As it turns out, South America might be the best America, at least as far as golf is concerned… and at least for now.
One week after 20-year-old Chilean prodigy Joaquin Niemann notched PGA Tour title No. 1 at America’s Resort, 26-year-old Colombian Sebastian Munoz was victorious over 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Sungjae Im in Mississippi to claim the Sanderson Farms Championship, making the 12-country continent 2-for-2 for the 2020 PGA Tour season.
Munoz, an underrated tee-to-green wizard for some time, transmuted a one-stroke 36-hole lead into the first victory of his career, pushing away a number of bigger names in the process. To make it happen, he stood on the 72nd tee box needing a birdie on a hole that only four players on the day before him had been able to finish under par, but it was no challenge for Munoz. He knocked in a 15-foot birdie putt to force a playoff against the much more-highly regarded Im that he needed only a single hole to win.
Before finishing T7 at last week’s A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier, Munoz’s best career finish had been a T3 at the 2017 edition of the same event. Among tournaments that do not happen in White Sulphur Springs, WV, his best career finish on the PGA Tour was a T10 at two tournaments, with the most recent being at last May’s AT&T Byron Nelson. This was truly a position he had not been in before and he did what he needed to in order to leave with a trophy: a 2-under 70 at the country club of Jackson, which was good enough to finish -18 for the week.
Among other players, Munoz finished one stroke ahead of South Korea’s Byeong Hun An, another player looking for his first career victory, and two strokes ahead of Tour veteran Kevin Streelman, and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, who played with Munoz on Sunday.
Final Scores: Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Sebastian Munoz -18 (-2)
2. Sung-jae Im -18 (-6)
3. Byeong-Hun An -17 (-3)
4. Kevin Streelman -16 (-8)
4. Carlos Ortiz -16 (-1)
6. Bronson Burgoon -15 (-5)
6. Dylan Frittelli -15 (-4)
6. George McNeill -15 (-1)
6. Harris English -15 (-1)
6. Dominic Bozzelli -15 (-1)
11. J.T. Poston -14
14. Brian Harman -13
14. Zach Johnson -13
16. Scottie Scheffler -12
23. Peter Uihlein -10
23. Charley Hoffman -10
28. Cameron Champ -9
28. Stewart Cink -9
39. Aaron Wise -7
39. Tom Hoge -7
45. Brandt Snedeker -6
54. Joaquin Niemann -4
54. Bill Haas -4
61. Si Woo Kim -2
How Sebastian Munoz Won the Sanderson Farms Championship
Munoz started his week in Mississippi with a rather pedestrian 2-under 70 (at least as the first round is concerned), but made his big jump on Saturday when he used nine birdies as part of a bogey-free 9-under 63 to move into the lead.
Most players in his position would have bombed Sunday, but Munoz apparently was tired of a tenuous PGA Tour card, and did exactly what he needed to, in order to leave the Country Club of Jackson with his first career victory.
Munoz carded just three bogeys for the entire week, which led the field in Mississippi. In addition, he was third in the field in driving distance, fourth in strokes gained: off-the-tee, fifth in strokes gained: putting, and sixth in birdies.
That exemplary well-rounded performance was good enough to finish first for the week in strokes under par.
Munoz’s Winning Stats
Driving: 315.4 yards (3rd)
Fairways: 29/56, 51.8% (33rd)
Greens: 57/72, 79.2% (9th)
Putts/GIR: 94/1.649 (11th)
SG: Tee to Green: 6.898 (14th)
SG: Total: 13.148 (1st)
Scores: 23 Birdies, 43 Pars, 6 Bogeys
What It Means For Munoz
A year ago, Munoz played in 26 PGA Tour events, but finished in the top ten in just three, with the only one in the last three months coming in an opposite field event, a T9 at the Barbasol Championship in July. His performance was good enough to sneak into the FedExCup playoffs at 117th out of 125 golfers, which allowed him to keep his tour card for the current season.
