The first leg of the playoffs starts this week with THE NORTHERN TRUST at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts. The course will play as a par 71, measuring 7,342 (unofficial) yards, and the putting will take place on bentgrass greens. Tee boxes on the par-3s and two par-4s (12 and 14) may be moved and could make the course play a bit shorter.
Editor’s Note: Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from this week’s tournament at TPC Boston.
The field welcomes back golfers like Patrick Cantlay ($9,200), Jon Rahm ($10,000), Jason Day ($9,300) and 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa ($10,200). Shane Lowry ($7,500) was able to play his way inside the top 125 last week and joins past winners at TPC Boston like Bryson DeChambeau ($11,100), Rory McIlroy ($10,800), Webb Simpson ($9,500) and Charley Hoffman ($6,500).
Brooks Koepka ($9,100) missed the cut last week and will play in his seventh straight tournament, something we seldom see him do. Even though THE NORTHERN TRUST isn’t a major, the field looks similar to a couple of weeks ago at TPC Harding Park.
TPC Boston had been a staple in the FedExCup (FEC) playoffs since 2007 but was put in a tournament rotation last season when the playoffs cut down from four tournaments to three. The tournaments that have played at TPC Boston in the past are the Deutsche Bank Championship (2007-2016) and the Dell Technologies Championship (2017-2018).
The highest-ranked golfers who hit it a mile off-the-tee have done well here in the past. Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas ($11,300) and Rory McIlroy have an advantage with their drivers, and all three finished inside the top 35 in driving distance at the end of the year when they won, with Rory finishing first in 2017. The top 12 finishers at the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship all gained strokes off-the-tee.
Like a major championship, distance will help, but it isn’t the only metric leading to success. Rostering elite ball-strikers who don’t average 325 off-the-tee and still frequent the first page of leaderboards should also be considered this week. Henrik Stenson (2013) and Rickie Fowler (2015) both won here by hitting their irons exceptionally well from all distances. Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green will be the most important stat this week with the winners gaining close to two times the number of strokes with their irons over off-the-tee. Rosters should also narrow down their selections to include golfers who do well with approach proximity from 150 to 175 yards.
THE NORTHERN TRUST will be the last tournament in the playoffs that we’ll have a cut. The top 65 and ties will make it to the weekend, and those who rank inside the top 70 at the tournament’s conclusion will move onto the next playoff leg, the BMW Championship.
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Rory McIlroy ($10,800)
Rory’s the only golfer in this range who hasn’t won or finished runner up since the restart, which is surprising. Hopefully, this keeps his ownership low, especially on a course he’s won twice on dating back to 2012. Since 2015, Rory has gained an average of 5.2 strokes tee-to-green at TPC Boston, and similar to most pure ball-strikers, if he gets his putting corrected this week, he may get his first win since the WGC-HSBC Champions. Rory has been fantastic in the playoffs but is eighth in the FEC standings and may elect to take this tournament off. Let’s hope he doesn’t.
Tony Finau ($8,800)
We’ve seen Finau contend in three of the last four weeks, and he has been ‘trending’ towards a win for quite some time. Over his previous 24 rounds, Finau ranks 32nd in approach and finished fourth here back in 2018. He’s also played well at longer courses that lean on ball-striking, including Riviera Country Club (Genesis Invitational), a leaderboard similar to what we’ve seen at TPC Boston over the years. Finau is still a good play even if he doesn’t win (again), ranking seventh in DraftKings scoring over his previous three months.
Paul Casey ($8,500)
Casey has now gained strokes with his putter in two straight events, a good sign coming into a course he’s played well at in the past. In three starts at TPC Boston, Casey has finished 21st, fourth, and runner up after gaining 9.1 strokes tee-to-green in 2016. Casey uncharacteristically lost strokes with his irons last week but has been elite since returning, gaining 7.2 at the PGA Championship and averaging 2.1 in approach in his previous five tournaments.
Sungjae Im ($7,700)
Im’s price this week is more indicative of how he’s played recently and less of his potential in the playoffs. The 27th ranked player should be in the $8,000 range this week after gaining just under eight strokes tee-to-green at Sedgefield Country Club and finishing inside the top 10. The irons seem to be coming around, and so should we, even if the ownership is high.
Kevin Na ($6,800)
Na lacks the distance off-the-tee, but more than makes up for it with his approach proximity from 175 to 200 yards, ranking 15th in the field over the last three months. Fitting two golfers above $10,000 salary this week may include at least two players below $7,000, and Na has the win equity and the ability to go low, ranking 14th in birdie or better gained in the previous 24 rounds. Na is a volatile player who can easily withdraw/miss a cut or win/finish inside the top 10. He’s done it here over his last two starts with a missed cut in 2018 and a 6th the previous year. We should also go back to Corey Conners ($6,900) this week as another viable play in this range if Na’s ownership gets too outrageous.
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