The Confidence Factor: THE NORTHERN TRUST

TNT, it’s dynamite…

Now updated with my selections!



FedExCup Playoffs Event I: THE NORTHERN TRUST

Ridgewood Country Club

Paramus, New Jersey


Ridgewood Cheat Sheet

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,385
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Poa annua/Bent; 4,800 square feet on average
Stimpmeter: Tournament speed (est. 12’5″)
Rough: Fescue, rye up to four inches
Architects: A.W. Tillinghast (1927); Gil Hanse 1995-ongoing
Purse: $9 million/$1.62 winner/2,000 FEC Points
Defending Champion (event): Dustin Johnson
Defending Champion (course): Hunter Mahan, 270 (2014)
Fact of the Week: Ridgewood has hosted the 2008, 2010 and 2014 editions of this event.



  • 120 players. Top 70 and ties will play the weekend.
  • Of the 125 qualified, five are missing this week and will NOT be replaced as there are no alternates in ANY FedExCup events.


2017-18 Winners

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
Safeway Open Brendan Steele
CIMB Classic Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC Champions Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms Ryan Armour*
Shriners Hospitals for Children Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba Patton Kizzire*
The RSM Classic Austin Cook**
Sentry TOC Dustin Johnson
Sony Open Patton Kizzire (2)
CB Challenge Jon Rahm
Farmers Insurance Open Jason Day
WMPO Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Ted Potter, Jr.
Genesis Open Bubba Watson
Honda Classic Justin Thomas
WGC-Mexico Championship Phil Mickelson
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
Arnold Palmer Invitational Rory McIlroy
WGC-Match Play Bubba Watson (2)
Corales Puntacana Resorts Brice Garnett*
Houston Open Ian Poulter
Masters Patrick Reed
RBC Heritage Satoshi Kodaira*
Valero Texas Open Andrew Landry*
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy
Wells Fargo Championship Jason Day (2)
THE PLAYERS Championship Webb Simpson
AT&T Byron Nelson Aaron Wise**
Fort Worth Invitational Justin Rose (2)
Memorial Bryson DeChambeau
FESJC Dustin Johnson (2)
U.S. Open Brooks Koepka
Travelers Championship Bubba Watson (3)
Quicken Loans National Francesco Molinari
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier Kevin Na
John Deere Classic Michael Kim*
The Open Championship Francesco Molinari (2)
RBC Canadian Open Dustin Johnson (3)
Barracuda Championship Andrew Putnam*
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Justin Thomas (3)
PGA Championship Brooks Koepka (2)
Wyndham Championship Brandt Snedeker


The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM and contains plenty of angles on the track and those who have aced this exam.

You need course form? Read the above.

You need keys to victory? Read the above.

You need course preview? Read the above.

You need a history lesson? Read the above.

Every week.

Every column.


Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record (event): 270; Hunter Mahan (2014) DNQ
Course Record: 62; Hunter Mahan (2008) DNQ
Recent Defending Champion(s): Nope
Multiple Winners (event or course): Nope
First TOUR Win (last): Nope
Low Round 2014: 64; Jason Day (Round 2)
Odd Fact: There has only been ONE winner from 11 previous that has gone on to win the FedExCup (Singh, 2008).


Quick Thoughts

The magician that is Gil Hanse has made changes since the last event here in 2014 so the course will play differently yet similar. Hanse has also been in charge of the renovation at TPC Boston and Aronimink so he’s basically in charge of setting the field for East Lake. Not really, but you get my point.

This will be the fourth edition at Ridgewood so there will be a course-form angle this week. With the extra fairway acreage and expanded greens there will be more options to attack this classic. There’s also an additional Par-5 this week so there will be another chance for birdie for most of the field. It’s back to Poa/Bent this week as well after some had to navigate the Champion Bermuda last week at Sedgefield.

Recent Event Winners

Event moved to Sedgefield in 2008 so course history from Forest Oaks is worthless.

Year Player Winning Total MOV
2014 Hunter Mahan -14 2
2010 Matt Kuchar -12 Playoff
2008 Vijay Singh -8 Playoff



In order of preference for this week and this tournament; LTO= LAST TIME OUT; LW= Last week; LY= Last year this event. I’m tired of typing all that out!

Dustin Johnson

I’ll remind you that this is a projection, not a prediction. Based on the stats below, he should NEVER “lose” but alas, they all do more than they win. He’s the defending champion at the event as well.

Justin Thomas: He gets the nod over Koepka here because of his consistency and his FedExCup history. Last year he came off the PGA Championship and won the BIG PRIZE after T6, WIN and solo second haul. Nobody has ever won back-to-back FedExCup titles but he’s already in a different stratosphere.

