The first stop for the FedEx Cup playoffs is THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National. The course will play as a par 71, measuring 7,410 yards. The greens this week will be bentgrass.
The top 125 in FedEx Cup points are teeing it up this week, looking to win and secure a spot in the top 70 in FedEx Cup standings. After the conclusion of THE NORTHERN TRUST, the top 70 golfers in FedEx Cup points get into the BMW Championship next week, which is the second leg of the playoffs. The top 65 and ties this week will make the cut.
Since the playoffs went from four tournaments to three in 2019, THE NORTHERN TRUST has been on a course rotation. Liberty National was the first tournament in the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2019, but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen this course. In 2013, the Barclays tournament was a regular TOUR event, where Adam Scott (+4000, $8,400) beat out golfers like Tiger Woods and Justin Rose. The course also hosted the 2017 President’s Cup, where the Americans beat the International Team, 19-11.
The first noticeable characteristic of Liberty National is the proximity to the Hudson River. Being a coastal course, wind and other inclement weather can play a factor if the forecast calls for it this week. Approach shots and hitting greens will be vital. The average green size is 4,653 feet, which is small compared to the TOUR average. This par 71 has three par 5s, two of which are reachable in two with tee shots landing in the fairway, which has proven easier here than the TOUR average (+5% FIR). There are four par 4s ranging between 450 to 500 yards. There’s also one measuring 500 yards and three that pace off under 400 yards. Par 4 efficiency on holes measuring 450 to 500 yards will be a key statistic to focus on this week when considering golfers.
Webb Simpson (+3500, $8,900) mentions these greens remind him of Donald Ross designs and other courses he’s played in the Carolinas, and most golfers will have birdie opportunities if they’re able to hit these small greens. Hence, greens in regulation are essential this week, and Strokes Gained: Around the Greens. Also, consider weighing Strokes Gained: Putting more than usual. Of the golfers who finished inside the top 10 in putting two years ago, six finished the tournament inside the top 12, with one golfer (Jordan Spieth) who finished sixth. In 2013, four out of the top 5 finishers were top 15 in putting.
Roster construction strategy should be similar to how we approach invitational fields. There are 30 fewer golfers in the field than a regular PGA TOUR event, so the chances of getting all golfers through the cut are higher than they usually are week to week. This week, a balanced lineup construction could be the prudent play, with top-ranked golfers usually playing well here and throughout the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Patrick Cantlay (+3000 to Win, $9,200 on DraftKings)
Liberty National sets up nicely for Cantlay, who’s first in greens in regulation over the previous 24 rounds. Cantlay is strong Off-the-Tee, ranking seventh over the same timeframe and finished 12th here in 2019. Over the past 50 rounds, Cantlay is eighth in putting on bentgrass greens and has a win in his previous six starts.
Cameron Tringale (+9000 to Win, $7,300 on DraftKings)
Tringale’s season has been solid, and the 40th-ranked golfer in FedEx Cup points is poised to play well this week. A 26th-place finish at The Open Championship is his worst finish over his past three events. He has two top-three finishes this year, one of which was the RSM Classic, another coastal course. Tringale has gained strokes with his irons in nine of his past 11 tournaments.
Bubba Watson (+13000 to Win, $7,400 on DraftKings)
Watson has made nine straight cuts, and although his 2019 bid at Liberty National was a missed cut, his resume in the Northeast is stellar with multiple wins at TPC River Highlands (Travelers) and a runner-up at the 2015 NORTHERN TRUST at Plainfield CC. Bubba’s short game may be a liability here, with the smaller green sizes. Still, Watson ranks 12th in Greens in regulation over the previous 12 rounds, hopefully making up for his issues around and on these bentgrass greens. Watson’s right on the bubble at 71 in the FEC standings, and he’ll need to make the cut this week to make it to the BMW Championship. Last season, Watson became one of nine players to make the playoffs in each of the first 14 seasons of the FedEx Cup era. He’s also made the BMW Championships 12 times in the past and has a good shot at making it lucky No. 13 this week. Also, consider Aaron Wise (+20000, $6,600) this week. We liked him last week, and he’s starting to play well and should be another player in the cheaper salary range who could play well on this coastal course.
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