2019 THE NORTHERN TRUST Preview

FedExCup Playoffs time is here!

One less event means the field is chopped from 125 to 70 after this week at Liberty National.

I have thoughts on the proceedings.

FedExCup Playoffs – Event No. 1

THE NORTHERN TRUST

Liberty National Golf Club

Jersey City, New Jersey

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,370
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: A-4 Bentgrass; 4,653 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter: 12-12.5′
Rough: Low-mow Kentucky bluegrass at 1.25″.
Bunkers: 98
Water Hazards: 13
Architects: Bob Cupp and Tom Kite (2006)
Purse: $9.25/$1.665 winner/2000 FEC Points.
Defending Champion (course): Adam Scott
Defending Champion (event): Bryson DeChambeau (Ridgewood)
Fact of the Week: Top 70 in the standings AFTER THE EVENT advance to Chicago next week.
Fact of the Week II: The top 70 and ties advance to the weekend; if there are MORE than 78, great, there is NOT MDF in the FEC Playoffs.
Missing Men: 121 of 125 are here. Sam Burns (broken ankle), Henrik Stenson (vacation), Rafa Cabrera Bello (baby due) and Paul Casey (rest) are not participating and will NOT be replaced in the field.

Previous Winners at Liberty National:

Year Winner Score Comment
       
2013 Adam Scott -11 Bogey-free 66 in the final round saw him make up a six-shot deficit. Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland co-led after 54 holes.
2009 Heath Slocum -9 Made a 20-footer for par to win by one as he overcame a four-shot hole entering the final round. He went from No. 124 to No. 3 in the standings. #Upset.

2018-19 Winners

Event Winner
   
Safeway Open Kevin Tway**
CIMB Classic Marc Leishman
CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES Brooks Koepka
Sanderson Farms Championship Cameron Champ**
WGC-HSBC Champions Xander Schauffele
Shriners Hospitals for Children Bryson DeChambeau
Mayakoba Golf Classic Matt Kuchar
The RSM Classic Charles Howell III
Hero World Challenge* Jon Rahm
Sentry TOC Xander Schauffele (2)
Sony Open in Hawaii Matt Kuchar (2)
60th Desert Classic Adam Long**
Farmers Insurance Open Justin Rose
Waste Management Rickie Fowler
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Phil Mickelson
Genesis Open J.B. Holmes
WGC-Mexico Championship Dustin Johnson
The Honda Classic Keith Mitchell**
Arnold Palmer Invitational Francesco Molinari
THE PLAYERS Rory McIlroy
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
WGC-Match Play Kevin Kisner
Corales Punta Cana Graeme McDowell
Valero Texas Open Corey Conners**
83rd Masters Tournament Tiger Woods
RBC Heritage C.T. Pan**
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Ryan Palmer & Jon Rahm (2)
Wells Fargo Championship Max Homa**
AT&T Byron Nelson Sung Kang**
PGA Championship Brooks Koepka (2)
Charles Schwab Challenge Kevin Na
Memorial Patrick Cantlay
RBC Canadian Open Rory McIlroy (2)
United States Open Gary Woodland
Travelers Championship Chez Reavie
Rocket Mortgage Classic Nate Lashley**
3M Open Matt Wolff**
John Deer Classic Dylan Frittelli**
The Open Championship Shane Lowry
WGC-SJCI Brooks Koepka (3)
Wyndham Championship J.T. Poston**

(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record (course): 273; Scott (2013)
Course Record: 62; Kevin Chappell (2013)
Defending Champions (entered): NO PLAYER HAS EVER DEFENDED A FEDEXCUP PLAYOFF EVENT.
Multiple FedExCup Event winners: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson (4); DeChambeau, Jason Day and Billy Horschel (2).
First TOUR win (FEC): Camilo Villegas, BMW (2008).
First win in first appearance: No rookie has won a FEC Playoff event.
Notes: Liberty National hosted the 2017 Presidents Cup.
Notes II: There have been eight players who have won twice during the FEC Playoffs. Only four have gone on to win the FedExCup.
Notes III: Winners of a major and FEC Playoff event in the same year: Justin Thomas (2017 PGA, DBC)

Dustin Johnson (2016 US Open, BMW)

Jordan Spieth (2015 Masters & US Open, TOUR Championship)

Jason Day (2015 PGA,TNT)

Adam Scott (2013 Masters, TNT)

Rory McIlroy (2012 PGA, DBC, BMW)

Tiger Woods (2007 PGA, BMW, TOUR Championship).

