PGA Tour: Northern Trust Championship Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

Damien Kayat previews this week's Northern Trust Championship taking place at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

2019 US PGA Tour | FedEx Cup Playoff Series
The Northern Trust Championship 
Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, Jersey 
Thursday 8 August - Sunday 11 August

The tour heads to Jersey for the first leg of the always spectacular Fed Ex Cup Playoff Series. The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup rankings have earned the right to put themselves in the mix for that tasty 15 million dollar bonus come East Lake. The newly rejigged PGA Tour schedule has seen the FedEx Cup playoff series cut from four events to three. So this week will see a fairly dramatic cut from 125 to 70 to Medinah next week. I personally think it’s the right decision because it really emphasizes the importance of every shot this week. In the old four-event system, players could really float through this event if they sat in a comfy mid-table position. 

This event was originally known as the Westchester Classic, inaugurated back in 1967. For many years it fell to Westchester Country Club to host this event. Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural event and would go on to win the title a second time in 1972. Vijay Singh stands head and shoulders above the rest, winning this event on four separate occasions. But since the inception of the FedEx Cup Playoff Series it has been a nomadic event that opens the season-ending shoot-out. This week will see Liberty National host the event for the first time since 2013. 

Designed by Tom Kite and Robert E Cupp, Liberty National actually exists on the site of a former toxic waste dump. It offers dramatic vistas of the New York skyline, with the Statue of Liberty overlooking the course. It played host to the 2017 President’s Cup. Despite the exclusive nature of the course, many players were left disenchanted with Liberty National over the years. In 2013 it underwent a major overhaul, with the notoriously complex green structures levelled out in many places. The fairways were also widened considerably. We can likely expect pure ball-strikers with excellent scrambling abilities to thrive on this beautiful bentgrass test.

Brooks Koepka is the clear favourite following that imperious victory at TPC Southwind. It’s sometimes hard to gauge whether Kopeka will be fully motivated to perform from one week to the other. Rory McIlroy will have been doing some soul-searching after the tragic missed-cut at Portrush and a Sunday no-show at Southwind. Dustin Johnson has been fairly anonymous of late while the likes of Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood will look to make a strong European impression. 

Past Winners
2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-18)
2017: Dustin Johnson (-13)*playoff
2016: Patrick Reed (-9)
2015: Jason Day (-19)
2014: Hunter Mahan (-14)

Outright Betting (To Win)
Brooks Koepka (8/1)
Rory McIlroy (11/1)
Dustin Johnson (16/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Justin Rose (18/1)

Value Bets

Adam Scott
To Win (40/1), To Place (17/2)

40/1 looks very appealing for the last man to win this event on this golf course. Granted, there have been considerable changes to the course, but Scott is a pure ball-striker who always delivers solid golf from tee to green. His most recent form has been slightly concerning. He missed the cut at the Open only to tie for 40th at the WGC. However, the Open always has a mercurial character while he shot 67 on Sunday at Southwind. He was the runner-up to Cantlay at the Memorial. Top ten finishes at both Pebble Beach and Bethpage point to his class and ability to deliver in a star-studded field. 

Collin Morikawa
To Win (55/1), To Place (12/1)

One of the trio of hugely impressive tour upstarts- the others being Viktor Hovland and Michael Wolff- Collin Morikawa has really taken the PGA Tour by storm over the past few months. I’m willing to overlook a fairly mundane tie for 31st at the Wyndham: he did shoot a 65 on Sunday. Morikawa won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Barracuda Championship. He also finished 4th at the John Deere and runner-up at the 3M Open.  In those respective tournaments, he finished 1st, 1st and 2nd in shots gained tee-to-green, which could prove vital in this event. Morikawa may be in illustrious company this week but there are few out there in better current form. 

The Man to Beat

Patrick Cantlay
To Win (25/1), To Place (11/2)

Brooks is just too small at 8/1 while Rory and Dustin are nearly impossible to back with any confidence at this point. I’ve decided to swerve the usual contenders and once again opt for the metronomic Cantlay. Firstly, he has an excellent record in this event: he has top 10 finishes in both starts. Cantlay has had a remarkable year, with eight top 10 finishes. He nearly won the Masters before capturing that brilliant victory at the Memorial. Last time out he finished in a respectable tie for 12th at the WGC FedEx St Jude Classic. Cantlay’s remarkably repeatable swing makes him one of the most consistent ball-strikers on the tour. Should his putter fully cooperate, there’s no reason to suggest that he won’t be in the mix. 

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets.

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