Martin Matthews previews the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship and predicts Mark Hubbard to win.
Golf picks for the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship
3 points = victory At 9/4, Mark Hubbard will win outright (Sky Bet, Coral, Ladbrokes)
Garrick Higgo to win outright at 1.5pts e.w at 14/1 (Unibet 1/4 1,2,3)
We’ve reached the 54-hole stage of this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship, and PGA Tour rookie MARK HUBBARD has a one-shot lead over the field heading into Sunday on 15-under par.
Hubbard, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour in over 160 starts, came into this week with low expectations after a freak accident at home in which his wife inadvertently knocked a knife off the kitchen counter, stabbed him in the toe. As a result, the 33-year-old entered this week lacking in practice and more focused on preparing for next week’s event in Las Vegas.
As the old adage goes, ‘beware the injured golfer,’ and Hubbard’s somewhat freewheeling has brought Jackson a solid run of form that dates back to the summer and now has him on the verge of his first win.
The Denver native climbed to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday thanks to a hot stretch on the back nine that saw him post six birdies in his final eight holes and lead the field from tee to green and in approach play this week
This will be Hubbard’s first time on the PGA Tour, so nerves are bound to play a role, but he has experience closing out from the front, having converted a 54-hole lead at the Lecom Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019. Furthermore, he will be at ease with his playing partner, Mackenzie Hughes, having defeated him for a win on the PGA Tour of Canada in 2013 when they were paired together for the final day.
It won’t be easy, but in an event that has produced more than its fair share of first-time winners over the years, I believe Houston resident Hubbard can become the next to win his first title here and continue Texas-based players’ recent run of success.
If Hubbard falters, the aforementioned Mackenzie Hughes will be in prime position to capitalize. The Canadian, who now resides in Charlotte, has been playing with a chip on his shoulder this week, having made no secret of his disappointment at being passed over for a wild card in last week’s Presidents Cup in his adopted hometown.
In all honesty, there was little in Hughes’ play during the second half of last season’s PGA Tour campaign that would have prompted a phone call from Captain Immelman, as he finished no better than 46th in his last six starts, but he posted a solid season-opening 25th place at the Fortinet and has built on that this week.
Hughes, who is best known for his green-keeping abilities, has done the most damage this week with his long game, ranking second behind Hubbard from tee to green and fourth in approach play. Hughes holed out from off the green on the 18th on Saturday after making an untimely bogey on the 17th, putting him just one shot back heading into the final day.
The 31-year-old, who won the RSM Classic in 2016, has the advantage of a PGA Tour victory over Hubbard and could well push the leader all the way. However, as previously stated, Hubbard has had success, albeit on the Korn Ferry Tour much more recently, and I believe this is his time.
On a course that can produce plenty of birdies, this is far from a two-horse race, and if the front two falter, there are a slew of players stacked up behind who could capitalize, including the trio of Sepp Straka, Scott Stallings, and GARRICK HIGGO, who will all start three back on 12-under.
Straka will enter the final round as the only player in the top ten and within five strokes of the lead who has won in the last 12 months, and after coming so close to another win at the Fedex St Jude Championship recently, a second tour title is not out of the question. Stallings, on the other hand, has now been winless in over eight years, and while this could be his day, he is not someone I am particularly keen to trust at the odds on a Sunday, especially after closing with two late bogeys on Saturday.
Higgo is the one of this trio who appeals to me the most despite the odds. The South African’s price reflects his lack of recent form, a run that has seen him post nothing better on the tour this year than a 14th at the Memorial alongside a slew of missed cuts aside from a top-five finish in the Zurich pairs event with Branden Grace.
This week, on greens similar to those on which he won the Palmetto at Congaree in 2021, something has clicked for the 23-year-old, and a solid performance from tee to green combined with a strong putting week has him back in contention.
Higgo, a prodigious talent who has won four times on the DP World Tour and PGA Tour in the last two years, makes plenty of appeal at the odds to win again.
On 11-under are Keegan Bradley and talented youngster Nick Hardy, and with Bradley potentially struggling to follow up Saturday’s 63, it was Hardy who made some appeal. Ultimately, they, like those on 10-under, will need some help from those at the top, and I am happy to stick with Hubbard while hoping Higgo can make a charge.
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