Horses for Courses: THE NORTHERN TRUST 2019

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NFL fans will remember Jim Mora questioning reporters about his team being ready for the playoffs by responding:

“Playoffs? PLAYOFFS??”

Ready or not, the FedExCup Playoffs are raring to go this week in a three-week sprint to claim the FedExCup.

All eyes will be on the city that never sleeps as Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, will feature the Manhattan skyline as its backdrop this week.

The top 125* players who qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs will tackle the par 71, 7370-yard Bob Cupp-Tom Kite layout looking to advance to the second leg next week at Medinah Country Club for the BMW Championship.

Just the top 70* players in the standings continue on to the Chicago suburbs next week with a chance to book their place in the top 30 for the TOUR Championship the following week in Atlanta.

*Paul Casey (rest), Rafa Cabrera Bello (baby due), Henrik Stenson and Sam Burns (injury) all qualified but will not play this week. There are no alternates in the FedExCup Playoffs at any event.

Liberty National Golf Club will host for the third time (2009, 2013) as the top 121 will have to navigate a track that rewards ball-striking in the breeze and players who can grind out pars. The A-4 Bentgrass greens aren’t big targets and will run 12-plus on the Stimpmeter. Kentucky Bluegrass rough will gobble up errant shots and test patience in recovery. In the two previous FedExCup Playoff events exactly five players have reached double digits over 72 holes. Liberty National was also the site of the 2017 Presidents Cup so it won’t hurt gamers to take a look at that angle either.

Need more Course Info? Check Rob Bolton’s Power RankingsThe First Look and Course Preview.

Recent Winners

2013 Adam Scott (-11, 273)

Beginning the round six shots behind, Scott posted just one of 14 rounds in the 60s from 74 players who played the final round. The final pairing of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland posted 78 (T19) and 73 (T2) respectfully and the Aussie stole the show on the parkland links. Joining Woodland T2 were Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Graham DeLaet, all ball-strikers extraordinaire, just like the winner.

Notables: Kuchar led by two after 36 and was tied with Woodland after 54. … Woodland’s 22 birdies led the event. … Cut was 142 (E). … There were only 15, bogey-free rounds including Scott’s 66 on Sunday. … Webb Simpson was two off the 36-hole lead before 74-71 on the weekend. … Scott cashed T58 in the 2009 edition and played on the 2017 Presidents Cup team.  … Kevin Chappell set the course record with 62 while Keegan Bradley just missed with 63. … Rickie Fowler joined Woodland by signing for a 64.

2009: Heath Slocum (-9, 275)

Slocum only had two top-10 paychecks on the season before holding off major champions Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker by a shot. Slocum jumped from No. 124 to No. 3 after picking up his third career victory as he co-led the field with Woods in Ball-Striking. He was top five in Par-5 scoring, Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. In the 2009 season Slocum ranked seventh in fairways, 32nd in GIR and was top 45 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Tee-to-Green.

Notables: Slocum came from four off the pace to win. … Sergio Garcia posted 65 for the first round lead while Webb Simpson was alone by two after 36. … Jason Day (T12) 23 birdies were the most. … Woods and Simpson co-led the field in bogey avoidance but Simpson’s triple in Round 3 was a killer. … Simpson also led the field in scrambling and proximity. … Cut was 147 (+5).

Key stat leaders

Golfers around the top 25 in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

 * – played in either 2009, 2013 or 2017 Presidents Cup

Ball-Striking

 3  Corey Conners

4  *Charles Howell III

6  Brooks Koepka

7  Sepp Straka

8  *Gary Woodland

9  *Hideki Matsuyama

10 *Jason Day

11 *Scott Piercy

12 *Rory McIlroy (T19, 2013)

13 *Keegan Bradley

13 *Martin Laird

15 *Jason Kokrak (T9, 2013)

16 *Kevin Streelman

17 *Matt Kuchar

18 *Lucas Glover

19 Troy Merritt

21 Aaron Wise

22 Brice Garnett

24 Carlos Ortiz

25 *Emiliano Grillo

26 Sungjae Im

29 Jon Rahm

30 Joaquin Niemann

Bogey Avoidance

1  Patrick Cantlay

2  *Charles Howell III

3  *Matt Kuchar

3  *Webb Simpson

5  *Rory McIlroy

6  *Lucas Glover

7  Bud Cauley

8  *Jim Furyk (T6, 2013; T15, 2009)

9  *Scott Piercy

10 Brooks Koepka

11 Nate Lashley

11 Tommy Fleetwood

13 Sungjae Im

14 Denny McCarthy

15 Cameron Tringale

17 *Vaughn Taylor

18 *Matt Jones

19 Sam Ryder

20 *Aaron Baddeley

20 *Hideki Matsuyama

22 *Rickie Fowler (T9, 2013)

23 *Dustin Johnson

24 Talor Gooch

24 *Martin Laird

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green

 1  *Rory McIlroy

2  *Justin Thomas

3  Patrick Cantlay

4  *Dustin Johnson

6  *Hideki Matsuyama

7  *Adam Scott

8  Byeong Hun An

9  Brooks Koepka

10 Corey Conners

11 Tommy Fleetwood

12 *Gary Woodland

13 Jon Rahm

14 *Webb Simpson

15 *Matt Kuchar

16 Xander Schauffele

17 Emiliano Grillo

18 *Jason Kokrak

19 *Sergio Garcia

20 *Lucas Glover

22 *Jim Furyk

23 *Kevin Streelman

25 *Justin Rose

Connecting Dots

Tiger Woods: Only two players have beaten him here as he’s 18 under from two visits.

Nick Watney: The only other player besides Woods to hit the top 10 in both previous FedExCup events, Watney (T6, T9) has always played well on tight, East Coast layouts where ball-striking trumps.

Webb Simpson: If any of you have regrets from not using his last week, you’re in business again this week. Simpson was the 36-hole leader in 2009 (T15) and T2 after 36 in 2013 (8th).

Jason Day: Super short game solves stuff. He backed up T12 with T25 and had another look during a week of action at the Presidents Cup.

Matter of Trust

Dustin Johnson: His only round at par or better for T15 in 2009 included the course record, 64, in the final round but he MC in 2013.

Matt Kuchar: Of his eight rounds, five are 70 or better (T19, T28). Now, about the other three …

Sergio Garcia: T37 and T31 in two visits including the first round lead in 2009 with 65; five of his eight rounds are par or better.

Not Listed Above

Made the Cut in Both Events (best): Phil Mickelson (T6, 2013), Charles Howell III (T33, 2013), Kevin Streelman (T19, 2013), Ryan Moore (T25, 2013) and Charley Hoffman (T31, 2009).

Top 15 Finish: Ian Poulter (T9, 2009; MC, 2013), Matt Every (T9, 2013), Brandt Snedeker (T12, 2009; MC, 2013), Brian Gay (T12, 2009; T43, 2013), Bubba Watson (T13, 2013; MC, 2009) and Rory Sabbatini (T13, 2013; MC, 2009).

Presidents Cup: Jordan Spieth (T19, 2013), Justin Thomas (DNS), Brooks Koepka (DNS), Kevin Kisner (DNS), Louis Oosthuizen (DNS) and Marc Leishman (T71, 2013).

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