Now? He will not have to worry about keeping his Tour card for another three years. He gets all of this season, plus the next two to prove his worth on the world’s biggest golf tour.
Munoz will be playing at The Masters for the first time competitively next April, which will be his third career major. He missed the cut at his previous two major tries, at the 2017 U.S. Open and the 2017 Open Championship, finishing those two events in a combined 24-over-par.
Munoz came into the week ranked 179th in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), which was his best position by a considerable margin. He will jump to No. 108 as a result of his victory.
Munoz’s 2020 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 2
Wins: 1 (Sanderson Farms Championship)
Addtl Top 10s: 1 (Military Salute/Greenbrier)
Earnings: $1,423,625 (1st)
FedExCup Pts: 585 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 179/108
This event did not have much in the way of highly-recognizable golfers, but Kevin Streelman did his best in that regard, posting Sunday’s lowest score, an 8-under 64 that jumped him into fourth place for the week.
Streelman, a two-time Tour champion, posted his best finish in more than three years. The 40-year-old Illinois native has played well enough to make the FedExCup playoffs (top 125) since 2008, his rookie year on Tour, but with this strong start, gives himself the best chance of his career to be especially relevant in September.
Finishing just one stroke shot of Streelman on the final day was 32-year-old Texas A&M product Bronson Burgoon, who shot a 7-under 65 to finish T6. A year ago, Burgoon was the runner-up at October’s CIMB Classic, but struggled badly from there on, as a fifth place finish at the opposite-field Barracuda Championship in July was his only finish of better than T34.
In the 16 starts between those two strong finishes, Burgoon missed ten cuts.
South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli shot a 6-under 66 to finish in a tie for sixth place for the week, his best finish since winning last July’s John Deere Classic, his only finish of better than T18 on the season.
The 29-year-old former teammate of Jordan Spieth birdied four holes in a row on the back nine to post a better score than the previous day in all four rounds. Frittelli carded an ace on Saturday and led the field for the week in strokes gained: approach-the-green and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
Playing in the final pairing with Munoz on Sunday was his college teammate at the University of North Texas Carlos Ortiz. Unfortunately, the 28-year-old native Mexican did not find the same success at Munoz on Sunday, shooting a pedestrian 1-under 71 to drop into a share of 4th place.
It was the best finish on Tour for Ortiz since he finished T3 in this same event one year ago, but it was a disappointing under-par round for a man looking for his first career victory and the same kind of exemptions Munoz got.
Finishing a stroke worse than Ortiz was Robert Streb, another golfer looking to finish in the winner’s circle for the first time. Streb bogeyed the difficult final hole to shoot an even-par 72, which dropped him from 10th to T23 in the final standings.
Streb has missed the FedExCup playoffs narrowly each of the past two years (was 128th last year), and did not help himself much in that regard on Sunday. Streb has just three top 10s over the last two years combined, with two of them coming in opposite field events.
Despite being the most well-known player in the Sunday field Brandt Snedeker was a huge dud on the final day. The nine-time Tour winner who ranks 41st in the world had trouble navigating the Mississippi course, shooting a dismal 1-over 73 to drop 20 spots down the final leaderboard into a share of 45th place.
The Vanderbilt product had 12 better finishes a year ago, in what was considered something of a down year.
“I was lucky enough to keep my focus on 18. Like when I had that big putt, I was just thinking about striking it and not the perks, how my life could change and things like that. So boobytrap we tried to avoid, not to think about external stuff, instead of just what’s happening here.
“So, yeah, I mean, whenever they were doing the trophy ceremony I just kept smiling to myself, reminding me, Oh, yeah, Hawaii is around the corner. Oh, yeah, Masters. Like, oh, yeah, I got job security for a couple years. It’s just like smile, then smile again. It hasn’t set, but I’m fully aware of the perks of being a PGA TOUR winner and I’ll carry that forever.”
– Sebastian Munoz, 2019 Sanderson Farms Champion