JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Smylie Kaufman didn't even make the Sanderson Farms Championship field last year, losing a playoff in the Monday qualifier and going home empty-handed.
One year later, he's one of the favorites.
The 23-year-old Kaufman won his first PGA Tour title two weeks ago in Las Vegas, closing with a 10-under 61 in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open.
Now instead of being just another rookie trying to survive on the PGA Tour, he has the security of knowing he's going to play in a lot of PGA Tour events over the next two years.
"It's unbelievable how much it frees me up," Kaufman said.
The former LSU player's chance at a follow-up performance will be at a course much closer to his home in Birmingham, Alabama.
Nick Taylor won last year in the tournament's first year at the Country Club of Jackson. He
was the first Canadian-born player to win on tour since Mike Weir in 2007.
"I feel like my game is as good if not better than it was last year coming into this event," Taylor said. "Just need to get dialed in on the greens and see how it goes."
It's probably going to be a wet weekend at the Country Club of Jackson, a 7,354-yard, par-72 course in the northeast corner of the city. The area has received several inches of rain over the past few weeks and more is expected during the tournament.
Kaufman said he hopes his experience last year on the Web.com Tour helps him this season on the PGA Tour. He won fairly early in the schedule last year and then had to deal with expectations over the next several months.
It didn't always go as planned, but the lessons learned could come in handy.
"How do you prepare? How do you redefine your goals?" Kaufman said. "So it's a lot of different things. I'm actually used to from last year. So I'm going to probably take a different approach than I did last year and hopefully finish the year and complete the goals I wanted to do."
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