of us thinks he might still get it done anyway.
Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2023 Sanderson Farms.
Sanderson Farms DFS picks 2023: Fade this European Ryder Cup star
Sanderson Farms picks 2023: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Eric Cole (20-1, DraftKings) — This guy is a machine. Not only is he my horse this week, but I also believe he will win Rookie of the Year. Every week he is near the top. He plays a ton in Florida, too, so grainy Bermudagrass is no problem for him. I like betting this guy in all possible ways this week.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Mark Hubbard (50-1, DraftKings) — If Hubbard can keep his driver in check, he’s actually set up perfectly for the Country Club of Jackson. He’s an uber-consistent iron player (second in the field over the past 100 rounds) who has shown the ability to deliver spike putting weeks on a fairly regular basis. That’s the whole game this week—as long as you’re not last in the field in driving. There’s no need to be great off the tee if those other things are clicking, merely around field average, and outside of a terrible showing at the St. Jude, Hubbard has done just that. He gained 3.3 strokes/off the tee in Napa to open the swing season and has actually gained on the field with accuracy in four of his past six starts. Good enough.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, FanDuel) — I know he’s the favorite, but he should be, and this is a good number for him. He’s long off-the-tee and a great overall ball-striker, which should lead to success at the Country Club of Jackson.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Adam Svensson (35-1, DraftKings) — When Svensson is at his best, he’s a talented approach player. We are starting to see that form present itself over his last five events. He’s gained strokes on approach in each of them and gained two-plus strokes on approach in each of his past four, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. This is the best golf he has played since his win at last year’s RSM Classic.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Stephan Jaeger (20-1, BetMGM) — I’ve been betting a lot of Jaeger over the past six months, so I’m not about to miss out—especially when sharps like Andy Lack (below) are on him. Another sneaky reason to like him: He lives in Tennessee, which explains his propensity for Bermuda greens. It’s a coin flip between Cole and Jaeger for me, but I’m pot-committed on Jaeger—who might have a lingering FOMO about not being on that European Ryder Cup team, which puts me over the edge.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Eric Cole (20-1, DraftKings) — I am sick and tired of missing out on “community” wins and judging by the tweets I saw this morning, it appears as though Eric Cole is the “community” play of the week. For good reason, too. His fourth-place finish in Napa was his fourth top-six finish of the calendar year, and his +6.2 SG/approach performance was his best output of 2023. If we can get anywhere close to as good as that with the irons this week, all it will take is a hot putting week for Cole to bag his first dub.
Andy Lack, RickRunGood.com and Inside Golf podcast: Stephan Jaeger (20-1, BetMGM) — Somehow my numbers have Stephan Jaeger as the strongest course fit in this entire field. Jaeger may not be elite at any one skill, but he is far and away the most well-rounded player in Jackson. The German ranks 13th in SG/off-the-tee, 20th in proximity from 200-yards plus, third in SG/around-the-green on Bermuda-grass, 21st in opportunities gained, seventh in birdies-or-better gained, sixth in par-five scoring, and fourth in SG/tee-to-green on Bermuda courses. While he is coming off a pedestrian 45th at the Fortinet Championship, he played far better than the results would indicate. Jaeger gained 2.2 strokes off-the-tee and 3.1 strokes on approach in Napa, while simply falling victim to a faulty putter. We’ve seen Jaeger develop an incredibly high baseline of consistency over the last calendar year, making 13 straight cuts, an impressive feat by any standards. The next natural progression is for him to start contending.
Past results: It’s Fall Swing time. Our panel finished the 2023 playoffs strong, with our anonymous caddie cashing on Viktor Hovland to win the BMW Championship at 16-1. Before we turn the page to 2024, we still have a few events left in the autumn months, giving our experts a chance to build on the strong 2023 season. Stephen Hennessey already has us off to a hot start, correctly predicting Sahith Theegala’s win at the Fortinet Championship (16-1).