 

The Confidence Factor was the weekly column I wrote for PGATOUR.COM. It has evolved into Horses for Courses. I’ve included the link here for you.

Thoughts

The list of playoff winners is interesting but not surprising. There are not many names of ill-repute on the list of champs since 2007 and I don’t expect that to change this week at Liberty National.

When combing for long shots, I don’t think difficult golf courses is the place to start. As J.T. Poston showed us last week, birdie bonanzas open fields up because there’s not many on TOUR who can’t make ’em!

This week is a different kettle of fish. Only five players over two events have posted a total in double figures.

Five.

When par is a good score, that favors the best of the best so it shouldn’t be any surprise if a big-name player takes home the trophy again this week. Small greens favor premium ball-strikers and only a few enjoy putting slick A-4 Bentgrass. The coastal breezes and closely-mown areas will add indecision that won’t help those worried about making it to next week. The rich truly do get richer but they’ve earned their ranking; it was hardly given to them.

For the gamers who believe the guys 80 and higher will just “free roll” this week, I’m not sure this is the right track for that. With 98 bunkers and 13 water hazards it’s going to take a locked-in performance, not a reckless one, to advance. After 40-something weeks on TOUR, the writing is on the wall for most. I’d bet the thought of grinding out four rounds on a tough track might not be as appetizing as it might have sounded two months ago.

The Chalk

Webb Simpson: For the second week in a row he sits on top because he’s flat-out on fire. He closed with a flurry for second in Memphis and fell one short last week at one of his favorites, Sedgefield. He’s led at Liberty National after 36 in 2009 and was two off the lead at the halfway point in 2013. The contrarian will point out converging trends never click. I’ll point out Simpson was on the podium for the third straight season at Sedgefield last week.

Brooks Koepka: If he can turn it on and turn it off when he feels like it, well shit, we’re all gonna have to reevaluate how to use him each week. His beat down of McIlroy in Memphis didn’t see him break a sweat as he picked up his third win on the season. He’ll look to join the exclusive club of major champions and FedExCup Playoff winners in the same season.

Jon Rahm: T11 or better in his last five worldwide and he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors. He doesn’t look out of place on any style of design or grass surface. That’s a clue.

Rory McIlroy: Yeah, fine, but hope Koepka isn’t around on Sunday. Or maybe hope he is and that fires him back up. He’s booked for Atlanta regardless.

Tommy Fleetwood: I’m scarred here because I thought after The Open he would have mailed it in the following week in Memphis. Wrongo. So now I’m back on board as he followed up that tough loss to Lowry with T4 at WGC-FESJI and shows no signs of slowing down. Coastal golf with small targets should have his tail up and ears perked.

Justin Rose: T2 in 2013 plus a solid history in this part of the world, Rose should be rested after a week in the Bahamas.

Dustin Johnson: He’s too good to play this averagely for this extended period of time. Signs were pointing in the right direction as he made 100000 birdies in Memphis but sadly combined those with a buncha crooked numbers. Remember, he didn’t go back to the old swing coach because he was killing it. I wouldn’t think it would take much longer to fix.

Patrick Cantlay: His ball-striking is never the issue and he’s already won on fast bentgrass at Memorial.

Billy Horschel: Love Memphis and did work there plus added another top-10 last week at Wyndham. One of a few who has won multiple playoff events and when he gets hot, he goes. His FedExCup winning season saw him in contention on the final hole at DBC followed by WIN-WIN to claim the biggest prize. Get hot. Get on board.

Justin Thomas: Cruising along with a trio of T12 or better in his last three, it’s obvious that he’s rounding into form. He better hurry!

Patrick Reed: T32 or better in his last seven but hasn’t taken home a big pelt yet. He was Captain America at the 2017 Presidents Cup here and usually thrives on difficult tracks (Doral, Bethpage Black, etc.) because of his NASTY short game.

Adam Scott: Do we get the Masters thru U.S. Open Aussie or the one that crashed and burned in Northern Ireland and Memphis? There was too much good stuff so it shouldn’t be hard to recapture.

Xander Schauffele: Proven track record on difficult courses and in big-time fields.

