(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
With the Ryder Cup in the rearview mirror, the PGA Tour returns to action at the Sanderson Farms Championship, beginning Thursday in Jackson, Miss.
The favorite to win the event is the only Ryder Cup participant on the property this week at the Country Club of Jackson. He's also a rookie who hasyet to win on tour.
"I'm going to be nervous on Thursday morning no matter what," said Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, who won two points for the victorious Team Europe last week in Rome. "I'm going to view it as the most important thing in the world as I'm standing on the tee box, obviously."
After starring at Texas Tech, Aberg earned his PGA Tour card earlier this year through the PGA Tour University pathway. Aberg, who turns 24 on Oct. 31, has made six of seven cuts and tied for fourth at the John Deere Classic.
Aberg's big breakthrough, however, came overseas when he won the DP World Tour's Omega European Masters, which convinced Europe he was ready for the Ryder Cup stage.
Aberg flew back to the U.S. on Monday without getting much sleep after the Europeans sprayed their champagne.
"Last week was an incredible experience for me, but it's also in the past, and I can't really do anything about it," Aberg said. "All I'm trying to do is play as good as I can, trying to prepare for this week as good as I can, and at the same time kind of conserve my energy a little bit, even though -- or because of last week was quite exhausting. But I'm here this week, and that's where my focus is."
The competition will not be as stiff in Mississippi as it was in Rome.
Only two of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking -- Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (No. 35) and Tom Hoge (No. 50) -- will play this week. Grillo won the Charles Schwab Challenge earlier this year for his first victory since 2015, and he tied for fifth at this tournament last year.
Grillo said he has "no idea" where his game will be after five weeks off.
"Obviously it's not ideal, but you need the time off. You need time away," Grillo said. "I have a little kid, and I want to spend as much time as I can with them."
Canada's Mackenzie Hughes beat Austrian Sepp Straka in a playoff to win last year's event, Hughes' second tour victory. Both his wins have come in the fall season, and both have come via playoffs.
"There's no doubt that's a confidence booster," Hughes said. "I've hit some important shots under a lot of pressure and pulled them off. You have those forever to draw back on. If I'm in a similar spot this week, like I said, coming back to last year or drawing back on my first victory, I know in those moments, those scenarios, that I can do what's needed to be done."
The Sanderson Farms is the continuation of the new FedEx Cup Fall series. After the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings were locked in after this summer's playoffs, the top 125 at the end of the fall series will be exempt into full-field events next year, while Nos. 126-150 will earn Korn Ferry Tour status and conditional status on the PGA Tour in 2024.
Players like Hughes -- No. 51 in the FedEx Cup standings -- have additional motivation to finish the FedEx Cup Fall Nos. 51-60. Those players will qualify for two signature events next winter, the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational.
--Field Level Media