Listen to Golf Digest’s weekly betting podcast, “The Loop,” (below) where we interview the industry’s leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to “The Loop” wherever you get your podcasts!
Sanderson Farms picks 2023: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win
Caddie: Ben Griffin (55-1, FanDuel) — I know a lot of people talk about it, but I will reiterate it: Ben Griffin is one of the best players in the world from Bermuda rough. With tight fairways this week, that is a key to a good week. He has taken almost two months off, so he’s fresh and ready to go.
Mayo: Carson Young (100-1, DraftKings) — Gaining 7.7 strokes ball striking in Napa is exactly what we want to see entering the second swing season event. Unfortunately for Young, he essentially broke even to the field with his putter, which was his worst showing with the flat stick since the end of March. The GIR rate for CC of Jackson is one of the highest on tour, and if Young ever has a chance, he needs to chip as little as possible. While he’s gaining with his flat stick in 12 of his past 13 starts; he’s lost around the greens in 16 of 18 events.
Gdula: Akshay Bhatia (70-1, FanDuel) — A 70-1 number on Bhatia in a field like this deserves a closer look, and my simulation model thinks he’s a value at this price. Bhatia is 12th in this field in SG/tee-to-green and pretty lengthy off-the-tee.
Gehman: Davis Thompson (45-1, DraftKings) — Davis Thompson has always been highly regarded thanks to his excellent amateur career which included rising to the No. 1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking on two different occasions. His PGA Tour career has gotten off to a slow start but he’s starting to find his footing thanks to four top-31 finishes over his last five events. He should be able to separate himself from the field with his driver and has the firepower to make plenty of birdies.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Davis Thompson (45-1, DraftKings) — CP has his finger on the pulse of his beloved Georgia Bulldog Davis Thompson, and I’m not about to miss out on the win. I’m told the rough is a little down this year at the Country Club of Jackson compared to last year, which should play into the hands of Thompson, who’s long off the tee.
Powers, Golf Digest: Davis Thompson (45-1, DraftKings) — Thompson is my breakout candidate for 2024, but I wouldn’t be the least bit mad if he broke out in October of 2023 instead. I’ve long been addicted to this guy, which has yielded minimal financial reward, but he possesses the tee-to-green talent to make it all worth it eventually. With four top-31s in his last five starts, it’s clear he’s not that far off from putting it all together.
Lack: Peter Kuest (80-1, BetMGM) — Given the strength of field and previous winners, one could argue a wager on pretty much anyone in the field this week in Jackson. Allow me to make the case for Peter Kuest, who my numbers suggest is one of the strongest course fits in the field. We’ve seen players such as Cameron Young and Cameron Champ overpower this golf course with their driver, and Kuest is one of the longest players in this field. The second essential skill that Kuest possesses is long-iron play. He ranks seventh in this field in proximity from 200-yards plus, where close to 30 percent of all approach shots at the Country Club of Jackson come from. Kuest also ranks ninth in this field in birdies-or-better gained, and 11th in par-5 scoring. At a macro level, I am looking for under-valued players this week who possess some pop off the tee, are strong from 200-yards plus, and make birdies in bunches. Kuest checks all of those boxes with flying colors, and this is the ideal spot for him to collect his first PGA Tour victory.
Hunter Mahan on the one guy the U.S. team was missing at Marco Simone
Sanderson Farms Championship picks 2023: Players We’re Fading
Caddie: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, DraftKings) — I won’t be the only one fading Ludvig this week. Fresh off a Ryder Cup party and a cross Atlantic flight, it would surprise me if his head is still ringing from the hangover. I can’t imagine he is fully checked in this week and would expect his golf game to show it.
Mayo: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, DraftKings) — Yes, the Swede is probably the best player in the field. But this is a pure play on Aberg being too drained from the Ryder Cup and then flying half way around the world to keep focus all four rounds as the betting favorite.