Tony Finau: Got it rolling at 3M before and excellent solo third at The Open. Needed two days to shake of the jet lag but closed 68-68 in Memphis for three straight inside T25. He won’t mind an extra Par-5 hole this week either.

Heat Checks

Marc Leishman: Another who hit the top five at Memorial on bentgrass, the Aussie arrives after a career-best finish (3rd) at a WGC event.

Matthew Wolff/Collin Morikawa: I mean, show me why NOT?

Brian Harman: He was left for dead in early spring but his game popped Memorial Day weekend at Colonial. T31 began a streak of seven paychecks in nine starts, which includes three top 10’s in his last six.

Scott Piercy: Love him on small greens. Remember when he was sniffing around at Pebble?

Jason Kokrak: 64-64-66 to close last week. Giddy up.

Vaughn Taylor: Eight in a row includes a pair of top 10s in his last four.

Joaquin Niemann: T31 in eight of his last nine since MC at Bethpage. T13 or better in four of his last six with three top 10s. Tee-to-green is why.

Ian Poulter: Solo eighth in Memphis and a previous top 10 here.

Rory Sabbatini: Career year continues with no end in sight! This heat wave has now stretched 10 events with seven cashing T18 or better.

Sungjae Im: If you’re not a believer by now, I’m not sure what to tell you. His last seven paydays from eight events are all T26 or better. So yeah.

Ben An: T32 or better in five of his last six. I wasn’t thrilled with his final tee shot on 18 last week, knowing he needed a birdie to win. His record at Memorial is quite good if you like that angle. It’s usually the putter, not the ball-striking.

Lucas Glover: Half of his last four starts have painted the top 10. The smaller the targets, the better as that’s his calling card.

Andrew Putnam: Eight straight.

Andrew Putnam: Eight straight.

Brice Garnett: 70-under his last five events; played in the penultimate group last week.

Listless

Tiger Woods: I have no idea. None. Warm weather should help. Condensed schedule has not. Maybe “Hotlanta” is the place but there’s not a guarantee he arrives to defend as he sits No. 28.

Hideki Matsuyama: Just when I thought he was going to turn the corner and jump back into the mix, he fizzled out again. Switch can flip any time, I get that.

Matt Kuchar: I’m picking on the guys who are stuck in neutral right now so that you’re aware. Looks like he’s running out of gas after a torrid April-June.

Gary Woodland: Some will argue the twins being born will free him up. I’ll argue winning a major and having twins in the last six weeks would empty my GAS tank. That’s Give A Shit for you new readers. Both of you.

Shane Lowry: Hahahahahhahahahhahahaha. You’re not serious. He’s brought the Claret Jug with him. He gives ZERO f#cks about anything right now. God bless him.

Bryson DeChambeau: Nobody has defended regardless of event or course in the FedExCup Playoffs. He spent last week testing clubs in California so surely that won’t have any effect on his game this week. Hopefully it does after MC at Royal Portrush and T48 in Memphis.

Jason Day: T66-MC-T40 in his last three.

Longer Shots

Peter Malnati/J.J. Spaun/Kevin Streelman: 9 of 10.

Denny McCarthy: Super putter having a nice summer.

Ryan Moore: Hits too many fairways and knows his way around here.

Bud Cauley: Nasty short game always gives him a chance.

The Bubble

65 – Sergio Garcia

I don’t think he’ll care one way or the other.

66 – Danny Lee

DQ last week during Round 2 hardly inspires any confidence. Neither does six-over thru his final four holes before.

67 – Abraham Ancer

Sold. Love his ball-striking and he should be fresh as he’s played just twice since the end of June.

68 – Kevin Streelman

See above.

69 – Jordan Spieth

Oh, hello. If this was a 36 or 54-hole event, he’d be in the top 10 easily. It’s not.

70 – Matthew Wolff

Howl away, son. Howl. Away.

71 – Bubba Watson

I’m not sure a hybrid parkland-links set-up suggests success for Watson this week. His T9 last week shows he hasn’t ejected yet. Yet.

72 – Troy Merritt

His MC last week was 68-70 after solo second at Barracuda. Top 43 in fairways and GIR could tempt a few.

73 – Charley Hoffman

MC in five of his last six.

74 – Joe Quinn Newman

Above.

75 – Matt Every

MC in three of his last five.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter (@MikeGlasscott) or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com

 

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