After the dramatic six-man playoff at the Wyndham Championship that resulted in Kevin Kisner’s fourth career win, the FedExCup Playoffs begin this week with THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National Golf Club (par 71, 7,410 yards) in Jersey City, New Jersey. This par 71 has hosted three editions of this playoff opening event: the Barclays in 2009 and 2013, and then the 2019 NORTHERN TRUST. After complaints about the venue in 2009, the course underwent some renovations to make it a more friendly environment for both the players and spectators. The Bentgrass greens were alerted to be more receptive, fairways were widened, and some bunkers were relocated. These changes were successful and made Liberty National a more scoreable track, but overall, the course’s landscape remained the same and looking back at the results from the 2009 Barclays is still relevant for research.
To succeed at Liberty National, you need to be a world-class ball striker. All three of the golfers to pick up a win in Jersey City ranked inside the top-four in SGT2G during their victories. While the fairways are relatively easy to find, the Bentgrass putting surfaces at Liberty National are the complete opposite. The greens are very small and difficult to stick at a high clip, and all three of the champions here finished T8 or better in GIR, putting a heavy emphasis on iron play this week. As usual with a par 71, exploiting the three par fives at Liberty National is important, but par four efficiency has been more crucial at this track in the past. Every golfer to claim a victory in Jersey City has finished in the top-seven in SG on the par fours. Additionally, five of the 11 par fours at Liberty National fall between 450-500 yards, and every winner at this venue has ranked T15 or better in SG on these specific holes, making this certainly a range to focus on this week.
As the first of three tournaments for the playoffs, the top-125 players in FedExCup points have gained an invite to THE NORTHERN TRUST. After withdrawing from the Wyndham last week due to a neck injury, Louis Oosthuizen has opted to skip THE NORTHERN TRUST as well, making this a field of 124 golfers, with a normal top-65 and ties cut occurring following the first two rounds. After this week’s event, the top-70 players in FedExCup points will be moving onto the BMW Championship next week, and then the top-30 will be competing at the TOUR Championship in two weeks. Given THE NORTHERN TRUST hosts a smaller group of players than the standard PGA TOUR event, a higher percentage of the field than usual will be advancing through the cut. This creates an opportune time to build stars and scrubs lineups, and below are four of my favorite targets under $7.5K on DraftKings for THE NORTHERN TRUST.
Jhonattan Vegas, $7,100
Vegas has been a stud and is criminally underpriced at $7,100. The Venezuelan has only missed one cut in his past 16 starts and is fresh off a T15 at the Wyndham. This marked his fifth finish inside the top-15 in his past seven tournaments, which is a span that includes runner-up finishes at both the 3M Open and Palmetto Championship. Vegas’ ball striking has been top notch, ranking 13th in SG APP, 15th in SGT2G and sixth in GIR across his last 24 rounds, and he has been a tremendous DraftKings asset during this run, ranking fifth in BOB% and ninth in DKFP.
To put a cherry on top, Vegas has never missed the weekend at THE NORTHERN TRUST in six career appearances, and he ranks 13th in this field for total strokes gained on par 71s this season.
Seamus Power, $7,000
Power is currently riding a 10-made cut streak, and has generated an impressive six top-20 finishes in his last seven starts. He just broke through for the first PGA TOUR title of his career at the Barbasol last month, and while this will be his debut at Liberty National, Power’s game is a perfect match for this venue. Over his last 24 rounds, he has struck the ball at a high level, ranking 11th in SGT2G and 16th in SG APP, while also ranking fourth in SG on par fours. Furthermore, the 34-year-old’s best career putting splits come on Bentgrass and this season, he ranks third on TOUR in efficiency on pars that are 450-500 yards in length.
Since the new year, Power has moved up an absurd 329 spots in the world rankings, and he is a value play that must be utilized at only $7,000.
Hank Lebioda, $6,300
Like many DFS players, Lebioda let me down last week with a missed cut at the Wyndham, but I think we have to go right back to the well with the lefty at this egregious price. He was only two shots outside of the cutline at Sedgefield Country Club, and still delivered positive strokes on APP over his two rounds. Before this mishap and his WD at the 3M Open, which was prior to the third round after making the cut and due to a family emergency, Lebioda had made seven consecutive cuts.
He closed out this stretch with three straight top-10 finishes, two of which came on par 71s that feature Bentgrass greens, just like Liberty National. Lebioda has yet to miss a weekend on a par 71 in seven attempts this season, and this is an excellent time to buy-low on him while most will shy away.
Sam Ryder, $6,000
Ryder has found a nice rhythm as of late, proceeding to the weekend at six of his past eight tournaments. For his most recent three, the 31-year-old has carded a T3 at the Barbasol, a T25 at the 3M Open and then a T34 last week at the Wyndham. During that latter finish, Ryder delivered over three strokes from T2G and on APP at Sedgefield Country Club. He also produced strokes with his flat stick for the sixth time in his past seven starts, and will now be back on Bentgrass this week in Jersey City, which undoubtedly has been Ryder’s top putting surface of choice throughout his career.
His 1/3 record at this tournament is concerning, but Ryder’s recent form alone is more than enough to justify rostering him at this bare minimum price tag.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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