Gdula: Keith Mitchell (28-1, FanDuel) — It’s a pretty flat week after the top few favorites, but even with that, Mitchell’s 28-1 number looks too short. He has struggled with the irons and wedges lately.
Gehman: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, DraftKings) — Clearly one of the most talented players in this field, Aberg has a lot of factors pushing against him. He’s the most expensive golfer in the field where his best weapon (the driver) probably won’t be as big of a weapon at the Country Club of Jackson. He’ll have to quickly reset after an exhausting and draining Ryder Cup victory halfway across the world to play a course for the first time. I hope I’m wrong, but this is an incredibly difficult turnaround.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, DraftKings) — I’ll put my money where my mouth is by fading him in a matchup as well. Powers, Golf Digest: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, DraftKings) — It’s going to look really dumb when we’re all wrong and he’s firmly in the mix late on Sunday, but man, it still seems like such a large ask.
Lack: Ludvig Aberg (11-1, DraftKings) — This one is fairly straightforward. I have an immense amount of respect for the talent of Ludvig Aberg. To me, he is far and away the most skilled player in this field. With that being said, is there more likely a spot for an emotional hangover coming off a European Ryder Cup win? I fully trust any young player to navigate a six-hour time difference, but add an after party into the mix, and it’s unclear to me when the young Swede will even be arriving in Mississippi. For what it’s worth, Aberg was one of the shakier looking Europeans in Rome. Credit where it’s due, however. That was a tough situation to walk into, and Aberg performed admirably given the circumstances. I have little doubt that he will win on the PGA Tour this year, but I’m fairly comfortable sitting this one out.
Patrick Cantlay’s wedding photos are here and there is no hat tan in sight
Sanderson Farms Championship picks 2023: Matchups
Caddie: Sam Stevens (+100) over Luke List (DraftKings) — I’m patiently waiting for Sam Stevens to break through. He is one of the best ball-strikers on the PGA Tour and just hasn’t put four rounds together yet. Getting even money on a tight course seems like a steal. This is my most confident play of the week.
Mayo: Callum Tarren (-110) over Davis Riley (DraftKings) — Riley doesn’t have a finish better than T-33 since last March and has missed more cuts than made over that span.
Gdula: Nick Hardy (-110) over Mackenzie Hughes (FanDuel) — Hardy’s been playing some solid golf and has done a lot of that work with the putter, but that’s also Mackenzie Hughes’ path to success. Hardy separates with distance and long-term iron play.
Gehman: S.H. Kim (+100) over Beau Hossler (Bet365) — Kim’s runner-up finish in Napa was very impressive, gaining 9.20 strokes ball-striking and gaining strokes in all four major categories. He’ll look to continue that success in Jackson, where he finished T-13 last year and, again, gained strokes in all categories.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Stephan Jaeger (+100) over Ludvig Aberg (DraftKings) — I’m seeing eye to eye with Andy Lack again this week (below).
Powers, Golf Digest: Callum Tarren (-110) over Davis Riley (DraftKings) — Copying Pat here. This is the home-game spot of all home-game spots for Riley, but he just hasn’t been very good in a long time and I’m done getting suckered into home-game spots like this one.
Lack: Stephan Jaeger (+100) over Ludvig Aberg (DraftKings) — This is an easy one. I’m getting my pick to win at plus money over my fade of the week. No, I do not believe Jaeger is the caliber of player as Aberg, but this is all about situation and price. Jaeger will be coming in far more rested, while it would only be natural for Aberg to still be riding the high of such an emotional and singular week.
