Whom to bet on and roster for the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events, the Northern Trust.
It’s postseason time on the PGA Tour. The first of three FedEx Cup playoff events gets underway this week with the Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club.
With the playoffs trimmed from four to three events this year, the urgency to not only play, but play well will be much different than years past. A full 121 of the top 125 on the Fed Ex Cup Season points list will tee it up in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, with a cool $15 million dollar bonus going to the eventual FedEx Cup winner.
This will mark the third time Liberty National has hosted the playoff event, previously known as the Barclays. The golf course in Jersey City, N.J. sits just a short ferry ride from Manhattan, and most recently hosted the Presidents Cup in 2017.
In a small sample size, the course usually favors consistent ball strikers, so target strokes gained approach and greens in regulation percentage when building your rosters this week.
Nuts and bolts
Course: Liberty National Golf Club (7,370 yards, par 71)
Defending champion: Bryson Dechambeau (-18, 266) *Ridgewood CC
Weather forecast: Mostly sunny with chance of storms Thursday. Temperatures in the low to mid 80’s.
Jon Rahm (18/1, $11,700)
My pick to make a run through the playoffs this year, Rahm is simply too good, and playing too well, to not have more than one full stroke-play win over the last eight months. His victory at the Irish Open was impressive and overall the last six weeks have been dominant with a T3, Win, T11 and a seventh.
The big Spaniard currently ranks seventh in birdie average, 10th in scoring average and is close enough to the top of the Fed Ex Cup Standings to have the motivation of winning the whole thing.
Justin Thomas (22/1, $11,400)
When looking at Thomas’ season stats, it’s mind boggling to think he hasn’t won this year. Despite battling a wrist injury for a chunk of the season, JT has remained one of the most consistent ball strikers on tour. He ranks seconds in strokes gained tee-to-green and approach, 11th in greens in regulation and first in birdie average. He’s been battling a balky putter but showed promise at the WGC in Memphis, where he recorded his first positive strokes gained putting week since February, leading to a T11 finish. JT has also had success at Liberty National, going 3-1-1 at the 2017 Presidents Cup.
Adam Scott (45/1, $10,700)
It’s easy to forget how solid a season Scott is having because he just doesn’t play that much. The Aussie has just two non-major starts on the PGA Tour since the end of April, but has made the most of his time on the course with a T7 at the US Open and T2 at the Memorial. Scott currently sits fourth in strokes gained overall and fifth in strokes gained approach, and he too has had success at Liberty National, winning the 2013 Barclays at Liberty and defeating Brooks Koepka in his Presidents Cup singles match there in 2017.
Billy Horschel (66/1, $9,800)
After a MC at the Open Championship, Billy Ho is heating up just in time for the playoffs. Horschel backed up his T9 at the WGC in Memphis with a T6 at the Wyndham and has now reeled off scores in the 60’s in seven of his last eight rounds. He’s riding a hot putter that gained 1.28 strokes on the field at the Wyndham, and currently ranks 24th on tour this season in strokes gained putting. Horschel’s ball striking is also rounding into form as he hit 76% of greens in regulation in Greensboro.
Nick Watney (250/1, $8,000)
A former winner of this event when it was at Bethpage Black, Watney has also had success at Liberty National. With a T9 finish in 2013 and T9 in 2009, Watney loves playing in the shadow of New York City. This year has been up and down for Watney but he’s showing signs of life recently with a T-6 at the John Deere Classic, which featured a third-round 64. He ranks 29th in greens in regulation this season and 39th in driving distance.
Dustin Johnson (18/1, $11,900)
In desperate need of some kind of reboot, DJ’s performance in non-majors over the past two months has been meh. A couple of top 20’s along with a MC at events he could easily dominate leads you to believe Johnson is in shutdown mode. He missed the cut the last time the event was at Liberty National and hit just 61% of greens at the WGC FedEx St. Jude, ranking 44th in overall ball striking.