Brooks Koepka: During his last start it was fair to wonder if it was possible for him ever to be beaten. Staring down Woods and Scott on Sunday after beating Johnson head’s up at Shinnecock has made for all-time season. He admitted afterwards he needed to win more and he’ll get a chance to add to his incredible haul again this week.

Jason Day: I might be pushing him a bit higher than others this week but I’m enjoying his injury-free run. He hasn’t put together four excellent rounds just yet but this might be the track that does the trick. He has three bogey-free rounds here and has cashed T31, T5 and T2. He’s trending in the right direction both ways. Led the field in birdies in ’14 with 22.

Justin Rose: His consistency is off-the-charts and that makes him the safest play on the board this week. T19 at the PGA was his only finish outside of the top 10 since THE PLAYERS.

Tiger Woods: What a difference a year makes! If he’s looking to play himself on to the Ryder Cup team, I’m suggesting he’s taking this week as a challenge to prove his worth. With his short game, he’ll enjoy another Par-5 hole on the card this week. With a taste of blood in his mouth from the PGA, anything outside the top 10 will have to be viewed as a regression. The big money is on the table and it’s time to get it.

Webb Simpson: He was one poor swing from making Brandt Snedeker’s tee shot on the final hole A LOT more interesting. One shot shouldn’t wipe out another excellent week so I’ll remember his 62 and T2 instead. In his last 16 rounds (two majors, a WGC and last week) he’s posted 13 at par-or-better. Sizzling.

Francesco Molinari: I thought the PGA would be the week he cooled off as he really had nothing to play for after his Open title. I was dead wrong. He’s taken the momentum and is riding it all the way to the Ryder Cup. He’s going to be an interesting discussion for gamers next year. Has he made the leap or did he have THAT season? Stay tuned.

Jon Rahm: Last year was his first taste of the FedExCup Playoffs. He responded by collecting checks of T3, T4, T5 and T7. He backed up his solo fourth at the Masters with another at the PGA. Big game hunter when he’s in the mood.

Gary Woodland: He’s trending in the right direction and will feel that he has unfinished business after his quiet finish at Bellerive. Along with Day he’s also posted three bogey-free rounds at Ridgewood so it’s obvious this is a nice landing spot. He also has the carrot of residing just outside the top 30 at No. 33. That’s enough for me.

Brandt Snedeker: He’s about as hot as it gets and if there’s anyone I want putting Poa greens after Woods and Day, this guy is it. His putter wasn’t the key last week as his ball-striking took center stage. The quickest fix in his bag is the flat stick so I’d expect a quick adjustment. He’ll be happy to see any changes here as he’s never had any luck here but he knows he can pull a “Horschel” and maybe sneak on the Ryder Cup team with another win.

Hideki Matsuyama: Knock. Knock. Knock. I might be a week early but there are definite signs that he’s turning back the right direction. He’s close to having the driver figured out and after 64-65 to close last weekend, I don’t want to be a week late.

Patrick Reed: His form is the reason you had to scroll a bit but he will be a player this week. He opened the 2016 FedExCup Playoffs with a win at Bethpage Black, another Tillinghast design after T13 at Baltusrol (Tillinghast) two weeks earlier. Add that to his T9 here in 2014 and “Captain America” should be ready to take flight.

Jordan Spieth: His ability to hit the reset button for big events has given gamers fits in the “off weeks” this season. Contrary to popular belief, his putter hasn’t been the reason for loose play recently. His handful of doubles and others at Bellerive weren’t because of four-putts. He enjoys courses where working the ball both directions is required and Ridgewood qualifies.

Patrick Cantlay: Last year in his first go-around in the FedExCup Playoffs he cashed T10, T13, T9 and T20. This time around he’s in the top 20 in scoring and GIR plus seventh in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green. Not much is going to faze him.

Others of Interest:

Just missed the list above because of a wart or two; order isn’t important.

Tommy Fleetwood: With a guaranteed spot on the Ryder Cup he’s playing for SWEET, SWEET CASH during the FedExCup Playoffs. Sitting in the top 10 in Strokes-Gained: Off-the-Tee, Tee-to-Green and Total suggests he’ll go as far as his putter takes him this week.

Adam Scott: Ok, maybe I’m “old” guy biased to “old guys” but Scott didn’t fall into the final group on Sunday at the PGA. He’s gone back to his old swing coach and his long putter and definitely found something. He should have pleasant memories this week as he was the 36-hole-co-leader in 2014 (T15) and T9 in 2010.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello: His blazing finish (64) at the PGA continued on at Wyndham as he closed with 65-64. I know we like FRL but what about LRL? He’s T17 with 11 of 12 rounds at par-or-better in his last three on TOUR.

Zach Johnson: Other than Justin Rose, he might be the other “sure thing” this week. He’s gone home early exactly once in 2018 and his last six are T19 or better. The contrarian will remind me he’s not bagged a top-10 payday in that stretch. I’m fine with a guy who keeps grinding and Johnson and his short game can do just that.