Matchup Results from the Fortinet Championship: Powers: 1 for 1 (Todd (-120) over Noren); Lack: 1 for 1 (Davis (-110) over Hossler); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Lashley (-120) over Daffue); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Theegala (-120) over Jaeger); Mayo: 1 for 1 (Thompson (+100) over Higgo); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Palmer (-115) over Simpson); Gehman: 0 for 1
Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Powers: 24-18-2 (up 5.64 units); Lack: 20-13-1 (up 4.57 units); Hennessey: 24-18-2 (up 4.32 units); Caddie: 22-18-4 (up 2.48 units); Gehman: 23-19-2 (up 2 units); Mayo: 18-21-2 (down 3.66 units); Gdula: 18-25-2 (down 8.45 units)
Sanderson Farms Championship picks 2023: Top 10s
Caddie: Callum Tarren (+450, DraftKings) — Fresh off a top-10 finish in Napa a couple weeks ago, Callum has solidified his card for next year and has nothing to lose these last few weeks. He finished top 15 here last year while playing the par 5s poorly. I expect him, with his length off the tee, to fix that and be in one of the final few groups on Sunday.
Mayo: Callum Tarren (+450, DraftKings) — Opened with a T-7 to kick off the Swing Season. The Brit, fingers crossed, has appeared to solve his putting woes. He’s lost over a stroke per start in over his past 20 on tour, yet has gained in four consecutive events for the first time in his career. If he can make it five, anything in the positives may be enough to match his currently elite ball-striking.
Gdula: Beau Hossler (+320, FanDuel) — Hossler’s irons aren’t great, but the rest of his game is – especially compared to a field like this one. He owns plus distance and a great short game and already has a top 10 at the CC of Jackson.
Gehman: Sam Ryder (+450, DraftKings) — Ryder is in the midst of an elite stretch of approach play, gaining 4+ strokes to the field in five of his last six starts – per the RickRunGood.com golf database. That alone would provide a solid baseline in this field and Ryder is capable of taking on more gains off-the-tee and with the putter. This is a great spot to find Ryder near the top of the leaderboard.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Erik van Rooyen (+650, DraftKings) — The South African is quietly rounding into form—with an eighth-place, 16th-place and 30th-place finish in his past three starts on the DP World Tour. His length should be an asset at Country Club of Jackson.
Powers, Golf Digest: Akshay Bhatia (+600, DraftKings) — The future stud is being woefully mispriced in this field off of one bad week in Napa. Meanwhile, he still gained 3.2 strokes tee-to-green and nearly three around-the-green. A meh week with his irons and a cold putter did him in at Fortinet. I don’t expect either of those to last here.
Lack: Mark Hubbard (+450, DraftKings) — I continue to believe that Mark Hubbard is on the precipice of something special, and the Country Club of Jackson is an ideal spot for him to maximize his talents. Hubbard remains the No. 1 iron player in this field over the last three months, and he finished fifth at this course last year while gaining over seven strokes on approach. His ball-striking didn’t miss a beat at the Fortinet Championship either, as Hubbard gained over 2.5 strokes both off-the-tee and on approach en route to a 17th-place finish. I’m expecting another strong showing in Jackson this week.
Top-10 results from the Fortinet Championship: Everybody: 0 for 1
Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 13 for 44 (up 21.6 units); Gdula: 10 for 44 (up 2.8 units); Hennessey: 8 for 44 (up 1.40 units); Lack: 8 for 34 (down 1.6 units); Powers: 6 for 44 (down 2.4 units); Mayo: 8 for 41 (down 5.9 units); Caddie: 10 for 44 (down 4.23 units)
Sanderson Farms Championship picks 2023: One and Done
Gehman: Eric Cole — Cole enters with an 11-event streak of gaining strokes to the field, one of the longest active streaks on tour. He’s been knocking on the door recently with a fourth-place finish in Napa and T-14 in Greensboro. He can certainly make enough putts and enough birdies to contend again this week.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Stephan Jaeger.
Hennessey: Eric Cole — Again, a coin flip between Jaeger and Cole, but since I used Jaeger in Napa, I’ll roll with JE-Cole.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Stephan Jaeger.
Powers: Eric Cole — If Cole is going to win on tour, it’s going to come against a weaker field like this one. No sense in saving him for down the road.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Akshay Bhatia.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @gdula13.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also a data analyst and writer for RickRunGood.com, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for Golf.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com