Sebastian Munoz's title defense gets off to ideal start and four other Thursday takeaways from the Sanderson Farms
Sebastian Munoz hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during Thursday's first round of the 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship.
A sunny day in Mississippi yielded some great scores in the first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship. Oh, and a crowded leader board after 18 holes, with a quartet of players sitting at eight-under 64 and 12 golfers within three shots of the lead. Here’s how things shook out as we offer five takeaways from Day 1 at the Country Club of Jackson.
The defending champ comes out strong
Sebastian Munoz quietly had a fantastic 2019-’20 season, and it began at this very tournament last September, when the 27-year-old Colombian won the Sanderson Farms Championship in a playoff over Sungjae Im for his first career PGA Tour title. Munoz wound up qualifying for the Tour Championship and finishing T-8 at East Lake, good for a FedEx Cup bonus of $960,000.
Munoz’s title defense got off to an ideal start on Thursday thanks to five back-nine birdies, including four straight in a from Nos. 13-16, to card his 64. There has never been a repeat champion in the 26 years this has been an official tour event. Munoz could well change that in three days’ time.
Jimmy Walker shoots his best round in 28 months
Jimmy Walker's 64 on Thursday at the Sanderson Farms Championship was his lowest round since May 2018.
Jimmy Walker emerged as a consistent, top-level PGA Tour player during a three-year stretch in the mid-2010s. From October 2013 through July 2016, he won six times and played on three U.S. national teams, including in two Ryder Cups. It culminated at Baltustrol, when Walker won a rain-soaked PGA Championship in wire-to-wire fashion.
It’s been a struggle since.
Walker contracted Lyme disease in early 2017 and has spoken out about the effect it had on his body and his game. He managed four top-10 finishes in 2018 but has had none since, and the Texan arrived at the Sanderson Farms Championship as the world’s 352nd-ranked player. No matter—despite missing a six-footer on his first hole and a seven-footer on his second, Walker shot a bogey-free round 64 to jump out front. It’s his lowest round since May 2018, and not even the 41-year-old himself saw this one coming.
“I haven’t been playing very well,” Walker told reporters after the round, having missed six cuts in his last seven starts, including the U.S. Open at Winged Foot two weeks ago. “But I feel good, and it just hasn’t really clicked yet. I had a really good nine holes last week at home, and I was like, this is started to feel pretty good, and seeing some putts go in.”
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Great to see Camilo back
Sean M. Haffey
Camilo Villagas shot a three-under 69 on Thursday at C.C. of Jackson as he tries to work his way back after the tragic death of his infant daughter this summer.
That Camilo Villegas is even playing golf right now defies belief. A little more than two months ago, Villegas and his wife suffered the ultimate tragedy when their 22-month-old daughter, Mia, passed away after a battle with brain and spine cancer. This week marks Villegas’ fourth start since Mia’s passing, making the cut in three Korn Ferry Tour events before missing the weekend at last month’s Safeway Open.
Villegas birdied four of his first five holes before he cooled down just a bit, eventually signing for a three-under 69. It’s great to see the Colombian back on a PGA Tour leader board—remember, this is the same guy who won back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff events in 2008, including the Tour Championship. He’s been to hell and back since and did not play a single OWGR-certified event in 2019. Now 38 and outside the top 1,000 in the world ranking, you won’t find an easier guy to root for anywhere in sports.
Charley Hoffman, first-round legend
Charley Hoffman lines up a shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Charley Hoffman is out front after 18 holes in a PGA Tour event. For the seventh time in his career, the 43-year-old old has at least a share of the lead, making nine birdies and one bogey. Clearly, he has no issues getting off the blocks. But interestingly Hoffman has never converted any of those first-round leads into victories, despite being a four-time tour winner. He’ll be hoping to reverse that trend in the coming days.
Scheffler struggles in first round post-COVID
Scottie Scheffler had some terrible luck earlier this month. The 24-year-old finished T-4 at the PGA Championship, T-4 at The Northern Trust (after shooting a second-round 59) and fifth at the Tour Championship (with the second lowest score over 72 holes at East Lake). As such, he broke into the top 30 in the World Rankings and earned rookie-of-the-year honors. His confidence surely neared all-time high levels ahead of the U.S. Open … until he tested positive for COVID before traveling to New York.
Scheffler is making his first start since that ordeal and struggled, shooting one-over 71 and sitting outside the top 100. At least he’s back playing, but unless he steps it up on Friday it might not be for as long as he hoped.