Matt Kuchar: His uneven play suggests this track will be the week he finds it again. The 2010 champ put up a noble defense in 2014 with T5 so that suggests he’s comfortable here. His position on the FedExCup standings is an unthinkable 64th but I don’t think he flies under the radar this week on this track.

Paul Casey: Speaking of a soft-landing area, the Englishman has never finished worse than T22 in his three visits to Ridgewood. Part of me is wondering if the Ryder Cup hoopla is getting to him as he’s posted T51, T31 and MC in the last three big events (Open, WGC-BI and PGA). He’ll have a leg up on most of the field this week as he plays this track for the fourth time.

Kevin Na: He’ll get lost in the bigger names this week but he’s never missed in three tries here and his best of the bunch was T9 in ’14. Safely in at No. 19 should free him up to build on his 68-66 close at Bellerive. Wonderful short game will come in handy this week as well.

Tony Finau: With three top-10 checks in his last six I’ll find room for him. He let down the “trend” at the PGA as he didn’t claim another top-10 finish. He also made 10 birdies in a round. Somewhere in between is probably the answer!

Xander Schauffele: His last 15 months have been fantastic. The one area that most young guys struggle with is consistency and he’s fighting that currently. His pedigree pushes him in as I’ll remind you as a rookie last year he finished T17, T56, T20 and WIN in the FedExCup Playoffs. That works for me in the second tier.

Ian Poulter: T31 or better with only one MC stretches back to the Masters. I’d say he’s rounding into Ryder Cup form! This will be his fourth chance at Ridgewood with T15 in 2010 his best effort.

Tyrrell Hatton: One finish outside T28 in his last six worldwide and that includes THREE majors and a WGC event. His success will depend on how quickly he figures out the greens this week. There’s a wee bit of pressure at No. 92 but not too much.

Long Shots/Course Horses/Others

C.T. Pan: His point of view after THAT SHOT at Sedgefield suggests he’ll be back grinding at it again this week. He went coast-to-coast and followed his T11 from Reno with T2 last week. If he carries his tee-to-green numbers over from last week he’ll be sniffing around again.

Kevin Streelman: The story has been told all week about his family being from the area and his grandparents buried in a cemetery on the course. He has a pair of top-four finishes and T46 in 2014 that suggests he’s more focused this week than others. He also leads the TOUR in bogey avoidance.

Martin Laird: Loves this time of year as he always plays well at Montreux and Ridgewood, when he qualifies. He’s never been worse than T15 at Jack’s track in Reno and in two previous trips to Ridgewood he’s cashed T7 and lost in a playoff to Kuchar. He’s 18-under in eight rounds but DNQ in 2014.

Stewart Cink: He probably should be higher up the list after cashing T4 at Bellerive and posting T15 in his last two visits here. He’s 45 so I’m itchy about a big bounce-back performance.

Charley Hoffman: Like Cink, he’s 3-3 here but his best finish is only T27. He’s the only player in the top 100 this week that hasn’t had a top 10. See my conundrum?

Beau Hossler: I’ll give him a break as it took the PGA Championship to end his payday streak at 11. Super putter.

Ben-An/Kyle Stanley: Great splits but I’m not sure when they’re going to show up!

Jason Kokrak: I’m trying to hide him down here. Back to tree-lined and Poa/Bent. Excellent.

Brian Gay: I know he loves Bermuda but T8 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm and solo sixth at Barbasol were on Bent/Poa. With three top-10 checks in his last six I’ll stretch a bit.

Rory Sabbatini: He’s hit for the cycle here with MC in his last but T24 in his first and T5 in 2010. He’s just volatile enough to make sense.

Nick Watney: Plays the classic courses well but his form is lacking. Lovely DFS long-shot selection.

Over-100 Club:

Vaughn Taylor joins Laird and Watney plus I’ll toss in Harold Varner III. Varner was in this spot last year and cashed T20 so he’s familiar with what it takes. … I’m leaning grinders over birdie-makers if you’re picking down here. Find guys who play tough courses well.


The road to success is filled with potholes. You don’t drive your car over them so why put them on your fantasy team?

Phil Mickelson: I’ve struggled to get a handle on him this summer but I know spraying it here isn’t going to help him or Bubba Watson.

Daniel Berger: Plays great with a wrist deal at the PGA. Does not play great with at wrist deal at Wyndham. I’m not guessing anymore.

Alex Noren: Had a great run on Poa at Torrey Pines but isn’t in that kind of form.

Kevin Kisner: He didn’t back up his performance after Carnoustie so I’m not expecting it after Bellerive.

Ryan Moore: He loves Sedgefield but he’s 0-3 at Ridgewood.


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me



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